First launched back in 2006 as a CD trading service, Lala has evolved along with its market into the most comprehensive web-based service for listening to your music online and music downloads.
Its offerings include full length album previews, an online store with 7 million songs, DRM-free high quality variable bit rate MP3 music downloads, a web-based music jukebox and social network, all in one tightly knit interface.
Lala turns out to be one of those websites that are great, yet somehow aren’t yet gathering the crowds lesser competitors are. With just over 20 people on the staff and consistent funding from Warner Music, you can be sure this service won’t disappear into the mist of the economic recession. While the 500 000+ members don’t stack up to Last.fm or Facebook, it isn’t exactly a niche audience.
Lala’s web designers and coders created an Apple-like experience, everything neatly integrated and in sync. A simple, functional interface reveals the minimalistic approach to the design of the web site. I wonder though if the iTunes interface is the pinnacle of media player design, designers decided to cut some corners or they intentionally opted for a similar layout to make new users feel ‘at home’.
Once you’ve created an account, which doesn’t take more than 30 seconds and doesn’t require a credit card, you can preview whole songs and albums for free (once). Your existing music library can be easily imported using the [NO LONGER WORKS] Lala Music Mover, a small application that matches songs on your computer with the catalog of music downloads available online. It works on Windows as well as on Macs and doesn’t use a lot of resources. Once the upload process is completed, you can listen to all of your songs online, with no additional charge, no restrictions or ads, from any computer with an Internet connection. It will even import playlists and ratings (using the [NO LONGER WORKS] beta version).
Individual tracks can be purchased and downloaded in MP3 format without DRM and a high quality variable bit rate encoding. Downloads are automatically added to your iTunes or Windows Media Player if you installed the Lala Music Mover. For ten cents you can purchase the right to stream a song from the website as many times as desired, a so-called “[NO LONGER WORKS] web song“. Depending on the song popularity and release date, MP3 music downloads range from $0.79 to $1.29, the same pricing scheme of the iTunes Music Store. Lala has strong connections with the music industry and currently indexes over 7 million songs.
The social networking aspect of the service combines different ideas from more general social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and does a good job of serving recommendations, aiding music discovery, while not duplicating unnecessary functionality.
The only caveat to this service is that it only works with United States IP addresses due to music licenses. Of course, you guys know how to get passed that. Go to [NO LONGER WORKS] Lala, give it a try and then come back to share your experiences in the comments. For more posts related to music, you should definitely have a look at MakeUseOf’s music section.