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What Will Happen To Lala’s Music Plans

Apple’s acquisition may transform iTunes, or it could just be a way to take out a strong competitor.
December 11, 2009

I’ve been worrying about the fate of Lala ever since it was acquired by Apple last week. The speculation I’ve read seems split between thinking that Apple intends to embrace the company’s long-term vision, creating a powerful Web-based version of iTunes, and suggestions that Apple only bought the service to poke Googlein the eye.

I first discovered Lala months ago, thanks to a deal it struck with Google, which put the service at the top of music-related search results.

When you create an account and log in, you can listen to any song in full once for free. If you want to listen to it again, you can either buy a physical CD, which also grants you permission to stream the song online, download the mp3, or pay 10 cents to buy a “web song”. The web song lets you the stream the song as much as you want, from anywhere.

Web songs are exactly how I want to listen to music. I don’t listen while I’m walking or commuting, but I do listen while I’m at a computer, and I want a synced service that gives me access to my songs no matter where I am. I’m happy to pay for this, and 10 cents per song is a great example of micropayments at their best–each song feels cheap, and I find I want to buy a lot of them.

Since music formats do change, what I’d really like to do is buy the rights to a song for life and have a company store it for me. But it’s been hard to trust even established companies to make music available over an extended period of time. For example, when Microsoft’s MSN Music store died last year the company’s plans to stop running the licensing servers that authorized users to play the DRM-protected songs proved highly controversial.

For now, I’m left holding my breath over the fate of this excellent music service.

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