If you talked to me in December, chances are I told you about Lala.com, a site I became aware of when Apple bought it. Apple shuttered it a few weeks ago, likely to introduce their own iTunes website where you can listen to all kinds of music, but I’m bummed out that there’s this gap we’re living it. It was great.
I frequently would tell people my favorite five things about Lala, and in the excitement, forget some killer thing. There’s not much of a point in telling you now, but in case Apple’s forthcoming and not-even announced replacement doesn’t have the following, you can expect a blog post for each.
- Tracks you don’t have can be listened to once for free. Just sign up for an account and you can listen to every song in the (large) library once. Free.
- Songs you like more than that, pay ten cents, and they’re unlocked forever. Or until the service shuts down.
- Songs you want to keep forever were between .79 and 1.29. Maybe not even 1.29, I forget. They were one of the cheapest online places to buy MP3s.
- The MP3s got on your hard drive via a client that ran on the desktop, and it did a pretty good job of throwing them into iTunes. That’s not magic, but this is:
- The client also scanned your hard drive for artist / title matches, and when it found them, unlocked those songs on the service. (It did a poor job of this.)
- Songs it couldn’t match up, it uploaded. For a while. So if a record you liked didn’t exist on the service, as soon as the client had a chance to work, it only existed for you. Pretty amazing.
- It also had a social network that wasn’t bad. A few friends of mine were on there and it was a nice balance of finding out what they were interested in without feeling like a creep. (Or being buried by “Now Playing” data.)
- Your “queue” could be hundreds of songs long, so if you read about something you might like to hear (once), you just queue it up and it plays eventually. Once. And then maybe you unlock it, or maybe you don’t.
- Every album, playlist, song, etc. on the service could be plugged into a widget that you could drop in any HTML, so like a facebook post, a blog entry… you could shoot someone a whole album on Twitter, say “check this out”, and they could. Once.
So, in essence, in theory, every song you had was now in the cloud. No matter where you went, if you had a browser with Flash, you could listen to your music. If you got halfway through a record at work, you could come home, and your queue would be played up to that specific point.
I shouldn’t say that they shut the thing down without mentioning how that happened: they sent iTunes store credit, rounded up, for every dollar you spent on “unlocking” tracks. I didn’t do that a ton (I mostly bought MP3s) but I still got $20 back.
And my hope is that Apple brings that all back, hopefully soon, and fixes the things that were kind of broken about it. The promise of excellent streaming music (in album form) is too excellent to have been swallowed up by Apple in an anti-competitive way.