Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top 5 Five Reasons Why Lala Beats Spotify and iTunes

The Spotify iPhone app was recently released in Europe. Spotify, originally a desktop app, gives users access to music on demand. Think iTunes but streaming only, no download. The Spotify iPhone app is being dubbed an "iTunes killer"; people are shocked that Apple allowed the app to be released at all, since it seems to directly undermine Apple's own iMusic universe. If people can always stream all the music they want from their iPhone or iPod, why bother buying the songs with iTunes? Now there's serious competition in the marketplace.

While this is great news to the consumer, it's also great news for Lala.com. Lala is an online music service that allows users to upload and listen to their entire music collection "in the cloud" for free. That means you can get to it wherever, whenever. You get unlimited access to everything that you own, and one free listen to every song on the site that you don't own. If you hear something you like you can add "web songs" for $0.10 a pop, or get the mp3 for around $0.90, DRM-free.

Months back, Lala released a prototype of their iPhone app, which was consequently denied by Apple. With the recent approval of Spotify's app, however, there is new hope for a Lala iPhone app, which would give users access to their entire music library from anywhere, also giving them the option to buy and download new music without iTunes.

I've been on Lala for a few years now and think it's awesome, and would love to see more people using it. What's so good about it? Top 5 reasons:

5) It's cheap. If you don't buy music, Lala is free, you just need an email address. But if you do buy music, the $0.10 for a web-song feels like nothing, and it's usually ~$1 for a whole web album. If you're going to be mostly listening with your computer nearby (at work, at home), there's no need for an mp3. If you want the mp3, it's almost always cheaper than iTunes, and always DRM-free.

4) Unlimited storage: There's no limit to how many songs you can upload. Go crazy. I did.

3) Get your music anywhere.
Since you can upload all of your music to Lala's service, you can get to your music collection from any web browser.

2) Amazing playback and playlist features. A huge feature Lala has that iTunes doesn't is the ability to queue songs on the fly, without playlists. You can add songs to the queue without stopping the one you're currently listening to. It's also incredibly fast to make and add songs to playlists, both from your collection and browsing albums and artists.

1) Finding new music. This is where I've found Lala to excel. They've got tons of music charts (most listened, fastest movers, different genres, new releases) with lots of diversity. You can also follow friends and see what they're listening to. It's like a Facebook/Twitter feed, but with just songs. You can add people with similar tastes and check out what they're into, find new stuff that way. You can listen in private, but you're missing out if you don't take advantage of the recommendations and other tools available to discover music through other people.

I hope Lala can get its new iPhone developed and approved ASAP, because Spotify is gaining traction fast. And while it might seem that Spotify has Lala beat because it's all free, Lala is really an all encompassing music listening and discovery tool, not just radio to click and play. Except for iPod connectivity, Lala's team is on their way to making iTunes irrelevant, especially for people who are always in range of a wifi connection.

Undoubtedly, Lala has improved my overall "musical lifestyle," and I usually get a little too excited when trying to explain why. If you haven't tried it, there's no reason you shouldn't check it out. And if you need convincing, both Pitchfork and Billboard have already jumped on board and are using Lala's embedded playlists. Lala's platform can also fill the needs of lots of different users: people who do/don't want to pay for music, as well as those who do/don't want to share their tastes.

There's no doubt Lala's got a good thing going on, and everyone should being taking advantage of it, and keep their eyes peeled for that iPhone app. That's going to be a game changer.


  1. Great write up, however I would be more interested in some kind of itunes streaming app where I can avoid all the hooopla or uploading my massive library and stream what I have right to my phone. I wonder if there is a jailbroken solution to this...

  2. It's definitely true that this model is still clinging to the idea that you need to "own" the music to have access, hence the uploading.

    I should mention that Lala matches songs in your collection to songs in it's collection, and only uploads the songs it can't match. As it turns out, uploading still takes a while, but this might just be an issue with their software. If this was somehow fixed, it might just be possible to give you access without uploading, just based on a music library file. That way, you could use Lala's framework to stream your music, but also enjoy their playback and community features, which are so powerful.

    In that case, owning the mp3 essentially becomes irrelevant if your device can get access to it wherever (but that's not to say that you wouldn't want the digital files, just in case).

  3. I too share your enthusiasm for Lala. I've been using it for about 6 months now and have found that it's by far the best way to discover new music. Listening to an entire song (or an entire album!) rather than the 30 seconds iTunes allows is so much more satisfying. And it quite often leads me to purchase the web-only songs.