The Death of Discovery: Lala.com Goes Bye Bye

Matt Geraghty   May 10, 2010
Digital music as far as the eye can hear. (Image via Kables)

Over a year ago I posed some important questions in my post Lala.com: Miles Ahead of the Rest? regarding the future of Lala.com, the innovative digital music service.

“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.

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8 Responses

  1. Walk_the_walk says:

    What many LALA.COM users and fans may not realize is that this is probably a Federal Anti-trust violation. Buying up and shutting down Lala.com effectively eliminates the competition, with no promise by Apple to replace it any time soon. As you mention, Apple charges 10X more for each song.

    To that end, I filed an antitrust complaint today with the FTC. I recommend that other LALA.COM customers do the same. It only takes one toll free call and 3 minutes to file the complaint. The number to call is: 1–877–FTC–HELP (1–877–382–4357)

    Keep in mind there are several federal laws that prohibit anti-competitive behavior, especially when this behavior kills off a new technology, which in this case is cloud-based music services.

  2. Danny Peck says:

    Thanks for the post. I’d like to add that many people don’t realize another large group of people that were hurt by Apple’s shut-down of Lala.com. Independent artists. I had 3 albums on Lala and enjoyed a great deal of distribution and very valuable analytics on ratings, plays, etc. Gone now. No way to access them.

    I used to embed the music on my site (justdep.com) using Lala embeddable widgets. Those will also completely cease to function on 5/31 (I had to switch to soundcloud. This was a horrible inconvenience).

    Just goes to show you can’t rely on web services to always be there, because they wont be. I did enjoy it while it lasted though. I knew the moment Apple bought them that it was bad news.

  3. djrichard says:

    I suspect Apple wants to restart the service not only under the iTunes brand, but with higher pricing. If they wanted to keep the pricing the same, they would just grandfather the accounts over. But they’re not doing that, so I’m suspecting higher pricing is in the works.

  4. charles says:

    I will complain to the FTC, I like this suggestion. I complained to the FCC a few months ago about Comcast leaving me without service for a week, and that actually seemed to kick them in the *ss a bit.

  5. admin says:

    Very good point about the independent artist. For the musicians looking to offer full length tracks for their fans and reasonable priced web versions of their music, that option is no longer available.

    Additionally, there were a lot of content partnerships with Lala.com where tracks are embedded as part of the site content experience.

    For example:

    http://filtermagazine.com/

    http://pitchfork.com/reviews/best/

    What happens to those?

    Can you imagine those music discovery modules where the listener just read a glowing review of a new indie record only to be offered a 30 sec clip of it?

    The point is this: If the artist says yes ‘feature my full track’ and the listener says ‘I want to hear the full track so I can decide if I want to buy it’, then where is the disconnect?

  6. Lady Q says:

    I also am very upset that they shut down the lala.com service. I followed Walk_the_walk advice and called and filed a complaint. I encourage everyone else to do so.

  7. willb says:

    I would like to join the club, and express my disappointment with Apple for shutting down Lala..why shut it down ? if not only to crush the competition.Why would they offer this type of service on itunes when it’s already successful.

  8. [...] free online catalog of over 6 million songs from independent artists – was shut down. Apparently, iTunes bought them out in 2009 for $80 million. This site made it possible for new artists to reach consumers in an open, unrestrained forum of [...]

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