Why I’m Excited About Apple Buying Lala
The rumors hit this week and it was confirmed this morning: Apple is buying streaming site Lala. I had heard the purchaser may be Google and thought Facebook or Amazon also seemed like acquirers, but I wouldn’t have pegged Apple for this. This raises all sorts of questions in the competitive landscape for everyone involved in digital music but at a very high level as a music fan this makes me very excited about the future ubiquitousness of music. Here’s why:
Lala is a great product. Of all the streaming services it’s the one I most prefer using:
- It’s easy to use, the pages load and music starts playing fast. I’m a Rhapsody subscriber but only really use it with my Control 4. If I’m sitting at my desk I’d rather use Lala. It’s faster and more reliable than Rhapsody.com.
- Lala consolidates my MP3 collection for me to access anywhere. I buy tracks from Amazon and Emusic and I automatically have access to the tracks I buy from any other computer.
- It’s easy to share. Every page has an easy to tweet or email link, and you have a good likelihood to sharee is going to have an easy time playing what you sent them. It’s easy to embed on your blog, share into Facebook or just share into the Lala ecosystem. Derivative community features such as “top influencers” are very smart.
- The front page stream of friend activity is a great discovery tool. A lot of times I’ll just load the homepage, see what my friends are listening to, and use that as a jumping off point.
It’s come a long way from the original CD sharing service, but they’re finally starting to get the formula right IMHO.
They also have the most forward-looking of all the streaming models. Lala clearly anticipates a day where all consumption is streaming. By converting my local collection to the cloud and selling both download and streams I can stuff in my locker Lala has the only plausible bridge transition from the download world to the world of all streaming. We’ve all been talking about the day music is in the cloud for more than fifteen years, but Lala has a great service timed with the reality of streaming to iPhone, Android, etc. You’ll find a lot of people who predicted the world of music in the cloud a long time ago who are jaded on the topic but the fact is it’s upon us and we’ll all be making the transition over the next five to ten years max.
Let’s face it, the use case for buying downloads is driven primarily by the iPod. When iPods are all connected (and Apple is already reporting iPhone sales are starting to displace iPod sales) and streaming services offer great apps on mobile, the use case for downloads starts to dry up.
It’s amazing to project forward and think how short-lived the download as a format will have been. An industry that took 10 years to get their head around downloads will have to evolve to streaming as a format in the next 10 years. This sort of adaptation is clearly not their forte. I hope they’ve been preparing for it.
I always thought Apple would move up-market away from music, into movies and living room apps in general. But it appears they are going to move up-market *with* music. They have learned that music leads the adoption curve and sells devices and they are going to use it to sell wired devices. For those of us who love music and love to see Apple wowing the market with incredible hardware, this is pretty exciting. If Apple can conquer the living room and the car it will be amazing to watch and a fun time to be a consumer.
This is going to affect a lot of businesses, including ours (Topspin), but personally I love that Apple continues to make music a joy to experience and culturally important. Don’t get me wrong, the entrepreneur and music business person in me is worried about Apple’s dominance and intends to work with Apple to make sure the future of music isn’t available solely via Apple hardware and services. But the music fan in me is excited to think about a beautiful experience in my living room and car where all music is available all the time and easy to share legally, without syncing and managing files.
ps – A funny side effect of this news is that I’ve been getting more Lala friend requests in the last 48 hours than ever. Turns out getting sold is a great marketing plan for a fledgeling service. Add me as a friend on Lala!