An Ode To LaLa - Steve Jobs Killed My Fave Music Service
Today is the last day of LaLa.com my favorite music service and where I would spend much of my Friday and weekends.
I discovered lots of great music there and put together some great playlists. I was buying music for the first time in ages. Lala.com offered the best business model: one free play then for 10 cents you could buy lifetime streaming rights from any computer.
Also, I transferred my music library to LaLa's cloud. I could access all my music, at any time, from any computer, from any browser.
It was great. I often would gift 10 cent songs to friends, family that I came across because it was so cheap. And I could easily see what my friends were listening to or had bought recently. It was a great music discovery service.
I was also a fan of the founders, Bill Nguyen (photo) and John Kuch. Both are huge music fans, and I discovered lots of great music through them, watching what they were listening to. They were also big supporters of independent musicians creating a fund that helped struggling musicians.
Oh, and let's not forget a great UI, better than iTunes, better than anything else I've used.
Then Apple bought LaLa in December 2009.
At the time everyone thought that the service would get even better and that LaLa would essentially become the new iTunes, a better UI and with streaming.
We were all wrong. On April 30 Apple said it would shut LaLa by the end of May. We would all get our money back as credits on iTunes.
If I wanted to buy music on ITunes I would already be buying music on iTunes! Why would I want to do that now? Apple should return all the cash money.
Better yet, Apple should have given us the MP3s of all the songs we had bought on LaLa. That would be respectful and heck, it can afford it with its $40 billion in cash.
As you can see, I'm not happy with Apple and Apple won't know because it doesn't respond or acknowledge social or any media in any way. [Lessons for Apple in Social Media: Unlike A Rolling Stone A Good Blog Post Continues To Gather Stories]
I think Apple bought LaLa as a strategic move aimed at frustrating Google's ambitions. A couple of months before the sale, LaLa had been named as a key partner in Google's music service. A Google search for any music usually turned up LaLa at the top of the list. That made LaLa into a big competitor for iTunes. That's what probably killed it.
What's puzzling is why the founders would sell for a paltry sum, reported to be just $17 million. They had just signed the Google deal, created an iPhone app, and signed a deal with Facebook.
Why sell just weeks after putting all those pieces in place and enjoying a renewed momentum?
Take a look at this interview with Bill Nguyen at PC Mag, just one month before the Apple acquisition was announced. It's full of enthusiasm for the next stage in LaLa's growth.
I think we've been really fortunate in that we've been embraced by the independent artists and distributors, and also all four of the major labels. We add more music every day. We added 400,000 tracks from a French label that are now going to be available in the U.S. We're adding one of the largest libraries of Bollywood music, ever. We have so many different cultures in the U.S., and it's cool that they can just listen to the music here. So we're just trying to add as music from around the world to this platform.
The founders of LaLa had to do a lot of heavy lifting: dealing with the music industry and its arcane licensing systems and having to negotiate a huge number of contracts. Why would they walk away from all that work, just as LaLa was about to find huge new audiences through its deals with Google, Facebook, etc? It sold to Apple for pennies on the dollar--a distressed sale.
And why would the founders sell knowing that Apple would close LaLa? They built LaLa for themselves, as much as anybody, they built it because they are huge music enthusiasts and had a vision of how people would buy and listen to music in the future. Why sell?
It doesn't make sense.
Yes, I could try out some of the other streaming music services. Yahoo Music was great, but I couldn't use it on my Mac when I switched from PC a few years back; Zune looks good but it is tied to the player; Spotify is great but not yet in the US. My 15 year old daughter, Sarah uses Grooveshark. But I really don't want to have to try and recreate all my playlists...
Bye LaLa, I'm going to miss you big time, especially on Fridays. Apple sucks...
Here are a few other fans:
The web understandably up in arms in anger over this. The money I spent to get hundreds of songs on Lala will most likely only get me tens of songs on iTunes. I can no longer listen to my songs online, and any hope that I might be able to listen to Lala on my mobile device have been hopelessly shattered.
...How awesome would it be if Apple is simply killing Lala to replace it with a better more innovative iTunes in the cloud? Could the reason behind shutting down Lala.com simply be to replace it with iTunes.com? I sure hope so.
...Lala has been the best system I've ever found for playing music. I've been seeking song finding Nirvana for over fifty years.
If you haven't lived with Lala you won't know what you're missing.
I just don't think people know how cool Lala really is, and I want praise Lala before its forgotten, and maybe explain why Apple is killing it off.
It's all about ease of use. Lala is far easier to use than iTunes, far cheaper, and even more important, it's far more exciting for finding new music and sharing that excitement with other music lovers. All is this is much easier on Lala, I kid you not.
...Steve Jobs, why are you taking this all away from me? Is it greed? Must you destroy anything that is better than something you invented? Do you merely want to crush the competition? Do you even know the beauty you destroy?
I see no evidence that the software press ever managed to notice the ferment and great activity that was happening within the confines of the Lala site, or the design that enabled this to happen. I document this in detail because others who were compensated to discover that this kind of activity was going on must have dropped the ball.