14 05 14

Before Spotify bought The Echo Nest, it could have snapped up Last.fm


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Last.fm_Logo_RedSpotify acquired music data firm The Echo Nest in March in a deal rumoured to be worth $100m. However, the streaming music service had also considered buying another prominent company in that space: Last.fm.

Multiple sources have confirmed to Music Ally that Spotify talked to Last.fm’s parent company CBS about buying the service in the past year or so – although opinions vary on who made the initial approach, and how much interest there really was from the streaming music service.

“Spotify did make an offer at some point for Last.fm,” said one source. “There was an acquisition offer. It was certainly put on the block and I don’t think Spotify came up with enough money. It was a low-ball offer.”

Another source backed this up: “There were definitely discussions but there was no result from that as the acquisition price was way too high.” However, a third source told Music Ally that it was CBS that put forward the offer to Spotify to acquire Last.fm, but was rebuffed.

What’s certain is that discussions were had, and a price suiting both parties could not be arrived at. Neither Spotify nor CBS were prepared to comment on the claims.

The deal may go down as a missed opportunity, albeit more for Last.fm than Spotify, given the latter’s subsequent acquisition of The Echo Nest. Our sources within Last.fm say a significant number of employees there were praying for the deal to go through, describing Spotify as a “better cultural fit” for Last.fm than CBS.

While Last.fm remains a going concern, several members of its music information retrieval (MIR) team have left the company. Another twist: Apple is one of the companies benefitting, having hired former Last.fm MIR team lead Mark Levy in December 2013 as an ‘applied researcher’.

Levy’s LinkedIn profile reveals he is “working in the iTunes engineering team, designing and building music-related services”. Levy is building a team in London, judging by his April email to the International Society for Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR) mailing list.

“Want to improve Apple’s music recommendation and playlisting services, and have a chance to influence the next generation of Apple products?” he wrote. “We’d like to hear from strong scientific engineers who’d be interested in joining us in London. You’ll need to have a good knowledge of machine learning and experience of working at scale.”

This story is adapted from the lead feature in this week’s Music Ally Report, which is part of our subscription service and will be published later today. Sign up for a two-month no-strings free trial.


Eamonn Forde
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