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Apple killed lala.com (lala.com)
98 points by todd3834 on Apr 30, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments

Wow. This is... infuriating. I've purchased ~$100 (~75 albums) worth of streaming albums on Lala and I'm not happy to see them converted into ten albums worth of iTunes credits.

I have to say: so far I've been really unimpressed with the recent efforts to paint Apple as the new "Big Brother". But to purchase a company which is pioneering new methods of music distribution, and almost immediately shut them down and force their purchases to fit your distribution model is anti-innovation, monopolistic, and completely contrary to the kind of "different thinking" that has gotten Apple to where it is today. Utterly depressing.

Yeah that sucks, but maybe there's a lesson to be learned here:

Don't purchase streaming services for a one-time cost. Streaming services should be subscription services. Just don't do this. Let the industry know that if you're to purchase something, you should have infinite access to it — otherwise it should be a subscription service.

Btw, Apple probably wouldn't buy a streaming service unless they're planning to offer one themselves. Not that it changes your situation in any way. Just saying that they probably didn't do it just to shut it down.

yup. this is why i use zune pass. monthly streaming subscription AND 10 free song purchases a month (DRM free)

I use Zune Pass too and I've been generally satisfied with it. It's a lot better now than it used to be, almost to the point where I could probably ditch my Rhapsody subscription but Rhapsody proves pretty useful and has been venerable for ages now. I never could get into lala and I'm glad I didn't after this move.

Another good alternative is emusic.

$10/month for 30 DRM-free downloads. Only downside is it's only independent labels, so no Rolling Stones. Lots to choose among, though. Their website says they've got 6 million tracks from 60,000 record labels.

I upvoted cuz nobody else will, because you're using "zune pass".

They might if Google was starting to do business with them. I wonder how this affects their integrated search with lala for streaming results: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=MGMT&aq=f&a...

Apple might incorporate LaLa's business model into iTunes. So maybe the $100 credit will still be able to buy many streaming albums. Obviously they're still in the process of integrating LaLa and we have yet to see the results.

I do sometimes buy streaming services for a one-time cost, but I make sure to think of it as a subscription for ~a year.

How would you feel if lala had failed and closed up shop, taking with it your $100 and 75 streaming albums?

That leaves a different taste in your mouth than an acquisition from an indirect competitor, and down-grading your access to the content you've paid for - forcing you back into iTunes which was obviously a conscious decision by the commenter not to do.

I'm honestly curious as to how they are allowed to do this. You contracted with lala.com for a service, and companies don't get to ignore the contracts they've made with their customers just because they are bought by other companies. Couldn't you demand your money back? Or, in principle, sue them?

http://www.lala.com/#termsofservice (last updated in 2008, supposedly) states: "la la reserves the right to modify or discontinue any of the Services and material displayed on or offered through the Site, with or without notice to you, and is not obligated to support or update the Site or Services."

That was the contract lala made with their customer.

This exact same scenario - users losing access to music they've paid for due to a service being killed - has happened multiple times[1] due to DRM. I think it's clear that whether the reliance is on a DRM key-server, streaming, or whatever, consumers shouldn't "buy" music that stops being available when servers disappear.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management#Obsol...

That is incredible. Why would anyone pay money for that?

I am still a bit skeptical that this would hold up in court. There are laws about what you can hide in the fine print, and often judges will hold the transaction to be for things that that a reasonable person would expect, not what is stated in the contract.

That is probably not enforceable. Unfortunately the only real option is a class action lawsuit which would probably result in a minimal rebate.

So in other words, the money given them creates absolutely no obligation on their part to do anything whatsoever.

How could they feasibly do anything else? What do you think happens to your Facebook gifts if the company goes out of business? I bet their terms of service don't include shipping you physical strips of bacon to replace the virtual ones you lose.

Going out of business is different than just saying "we won't honor the purchase you made anymore".

It's always a choice. Going out of business is a choice, selling the company is a choice, and the acquiring company shutting down the acquired company's product is a choice. Any way you slice it, no matter what the circumstances, someone made a choice not to honor your purchase anymore, if that's the way you want to describe it.

