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I first heard of Lala.com in October of 2008. The company behind the website had existed for years before that, starting as a CD swapping service (one with questionable legality issues) and then turning itself into a music hub (that ended up failing).
October of 2008 though was different. That was the special month when the innovative company re-defined itself for the third time and launched a brand new product. Blogs hailed it as a revolution, and that’s precisely what it was.
At the time, the only way to buy music was iTunes/Amazon for $0.99, regular CDs, or some subscription model. Lala came in and started charging $0.10/song for unlimited online streaming, and that was brilliant. It launched with a lot of support and had a 175,000 song catalog populated by the four major record labels.
Since I almost always listen to my music on the computer, I thought I would give it a shot and I ultimately got addicted. Today, it’s the only music application I use and I absolutely love it. Lala’s future certainly looked promising, as they started work on an iPhone app and slowly started adding independent artists. It certainly seemed, at the time, that Lala (with $35.1 million in total funding) was quite possibly going to redefine how we purchased music.
That all changed on another date: December 4, 2010, when Apple Inc ultimately bought the startup (which apparently was in monetary turmoil) for a paltry $17m.
As an apparent Apple fanboy, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that purchase. On one hand, I was glad that Lala, given its extensive cash drain, got bought by a company with deep pockets. I quitely hoped that the sale simply meant that Lala wouldn’t be going anywhere. On the other hand, however, I was a bit scared. While I completely respect Apple, I was afraid they might be simply buying Lala to stop the competition. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a large technology company bought a smaller company only to ultimately shut it down.
Ever since that point, I have slowed down my rate of purchases on Lala, in fear that one day I wouldn’t have access to the hundreds of songs I bought. Sadly, the apparently inevitable happened; earlier today, Lala announced that the service is shut down. They’re no longer accepting new users and old users like me have only until May 31st to use the website. After that, I will simply have my Lala money converted to iTunes store credit.
The web understandably up in arms in anger over this. The money I spent to get hundreds of songs on Lala will most likely only get me tens of songs on iTunes. I can no longer listen to my songs online, and any hope that I might be able to listen to Lala on my mobile device have been hopelessly shattered.
Is this the end of Lala? The real answer is maybe.
May 31, 2010 is a very interesting date, as it’s days/weeks before two major Apple events. The WWDC is occuring in early June and Steve will take the stage with Walt at All Things D. iPhone 4 will also most likely be released in early June.
How awesome would it be if Apple is simply killing Lala to replace it with a better more innovative iTunes in the cloud? Could the reason behind shutting down Lala.com simply be to replace it with iTunes.com? I sure hope so.