lala: Where Music Plays

lalaRecently I was introduced to a new service known as lalaLala is a web based service that allows you to listen, buy, and share your music collection online.  They even offer a feed that will give you music choices from your friends and even the experts from behind the scenes at lala.  You can also import your own collection of music to be able to listen to no matter where you are; as long as you have an Internet connection.  It has been all the rage with a few friends of mine over the past couple of months and I finally broke down and gave it a shot.  I figured it was worth looking into with my obsession of music. What follows is why I will never use this service again (unless they make some big changes with their business model.  For instance, building an iPhone application that allows me to listen to my music wherever I go.)

According to the folks at lala, “We live and play in a browser. Built by a team of engineers responsible for services like Yahoo!, eBay, Blogger and AOL, Lala’s singular mission is to move music and entertainment to the Web for hundreds of millions of people. Lala is a venture-funded company located in beautiful Palo Alto, California.”  Based on that you would think this website has a legitimate chance of impressing a music lover like myself.   Let me give you a background on where I get my music before we get too far into this.

I have an iPhone.  Because I have an iPhone by default I have a sixteen-gigabyte iPod.  Granted, the space is not all that impressive, but by the time that I have listened to the over three hundred albums that it will hold, I could easily replace those albums with new ones in a matter of minutes through my iTunes account.  If I am not listening to music on my iPhone then I can turn on one of the various radio stations that all have applications from the iTunes store, by the way, on my phone.  I could choose Radio Disney, or Yahoo! Radio.  Perhaps I want to listen to Slacker Radio or the always-popular Pandora RadioAOL even has an online radio station with an iPhone app to go along with it.  Lala does not have an app.

I never go anywhere without my phone.  But let’s just say that I did.  Let’s say I forgot my phone at home and I am stuck in the office all day without it.  Guess what; I can go to any of these same sites on my computer to listen to the radio.  Or perhaps I could open up iTunes and listen to the radio.  Not only does iTunes have hundreds of selections, they break it down by genre and then place them all in alphabetical order for my convenience.  If you don’t have iTunes then head over to their website and download it; it’s free.

You are probably saying to yourself at this time, “What if I want to hear that new Lady Gaga single?”  Well, the obvious answer might be to go listen to it on lala.  Of course, if you choose to go to lala to listen to that song, you better enjoy it as you are only able to listen to it one time without adding it to your playlist.  You do, however, have twenty-five songs that you can add to your playlist for free. You can even gain additional songs to your playlist, for free, by having your friends sign up and claim you as a reference to the site. A good friend of mine actually had over forty credits before he had to pay for a single track. But then you have to pay $0.10 for each additional song that you want to add to your account.

Did you like that Lady Gaga single?  I just cannot seem to get enough of that Poker Face.  (Have you seen the Eric Cartman rendition on South Park yet?)  On lala you can even listen to entire albums without having them.  Just click “play album” and you are good to go!  After so many plays it will prompt you to create an account, but don’t worry, it is free.  (The idea of the account is to allow you to listen to songs whenever you want, but also a way to begin tracking your playlists, be able to upload new music, and have the option to share with your friends.)

So what happens if I have listened to a song once but want to hear that track again?  You have to add it to your playlist.  But remember that your playlist will only hold twenty-five songs before you have to begin paying for these tracks.  For instance, the other day I went here to listen to that Lady Gaga single, Bad Romance.  It was incredible quality and sounded as if I had just tossed in the CD.  The next day, however, when I wanted to hear the song again, I was forced to create an account.  I thought nothing of it as this was their way of tracking plays, so I did.  I clicked on the Play Now button and was given a thirty-second sample of the song.  I was then prompted to add this song to my playlist.

Sure, lala is cheaper than iTunesiTunes charges you $0.99 a song (sometimes $1.29 depending on the quality in which you download the song).  You also get full album rates that are cheaper than buying them song for song.  Of course, lala does this as well, and still manages to beat iTunes prices across the board.  So why would I pay iTunes when I can use lala? Oh wait, maybe I want to move that track from my computer to my iPhone, iPod, or to a CD that I am burning to take on a road trip. With lala you cannot move songs from your library to external devices.  They are basically stuck online.

I have to admit, lala has a great collection of songs.  On their homepage they even rank the top ten played tracks.  You can search through genres as well.  It might just be me, but lala is probably not the most popular service out there either.  Their number one played song is the new hit single from Owl City.  It currently, as of the writing of this post, has only 35,338 listens.  Now, that same Owl City song, on their official MySpace page, has 13,094,294 plays.  Not sure about you, but this is a sure sign to me that MySpace is not dead.

Well, maybe you want to listen to the whole album.  You can do that on lala for free.  But guess what?  You can do that on MySpace for free as well.  It is covered with ads, sure, but who sits there and watches the media player when listening to an album?  MySpace is just another source that I use to listen to my music.  I have yet to find a song that I have wanted to hear that I could not find on MySpace.  I have also yet to find a band, no matter how unique, that does not at least have a MySpace page with one song on it.  Lala claims to have over 7 million songs.  That number might seem impressive, but MySpace has over 8 million bands.  Think about all of the albums that make up that list and then consider how many songs that involves.  For argument’s sake, let’s say that all 8 million bands have an average of 1 album with an average of 12 songs on their album.  (I know that some bands have multiple albums.  Lady Gaga alone has 20 that include her studio album as well as her singles and an EP.)  If this is the case, MySpace has over 96 million songs.

Lala has said that they are in the process of making an iPhone application for their service to allow you the ability to access your music on your phone.  This would allow you the chance to use this service anywhere you go.  We will see if they live up to this, as their staff is quite small at lala.  I will admit that they do have one cool feature (assuming this catches on and becomes a reputable service) in providing credits for referring your friends and family to join.  This could have potential to increase your credit count so high you would never need to even buy a single song.  But the concept behind the service, which is not a new concept but rather just a twist on what every other service does, is enough to outweigh the negative features that I see on the surface.  They also claim to have no ads on their site as their funding is coming from outside sources.  We will see how long that lasts.  Even Facebook had to turn to advertisements to make money.

So the next time you sit down to listen to the latest hit single from any number of pop artists, or even if you want to hear a song by an unknown band from the middle of nowhere, lala might not be your best choice.  There are many other options out there for you to choose from. Do yourself a favor and don’t allow a service that tries to pull you in and forces you to spend money on useless web based tracks, to be one of them.