NOISE GATE: Lala launches idiotic "web song" concept

Columns & Opinion, Digital Music, Noise Gate

noisegate.jpgAfter the joy (and surprising popularity) of Spotify the other day, my palm is firmly back on my face thanks to Lala and their launch of “web songs” – cut price music that’s locked up tighter than a… actually I probably shouldn’t pursue that simile any further.

Lala is offering music for 10 cents a track. “Great!”, you cry. But wait a sec. The only way they’ve got the record labels to agree is to limit you to only listening to that song in your browser. You’re essentially paying 10 cents for something that you can get for free on Spotify, Last.FM, MySpace, or even YouTube, for god’s sake. As the unnamed head of a digital music service once said, “you want the world’s best on-demand music service? Go to YouTube and close your eyes.”

Lala started life as a cd-swapping service. That didn’t work. Then they tried free streaming. No dice. Now, they’re letting you stream any song once, but when you try and play it a second time, you have to pay 10 cents to get access. That’s what they’re calling a “web song”. What a load of rubbish.

For your ten cents, you get access to one song, with iffy sound quality, on Lala’s site only. You can only listen to it in the USA, too – they haven’t expanded across the pond yet. Oh, and when this venture fails, which it invariably will, and they turn their servers off, your 10 cent investments are wasted because your favourite songs are no longer accessible.

To pile yet more fuel onto the fire, what happens when you’re not sat at your computer? Lala have an iPhone app, but that’s not much use when you’re underground, on a plane, or in another country (with roaming charges as they are currently). Any music lover who travels at all knows the value of the MP3 player. For the privilege of an MP3 download of your “web song”, you pay full download price once again.

There are a few nice features on Lala’s service. It’ll scan your computer for MP3s and give you free, unlimited streaming access to those songs, however you acquired them. That’s good, though I do wonder what’s to stop you just creating an MP3 of white noise at about the right length, and adding appropriate metadata to fool the service.

In fact I know exactly what would stop you doing that – the fact that going to the Pirate Bay, Skreemr, the Hype Machine, or even a customized Google Search is just so much easier and more convenient.

Until digital music companies create a service that has the catalogue and ease of use of the illegal or questionably legal sites, they’ll get nowhere. People need a reason to switch. “Web songs” isn’t that reason. Spotify, on the other hand, despite the ads, is convenient, has a big catalogue (which isn’t quite perfect yet, sadly) and simply, but crucially, doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying music.

Don’t bother with Lala. Grab a beta invite to Spotify from our post, and see how great streaming services can be. If there’s an album you love, then go buy a physical CD, and rip it to FLAC or 320kbps MP3 on your PC. Then go see that band when they play your town, buy a t-shirt, and play the album to all your friends. That’s how bands really grow.

Lala (via Techmeme)

Previous Noise Gate posts: Doug Morris must be replaced | Record Labels vs Guitar Hero

Duncan Geere
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  • The whole debate has, apparently, been sparked off by the proposed erection of a statue commemorating Norman Collie and his local guide John Mackenzie on the island belstaff of Skye.

  • Youtube doesn’t let me have a easily-navigable/sortable library, integrated with music I already own.

    Owning your music might become a thing of the old days. People will think “why would you pay 10 dollars for an album when you can have the same thing for a tenth of the price?” – youtube isn’t quite the same as having a music library, but lala’s music player in indistinguishable from how I already used my expensive ‘real’ music collection.

    So I’ll have this library of cloud music, and I’ll have my vinyl for when I want a real record. And I’ll gladly pay the measly dollar to listen to my new favorite CD whenever I want.

  • Maybe in Europe you’re underground or in another country pretty often, but not in the U.S. You already have Spotify in Europe, so leave us lala. I’ve also noticed lala has songs which Spotify used to have and has recently lost.

  • So what? Don’t buy it.

    What will happen is, kids will use lala to play the songs, and then save them as wav files, and re-encode them as mp3s for their cheap players.

    When I was a kid, ages ago, I’d put a tape recorder up to a radio to record songs. We didn’t even have cables to connect the radio to the tape, unless you built one.

    Not only was the quality low – it was really low because we used cheap tapes. We were still pretty happy to have the songs, though.

    If I didn’t pirate as a child, I would not have become a music consumer as an adult. I pay for Napster today, and have paid for eMusic and iTunes in the past.

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