A free music service that promises to pay unsigned artists royalties every time a user streams a track to their computer has been launched.
Last.fm has signed deals with four major record companies and over 150,000 independent labels to offer access to thousands of songs. Users will be able to stream, rather than download, any track up to three times. After this members will be encouraged to buy the track through iTunes, Amazon and other download services.
A share of any resulting sales will go to Last.fm, which was bought by CBS last year, to fund the site alongside advertising revenue. The unsigned artists who use the scheme will also receive a payment from Last.fm every time someone listens to one of their tracks.
When questioned as to whether users would prefer to download the music and be able to put it a portable player, Richard Jones, one of Last.fm's three founders, said: "The way people consume music is changing - sometimes you just want to listen to it there and then. We are offering the music for free in a legitimate way, while still rewarding the artists."