Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bye-bye, Lala

Things sure move fast these days.

Just two or three years ago, I discovered a CD trading service online called Lala.com. They sent me Netflix-style envelopes, I used them to send out CDs I no longer wanted to people who wanted them, and in return I got CDs I wanted, all virtually for free.

Suddenly - it was gone. Or rather, it transformed. Lala was no longer a trading service. The exchanging of physical CDs suddenly seemed like an archaic activity akin to sharing eight-track tapes. Lala was suddenly an amazing music site where you could stream entire songs (or entire albums!) for free, once, using a sort of try-before-you-buy system. After the free listen, you could pay a dime a song to have permission to stream them from the site as many times as you liked. And, if you really loved a song, you could buy it for 89 cents. Not only that: you could upload your entire music library and stream it from the web site anywhere you happened to be.

Suddenly - Apple bought Lala.com. Everyone speculated as to what they would do with it. And then, this week, just four months later, wham. Apple killed it.

It's no surprise, I suppose. It was too good to be true. Just yesterday, having discovered the quirky Mike Doughty over the weekend, I streamed all his solo albums once for free from Lala. I was thinking of buying the "web versions" of the albums to stream whenever I liked, but - ha! Why bother? It's shutting down on May 31.

Still, I should add that I bought three of his songs last night. On iTunes. Apple, take note: music discovery phase on Lala, cash payment on iTunes! Surely I'm not the only one...? And had you kept it going, you could have integrated all that, and in an interesting way. I suppose you might still be planning on doing that, but couldn't you have kept the web site around for us in the meantime?

Well, it's too bad. I have enjoyed a refreshed CD collection, online access to my music collection, and many interesting hours of music exploration through this innovative site.

I salute you, Lala folks. I'm glad Apple paid a hefty 80 million for you. You deserve it. I just wish they had had the imagination to let us enjoy you a little longer.

Maybe they don't think so different after all.

Postscript:Looks as though Apple is indeed planning something Lala-esque. Check this out. (Thanks, Zac.) Interesting. As I said earlier - things sure move fast these days!