May 31st: The Day the Lala Music Dies

May 31st: The Day the Lala Music Dies
Sad but in no way surprising: Apple is shutting down Lala, the excellent music service it bought last December. Lala has already stopped accepting new members; existing customers have access until the end of next month.

Unfortunately, Apple is continuing a long tradition of shuttered online services leaving customers who "bought" stuff at least partially in the lurch. It's telling people who bought streaming Web songs that they'll get an iTunes Store credit for the amount they spent "in appreciation of [their] support." But there's no equivalent at the iTunes Store for Web songs, which played only online but only cost a dime apiece, so the credit is more akin to a discount. I hope nobody blew too much money on Web songs thinking that he or she was assembling a music collection of any permanence.

Apple could address this three ways: (1) by continuing to stream Web songs, (2) giving people iTunes downloads of the Web songs they bought, or (3) issuing refunds rather than credits. It'll be interesting to see if there's enough squawking to prompt it to revise its plans.

Actual unspent balances will be transferred to the iTunes Store (or refunded upon request). And Lala also sold MP3s which will, of course, continue to function.

Lala, which launched four years ago, had a brief but extremely eventful life: It started as a CD-swapping service, then bought a famous terrestrial radio station, then tried totally free music streaming-and finally offered a remarkably cool service that, among other things, let you put your existing music collection online for free and listen to any song in Lala's catalog one time for free. (It also built a terrific iPhone app that never got released.)

Apple's shutdown presumably means one of two things:

  • 1) It likes the idea of Lala so much that it's getting ready to roll at least some of its features into iTunes itself. Or...
  • 2) It has so little interest in Lala that it's abandoning the whole idea.

I don't have a clue which possibility the closure represents, but I sure hope it's #1...

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