By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated June 07, 2007.
Tired of carrying that tiny little iPod around? A new Web-based service can make your iPod virtual. Lala.com, which began as a CD-trading site, announced Tuesday that users can upload their iTunes music to its online library, listen to others' music, and access and play music from any computer with an Internet connection.
The Palo Alto, California-based service straddles the area pioneered by peer-to-peer sites, portable digital music players, and music that is free of copy protection. Lala.com cofounder Bill Nguyen said in a statement that his company "wanted to create a service that blends the convenience of the Web with the portability and functionality of a truly universal platform."
Lala.com's approach is the third digital music revolution, he added, after Napster and the iPod. With it, users now can share songs "without the threat of PC viruses, spyware, and other risks that are present on illegal P2P sites." At present, there are no subscription fees or ads on Lala.com.
Success Depends on Labels
Any digital music can be hosted on Lala.com, the company said, although it is designed for downloading only to iPods. You can listen to all of your hosted library, via streaming, with any connected Mac or PC. You also can listen to the playlists that others have made, either composed of songs in the Lala.com music library or selections the libraries of other users.
Music can be purchased and downloaded to an iPod or purchased as a CD, but, at present, only songs from Warner Music Group are sold on Lala.com.
Lala said in a statement that it has an "agreement in principle" with Warner Music Group to make that record company's music available on the site. News reports indicate that talks are underway with other major music companies as well.
The success of Lala.com "is dependent on the participation of the other three major labels," said Susan Kevorkian, program manager of consumer markets at industry research firm IDC. "But they're off to a strong start."
She also noted that Lala, which is "well-funded," still has options for other kinds of revenues, such as subscriptions or ads.
Cofounder Nguyen has been quoted as saying that he expects the service to lose about $40 million in the first two years, with free-play licensing fees as high as $160 million during that time.
Lala's Charitable Side
Lala.com has created the "Z" Foundation, whose inspiration came from the creation of the Motion Picture Relief Fund and United Artists by Charlie Chaplin and others.
The Foundation receives monthly contributions of $10,000 to $50,000, depending on Lala.com's sales volume, and the money will be used to provide health and dental care for musicians in need. Currently, the Foundation's only income is generated by Lala.com's CD-trading activities, not its online music service.
The "Z" is in honor of Fr. Brian Zinnamon SF, a Jesuit priest who influenced the charitable work of Lala.com's cofounders, Nguyen and John Cogan.