According to a release from CBS on Friday, there were 85 percent more unique listeners on Last.fm on Wednesday, January 23--the day that CBS Corporation and Last.fm announced the service--than there had been on the previous Wednesday. The next day, Thursday, saw an 80 percent increase from the previous Thursday, which CBS took as evidence that it wasn't just a single-day phenomenon.
Last.fm had previously offered streaming music primarily in 30-second clips. But thanks to licensing agreements with all four major music labels, the social music service now allows users to stream a song three times for free before being given the option to purchase the song at a number of digital music stores.
Actual traffic to Last.fm hasn't jumped quite so much: CBS reports 27 percent more unique visitors and 45 percent more page views over the same time period. That suggests that existing Last.fm visitors are indeed tuning into the new music offering, but that it might not be boosting membership numbers quite yet. Claiming early success, however, is important PR for CBS: many have lost faith in ad-supported streaming music. Once hyped as the solution to both peer-to-peer piracy and the iTunes monopoly, enthusiasm has faded as start-ups like SpiralFrog have made disappointing debuts.
CBS executives have remained optimistic, suggesting that big-media muscle may be the secret to making free streaming music work online.