Saturday, June 9, 2007

LALA Land Redux

The big news this last week in the digital music arena was the announcement by that they intended to make money by - giving music away! This is news? started as a CD-swapping site, where you can list CDs you want, and CDs you own, and they would connect you to others that HAD the CD you want, or wanted the CDs you own, and for a buck you would get to "swap" the CDs, thereby avoiding purchase or resale through used CD stores or sites. Did this idea work? I dunno, sounded kind of kooky to me.

On Monday 6/4, newly revamped Lala launched a free service (in Beta, at this point) that scans your digital tracks—everything you own from ripped CDs, iTunes downloads or any other means—and then lets you log into the website anywhere to access that music. You can even sideload tracks to your iPod when you're far away from home. Sounds kind of like a big digital juke box in the sky - access to all your music anywhere, plus access to streaming of "shared" music by anyone who is on the LALA network. What does Lala get out of this? They hope that, once you sample the music, you will buy the album through their sales site. Does this idea work? I dunno, sounds kind of kooky to me, very Internet1.0, don't you think?

Actually, excuse me for showing my age, but it sounds almost identical to what tried to do and then got sued into oblivion for attempting. It all comes back to the old argument that once someone buys a CD of music, they can do what they want with it. Michael Robertson of argued this fact when he created Here is the info from wikipedia:

"On January 12, 2000, launched the "" service which enabled users to securely register their personal CDs and then stream digital copies online from the service. Since consumers could only listen online to music they already proved they owned the company saw this as a great opportunity for revenue by allowing fans to access their own music online. The record industry did not see it that way and sued claiming that the service constituted unauthorized duplication and promoted copyright infringement.

Judge Jed S. Rakoff, in the case UMG v., ruled in favor of the record labels against and the service on the copyright law provision of "making mechanical copies for commercial use without permission from the copyright owner." Rather than fight on appeal, settled with the major labels for more than $200 million and the service was discontinued. This decision turned out to be the beginning of the end of the original as the firm, unaware of the impending dot-com bust, no longer had sufficient funds to weather the technology downturn. To add to their woes music publishers, spurred by the success of the record label suits, also sued with their own claims of payment due."

The only big difference here is that lala is also trying to sidestep Apple's iTunes player, so there may be a lawsuit lurking there, also. Meanwhile, in the spirit of research and curiosity I tried adding the program to my Mac this week, and found it to not work at all, and just slowed down everything else on my computer. So I removed it again.

Is the problem with the music industry the lack of access to music? I don't think so. If Bill Nguyen, founder of, took his millions and helped support the creation of new music rather than creating a new way for people to avoid buying music (and thereby avoid paying the musician's royalties), perhaps the music business would have more of a chance to flourish.