Posted by Tom Foremski - October 20, 2008
LaLa has launched a unique online music service that has the potential to be a one-stop music web application for most people. It cleverly blends people's personal collection of MP3 songs with a choice of more than 6 million songs available for streaming--and accessible from any Internet connected device.
Users let LaLa scan their PCs for the MP3 files they already have and the music service matches them automatically with its online catalog. If it's not in the catalog, its Music Mover application automatically uploads the songs to make them available online.
In addition, users have access to 6 million songs in the LaLa catalog that they can listen to for free--once. For 10 cents per song users can buy lifetime access to a streamed version of that song. If they then want to own that song on their local hard drive, they can buy it for 79 cents.
What makes LaLa even more compelling is that it recommends music that you don't have, and enables discovery of music that you might like. Plus you can subscribe to other people's playlists, create your own playlists, and also gift music to others. If they don't like the track, they can keep the credit.
Bill Nguyen, founder of LaLa, gave me a demonstration of the service earlier today. "This service goes beyond owning CDs, it goes beyond owning music files, for ten cents a song you get lifetime access to that song over any Internet connection. Our research shows that people listen to 30 per cent of their own music and the rest is music that they don't yet own. Search and discoverability of music is a key part of this service."
LaLa does not believe that a subscription based monthly music service, or an advertising supported music service, can be successful.
"If you are a subscriber there is no incentive to encourage you to listen to more music because you become less profitable to the service, it costs them money for every song you listen to," says Mr Nguyen. And with advertising based models, music services have to place adverts between the user and the music they want to listen to to pay for the service, which harms the user experience.
Foremski's Take: LaLa has come a long way from its start in early 2006 as a CD swapping service using snail mail. This latest incarnation of LaLa leapfrogs the many varieties of online music services available with a great user interface, and a business model that integrates licensing agreements with four major labels and 175,000 independent labels.
Behind the scenes is LaLa's data center which is designed to be scalable and to use any cloud computing platform available. "We built a data center to get things started but our system can run on Amazon or any other platform," says Mr Nguyen.
The key to LaLa potential success is that it has incorporated a commerce platform into the music service that can then cross-sell new music based on a user's existing library as a guide.
I love the idea of scanning my drive and having access to my music from any internet connected device without needing to upload gigabytes of music. I also like the discoverability within the system in that I can find new music easily and get one free play of any music in the LaLa catalog.
Even though 10 cents per song isn't expensive, I like the Yahoo Music monthly "all you can eat" service for one low payment--but I'm sure I can get used to this risk-free method of discovering new music.
Here is my "Forecast" from LaLa which you can listen to for free: