Fans of both Spotify and the Mac were quick to put two and two together, and come up with six billion four hundred and three when Apple announced they’d acquired music site Lala.com on Friday. Lala, an online hybrid of Spotify and last.fm functionality is an unusual acquisition for the iPhone makers. The untutored eye might think of it as merely a web-site. But it’s more than that. It’s a tried and tested music streaming technology, wrapped in a bundle of ready made label deals and a revenue model ready to go.
Unlike Spotify, they’re not reliant on pushing ads. There
free tracks available when you sign up for the site but, after the first 25 gratis tunes, any “web song” in their catalogue can be bought and streamed forever from Lala for a paltry 10 cents.
So, lets do the required mathematical calculations. Lala is an online, pay to stream music service. iTunes is a download store accessed by Apple client software, available on OS X and Windows, and compatible with the iPod and iPhone. It already has Webkit browsing capability built in – the rendering engine behind Safari. That’s how in connects to and displays the iTunes Store. Ipso facto, QED, it won’t be too much of a cut and shut job to weld Lala onto iTunes and – voila – Spotify-ish streaming with the Apple name behind it.
Another innovative feature Spotify can’t match: Lala can scan your existing library of digital tunage and make it available online, using their “Music Mover” application. Coinky-dinkily, the current layout looks looks very much like it might be iTunes poor and trashily dressed cousin.
Of course, Lala’s going to need some work first, both on the UI design (which is appalling) and the library of licenses (which Apple has a great deal of experience dealing with). But, and this but is as big a but as J-lo’s, Lala is currently US only. Try to sign up for the site in Blighty and you’ll be told to politely go home and make some tea and crumpets.
Meanwhile, though Spotify continues to go great guns in Europe, it’s yet to become available in the USA – where they still think it’s cool to buy CDs.
What does this mean for Apple? It has a golden opportunity to steam in and slurp up demand for streaming in the Americas while Spotify are still trying to untie the knots.
In fact, so starved of free, streaming music are our Stateside brethren, that
they’ve started buying vinyl again
. The New York Times reports a resurgence in demand for old plastic discs and turntables. It’s not just the warmer sound this generation of record buyers love – it’s the 12″ sleeves, graphics and liner notes; the tactile sensation of holding a real object that accompanies the music. There are some special sensations that gadgets just can’t replace. Yet.
Spotify, meanwhile, have been handed their gum shield and given the bell for round one. They may have Europe sewn up for now – but it’s imperative they capitalise on that strong start, sort out US licensing pronto and convert their massive freeloading fanbase into paying users. If not, they could end up as the
of the streaming music market.
In the meantime, here’s some video of a nice lady explaining the benefits of Lala.com: