May 31st: The Day the Lala Music Dies

By  |  Friday, April 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

Sad but in no way surprising: Apple is shutting down Lala, the excellent music service it bought last December. Lala has already stopped accepting new members; existing customers have access until the end of next month.

Unfortunately, Apple is continuing a long tradition of shuttered online services leaving customers who “bought” stuff at least partially in the lurch. It’s telling people who bought streaming Web songs that they’ll get an iTunes Store credit for the amount they spent “in appreciation of [their] support.”  But there’s no equivalent at the iTunes Store for Web songs, which played only online but only cost a dime apiece, so the credit is more akin to a discount. I hope nobody blew too much money on Web songs thinking that he or she was assembling a music collection of any permanence.

Apple could address this three ways: (1) by continuing to stream Web songs, (2) giving people iTunes downloads of the Web songs they bought, or (3) issuing refunds rather than credits. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s enough squawking to prompt it to revise its plans.

Actual unspent balances will be transferred to the iTunes Store (or refunded upon request). And Lala also sold MP3s which will, of course, continue to function.

Lala, which launched four years ago, had a brief but extremely eventful life: It started as a CD-swapping service, then bought a famous terrestrial radio station, then tried totally free music streaming–and finally offered a remarkably cool service that, among other things, let you put your existing music collection online for free and listen to any song in Lala’s catalog one time for free. (It also built a terrific iPhone app that never got released.)

Apple’s shutdown presumably means one of two things:

  • 1) It likes the idea of Lala so much that it’s getting ready to roll at least some of its features into iTunes itself. Or…
  • 2) It has so little interest in Lala that it’s abandoning the whole idea.

I don’t have a clue which possibility the closure represents, but I sure hope it’s #1…

 
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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Michael Says:

    Harry, this is sad news. Whats even sadder is the CONTINUED blase attitude the ‘media’ provide Apple Inc with a pass for all of the crappy things they do. I mean, is there a more closed company whose practices are exclusionary and even, yes evil? Evey day I read about Apple doing some morally wrong stuff and every day, all the press eats it up, running to defend El Jobso like he gave you guys the cool aid. (sigh)

  2. Tom Foremski Says:

    I love using lala and I’m not happy with the way Apple is handling the shutdown. Refunding our money is not enough. Users put a lot of work into lala, creating unique playlists and also uploading thousands of our songs. Getting just an iTunes store credit is disrespectful. If I wanted to use iTunes I would be using it — I chose lala instead.

    I can’t wait for Spotify.

  3. Harry McCracken Says:

    The basic rule followed by Google, Yahoo, MSN, Wal-Mart, and Apple seems to be simple: “When we lose interest in running our servers, we’ll shut them down–even though there’s content on them that people paid us for.”

    –Harry

  4. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    If you want a music collection with permanence you buy DRM-free ISO standard MPEG-4 songs from iTunes Store, or MP3 from Amazon. If you thought LaLa was permanent, you were wrong.

    > I mean, is there a more closed company whose
    > practices are exclusionary and even, yes evil

    Sure. Microsoft.

    My Mac came with an open source Unix core OS, Apache, PHP, Perl, Python, WebKit, Bonjour, and a bunch of other open source projects, all of which Apple not only uses, but contributes to, and in some cases created. Web apps were standard HTML5 out-of-the-box, and audio video standard MPEG-4. The same HTML5 apps and MPEG-4 media run on iPhone, iPod, iPad. All the ports and protocols are standards.

    If I had bought Windows instead, I’d have no open source, and even the Web apps and audio video would be proprietary IE and Windows Media. Instead of Unix: DOS. The backslash for directories? Ugh. It’s a disaster. And the viruses!

    Not sure what propaganda you’ve been reading that makes you think Apple is closed. I’d love to hear what open things you think you can’t do with an Apple product. I’m writing open API HTML5 Web apps with open ISO MPEG-4 audio video on a Mac and deploying on open source BSD Unix servers and installing to local storage and an open source engine on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch (which have an open source Unix core) as well as other platforms. Not sure what could be more open than that, so what am I missing?

  5. Michael Says:

    @Hamranhansenhansen You make good points and I respect what you are saying! What Im saying is, NO the Apple Eco-System IS closed. Rent a movie? Play with iTunes (which, by the way is a HUGE piece of bloatware, un optimized code and even (gasp) Flash in the Windows version). Also, Microsoft holds several patents and has contributed lots to Unix / Linux. The ONLY reason Apple is using UNIX is because NEXT was based off it, and El Jobso killed the true OS X when he came back.

    Look, I like Apple. I like their UR, they have the single BEST shopping experience for Multi-Media (in content & presentation) in iTunes. What I am against is their way or the highway mentality. Also, they dont innovate, they market. Compare the EVO 4G to iPhone 3.5 or 4 or whatever the hell they are going to call it. The EVO kills iPhone on almost every front, but its doomed from the get go, because its not part of Apples hype machine.

  6. E Says:

    @Michael
    First on the issue of content – you have many places to rent videos from. If you rent it from Apple, you must watch it with iTunes. If you rent it from Netflix, you watch it in the Netflix player. I don’t see the point you are making.

    As for online music. Online music by subscription basis is just that, it is by subscription. When your license runs out, you are not allowed to play it anymore. That was why Apple was not a big proponent. Whether or not they allow it with the new Lala or whatever it is, we will have to wait and see. We will also see if they make any long-term promises on the viability of the music. If they make such promises, then you can hold them to it/sue them when they fail. Lala’s offer to let you pay .10 for eternal rights to stream music was disingenuous at best, and untenable, regardless of what you think. The bandwidth costs to maintain a company that streams songs for $.10 forever is silly. So what if I bought 10 tunes, for one dollar, and then listened to them repeatedly over the next 10 years 4-5 times a day. How would Lala had survived? I don’t quite see any way they could have followed up on their promise. You may not like it, but Lala’s promise was hollow.

    There is plenty wrong with iTunes under Windows, but it certainly uses NO flash, whatever you say.

    Apple is using UNIX because they bought Next to use the UNIX that underlies NextStep. You make it seem like that was a forced measure – no, that was a chosen measure. They are using UNIX because they WANT to use UNIX. I don’t really get your point about using UNIX. If you are referring to Copeland as the “true OS X”, Copeland was not a true anything, it was crappy vaporware that Apple abandoned and then went searching for an OS to use, settling on NextStep.
    In actuality, the “true OS X” was Rhapsody, NextStep with a Mac GUI. However, at the time Apple was in no way to dictate APIs to developers, and all the biggies (Adobe, MSFT, at the time Macromedia) said that they refuse to develop for a new API. That was how you got a delay in the release of OS X and got Carbon on OS X in addition to Cocoa, so as you could write for the Classic Mac OS X API and did not need to rewrite everything from scratch.

    Lastly, you say the EVO 4G kills the next iPhone on almost every front. Curious, since neither is released, and while you may have specs and field tests and reviews of the Evo, all you have on the iPhone is the pictures that Gizmodo released. You do not know CPU, Camera resolution, RAM, Storage, Screen resolution – so how you can say it “kills iPhone on almost every front” is just plain wrong. We have no idea yet.
    It is doomed from the start because it is on Sprint, with silly WiMax, that only one US carrier, the smallest one, is adopting – while the other 3 majors are all adopting LTE. It is not doomed because of the eco system (and speaking of the eco system, it can play all music you buy from the iTunes store).
    Yes, it is not part of the Apple Hype machine because it is not an Apple product. SO what.

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