Digital music as far as the eye can hear. (Image via Kables)
“Is it too good to be true? 6 million songs for free without the guilt of illegal downloading? Your entire music collection stored in the cloud, accessible from any browser? And a streamlined user experience to boot?”
Well it took about a year to answer but, yes, it IS too good to be true. In a blow to music discovery, Lala just announced it will be shut down later this month by Apple who recently purchased them for a cool $80 million.
Lala subscribers who had thousands of web songs in their collection will now have to buy all of them again at iTunes — for likely ten times the price, unless iTunes launches a similar cloud feature and pricing model.
Many think there is a big iTunes cloud announcement looming, yet if they really had their new digital refugees in mind, why not offer to migrate all of Lala user content into the new iTunes cloud rather than simply issue credit?
And what happened to the great Lala feature called Music Mover that transferred all of your iTunes collection into Lala.com? Users should be able to use that to transfer your LaLa.com web collection right back into iTunes, right? Not so much.
The greatest opportunities with digital music lie in allowing people to tell other people about music they love. Word of mouth is beneficial both for artists and fans. This is where Lala had a big leg up with music feeds, the ability to follow friends, and Facebook embeddable songs and playlists.
The major European player in the music discovery space has been Spotify— the web cloud music service that provides you with access to 8 million songs and a robust set of social features and functionality. Just ask anyone in the UK and they’ll be raving about it. It’s not about ownership — but access. It’s about enabling social collaboration, sharing, wireless syncing, and the iPhone/iTouch premium app. And it’s free too.
Spotify is due to hit the U.S. market sometime this year. Hopefully it will be launched with some of the more user-centric features we grew to love with Lala.com. Or perhaps iTunes will roll out a new version with all the pricing, features and functionality that we had with Lala. After all with an overwhelming majority of music being consumed via illegal downloads (95 percent in 2008), the service that can best encourage illegal-file sharers to migrate to a legal model will likely be the most transformative for the music industry at large. That too will be good news for artists and fans alike.
Lala — Rest in peace.