Hello Lala.com

by Bakari Chavanu Jul 30, 2009

I’ve passed down three iPods to my wife in the last four years; the last one, an iPod touch. In those four years, she’s probably added no more than five  albums to the original collection of songs I put on those devices for her. She’s mainly an old school R&B and gospel listener. Unless Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin and the like produce some awesome new albums, she’ll probably be happy for years to come with the 500+ or songs on her iPod touch.

I on the other hand, am always thirsty for new or old music, especially jazz. I can hardly resist purchasing good music when I hear it. I’ll make plenty of use of existing songs in my library, but hardly a month goes by that I’m not trying to find new albums. To feed my thirst, within my budget, I look to the iTunes Music Store, as well as a few other resources that I wrote about here and here.

My latest find for getting music affordably is Lala.com.  I discovered the site through someone’s tweet on Twitter. When I first clicked to the site, it seemed a little confusing. I thought at first it was only doing what Apple should have done years ago: providing a way to upload your iTunes library to an online account so that you can have access to your music wherever you have access to the Internet. Well, that’s the one “free” feature that Lala.com provides. You can upload songs stored on your computer and have them available to you in a streaming format in an almost iTunes-like web application. While this service is not new, Lala makes easy to do the upload.

Lala doesn’t actually upload every song in your library. It searches its own data base of over 7 million songs to see which ones matches the song files you want to upload to your account. Only songs not already stored in their database get uploaded from your computer. But Lala is not a file sharing site. You can listen to your own uploaded songs, but songs belonging to everyone else can only be listened to once, and then after that you must pay.

What Lala does differently is provide a way for you to purchase songs in their data base for .10 cents per song. But the catch is that you can only listen to those songs over the Internet. So that’s why they’re called web-based songs. You can’t download them to your computer, unless you pay additional 70+ cents for the MP3 version. For some people that might not sound very appealing, but if your computer has become your stereo (like mine has), and you have good 24/7 access to the Internet there’s little reason to have all your songs stored on your computer or external hard drive. If you are like my wife whose music collection is pretty static, then Lala.com may be of little interest to you.

My first purchase on Lala was a re-mix of an MP3 album I already had purchased from the iTunes store a few weeks ago. When I sampled the re-mix, I liked it, but I would have never paid the full $9.99 for it. With  Lala’s service, I paid .50 cents for the non-limited, non-ad intrusive web access to this album anytime I want. And to re-iterarate: for the $10+ price I pay for say 9-13 songs in the iTunes Music Store, I can get a 100+ web-based songs for the same price on Lala.com.

I’m not sure how .10 cents per song works out in terms of profits for the music labels and independent artists on Lala, but at least Lala members are not downloading music illegally from the site and are thus are supporting the industry. So it’s a win-win for members and the industry. I’ve also noticed that Lala is providing variable pricing, or deals, for collections of songs or playlists, so members are even more enticed to purchase music from the site. On top of that, MP3 albums on Lala.com are few bucks less than on iTunes.

Lala.com is similar to music sites like Lastfm, Pandora, and iLike. They all incorporate social networking so that you can discover songs that are being listened to by your friends or contacts. The latter sites haven’t, however, made it affordable to purchase music the way Lala.com has. Also, if Lala becomes popular enough, it acts both as a radio station for sampling music, and a music store for purchasing songs and albums. Unlike the iTunes Store, on Lala you can listen to entire song or album once before making a purchase. All subsequent plays of songs are limited to 30 seconds. Lala is betting that you’ll want to own some songs you listen to, and they make it affordable to do so.

Also, don’t expect to find all your desired songs on Lala. I searched for three albums on Lala that while listed were not available for web-song or MP3 purchase.

Lala.com on the iPhone
What is missing from Lala.com is mobility. I did search for a Lala iPhone app, but all I came up are articles about its development, not its actual release. It may be that a Lala.com app was or will be rejected by Apple. For the iTunes Music Store, Lala.com could be worse for Apple than a porno application when it comes digital music.

Lala.com could also use some sort of computer application client for user accounts. It’s okay at first to listen to music through a web browser, but that gets old very quickly when you have dozens of other web pages open on your desktop. And sometimes streaming music can be interrupted when you’re accessing other sites. (Note: I use an application called Sticky Windows to park web pages that I want to frequently access. I also park my Lala web application page in the same desktop space (Spaces) I use for iTunes.)

One other final concern for this cloud technology is will purchased music be transferable in the future when other sites come online. As it stands now, web-songs you purchase on Lala will remain there.

Other than these few missing features, for music lovers like me, it’s goodbye iTunes Music Store for a while, and hello Lala.com.


  • The only drawback is that I listen to my music on airplanes. The airlines are putting internet access on some of their planes, but the cost will not be cheap and it may take years for it to work on international flights. I still like having my music on my computer, on CDs and my iPod. I don’t need an iPhone, because I get a free on from my employer so I would have to be near a WiFi spot to listen to music.

    Flyboybob had this to say on Jul 30, 2009 Posts: 33
  • Wow! That sounds great! You clearly advertise that website (Lala.com) ‘coz you put so much appreciation on that site. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as their service is truly good and affordable. I mean whoever will experience that satisfaction you gain from that site will surely did same thing to announce the greatness of that site. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful info! I’ll surely share it with my friends and colleagues. GAR Labs

    chesterfoster had this to say on Aug 21, 2011 Posts: 27
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    timhopkins87 had this to say on Sep 29, 2011 Posts: 5
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