Last.fm have struck a deal to allow free streaming of music and even full albums from their website. In a blog entry, they said:
As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the Last.fm website.
Something we’ve wanted for years—for people who visit Last.fm to be able to play any track for free—is now possible. With the support of the folks behind EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner—and the artists they work with—plus thousands of independent artists and labels, we’ve made the biggest legal collection of music available to play online for free, the way we believe it should be.
Full-length tracks are now available in the US, UK, and Germany, and we’re hard at work broadening our coverage into other countries. During this initial public beta period, each track can be played up to 3 times for free before a notice appears telling you about our upcoming subscription service. The soon-to-be announced subscription service will give you unlimited plays and some other useful things. We’re also working on bringing full-length tracks to the desktop client and beyond.
Free full-length tracks are obviously great news for listeners, but also great for artists and labels, who get paid every time someone streams a song.
Emphasis mine: This could be a very good shift in favour of digital distribution and artist’s rights.
Technically, its a demo rather than “free” music, though as Toby pointed out: A downloaded track is 79p, so three plays is hardly that limiting.