Vicarious Music & Media

Lala’s New Formula: One Dime = Unlimited Streams

Well-financed music upstart Lala.com is now refreshing its digital model, and tinkering with a cut-rate, streaming concept.  Lala first stepped onto the scene with an online CD trading marketplace, one that allowed users to optimize their collections by posting and picking discs.  Then, in June of last year, the company allowed users to upload their digital collections for internet-based access, a stab at ubiquitous media access.

Now, the company is preparing to toss another experiment into the ring.  For ten cents, users will soon be able to buy unlimited streaming access to a specific song.  After an initial, free listen, the user can buy the track and access it from any internet-connected browser.  The catalog includes content from all four majors and a long list of independents, and totals roughly five million.  The first 50 streams are given away for free.

Whether consumers will bite remains questionable, especially alongside free streaming models offered by Imeem, Last.fm, and others.  And, paid subscription platforms offer easy, on-demand access to a similar catalog.  Additionally, the ten-cent purchase does not include a download; it only offers streaming access from a virtual locker.  Separately, Lala is also planning to sell MP3s.

The service, in beta, was first tipped to Digital Music News by mp3.com founder Michael Robertson, himself a leading-edge developer of ubiquitous, in-the-cloud music access solutions.  But Robertson questioned whether the Lala model would resonate.  “People prefer free stuff on the net and there’s plenty of it,” Robertson said.  “A successful model needs to give more to paying customers not less to compete with free and the omnipresent black market of piracy.”

Robertson also pointed to an interesting alliance between Lala and Warner Music Group, an initial label partner.  According to Robertson, Warner hatched the latest experiment with Lala, and invested $20 million in the company.  The deal also allegedly includes CD-inserts advertising Lala, though Digital Music News could not independently verify the financing or advertising aspects late Tuesday.  Robertson also pointed to a total Lala funding level of $34.7 million.

The beta offering can be found at next.lala.com.

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