Don't worry, I can't imagine Apple execs saying "mmm, Lala.com, they are going to crush as, lets buy them and shut them down". I think it was more like "mmm we should move itunes to the cloud, Lala works great, lets buy them and use them as foundation for our next itunes iteration."

I have the feeling that if you hold on that credit for few months you might be able to buy back your 75 on a cloud version of iTunes.

Give me some of whatever you're smoking. Talk about assuming/hoping for the best. The conversation probably went more like this "Lala is doing what we want to do, let's buy them and shut that shit down so we can offer our own overpriced solution".

More like "Lala is doing something we want to do, I can't become profitable, let's buy them cheaply for their existing work and engineering team and shut them down so we can offer our own solution that can make money."

Itunes is plenty profitable, though.

and what would be wrong with this?

Nothing, that was sort of my point.

People are mad at Apple for shutting LaLa down when it was clear LaLa was not a capable of functioning as a profitable venture in the format the founders pivoted to.

Online music is glamorous; yet, not that profitable and few ways to differentiate your business.

Whatever, thats a pretty good deal. You paid $100 to listen to music and now you get to re-use that $100 again to get new music (or rebuy some of the old stuff) They're basically giving you your $100 back.

> They're basically giving you your $100 back.

No, they're giving him $100 in store credit to a store that he doesn't want to shop at. If they gave him a $100 cash refund, he'd probably have fewer complaints.

Looking gifted horse in the teeth. Apple/Lala are giving him a 100 bucks, despite not being obligated the slightest to do so. But obviously for some people even free is not good enough.

edit: seriously people, read todd3834's comment bellow [ http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1307514 ]; unused credits can be refunded - USED credits (i.e. the money one had spent to practically rent the music) are given back as iTunes store credit;

Is there any contract?

Does it have any mention at all of what happens if lala shuts down?

Maybe he can demand cash, since he is no longer getting what he paid for.

Also, can you sell itunes credits?

From the Lala email to customers:

> In appreciation of your support over the last five years, you will receive a credit in the amount of your Lala web song purchases for use on Apple's iTunes Store. If you purchased and downloaded mp3 songs from Lala, those song will continue to play as part of your local music library.

> Remaining wallet balances and unredeemed gift cards will be converted to iTunes Store credit (or can be refunded upon request). Gift cards can be redeemed on Lala until May 31st.

Upon first read, I though maybe the web song credit could be refunded on request. On second read, I'm guessing no. But it's probably worth a shot.

Apple's acquisitions are few and mostly (IMHO) strategically well thought-out. Let's look at Apple's lala process for clues to where they're going.

Consider the possibility that the lala-buyout/close-down is prelude to Apple's next quantum leap in streaming service. [remember the huge NC data center that's nearing(?) completion]

The "store he doesn't want to shop at" may soon leap-frog what he lacked at lala. I understand that it's probably aggravating at time point to anyone with a substantial investment in lala service, but... the broader implications for overall media streaming/services may surprise us all.

I've worked through acquisitions.

I think in a lot of cases if you request a refund instead of the new service you'll get one.

But once Lala is shutdown, he will have no music to show for that $100 spent. Subscription models to not cost nearly that much, yet you're asserting that his $100 was basically just that ... an opportunity to listen to a select number of albums at a very high cost.

You best bet here is to:

1. use BitTorrent to download the relevant albums.

2. resolve never to buy anything from Apple or any RIAA company ever again.

3. inform all your friends of (2), and warn them never to part with any money for any DRM-crippled service.

4. Join your local Pirate Party -- see http://www.pp-international.net/

If enough people do this, we'll get our revenge on the shits who want to destroy our freedom.

To be clear here, you're advocating illegal activity and negatively impacting the artist who created the music you like, because you dislike a business model. FYI, in case you missed it, music purchased from ITMS is DRM free.

It's only negatively impacting the artist if they didn't get a cut of his original purchase.

In this scenario, the only person who has ended up without something they initially had is the consumer. At worst the artist lost a potential future sale, which very likely wouldn't have been made due to the consumer having paid for the content previously. The consumer who paid for the ability to listen to their music, had it taken away, and pirates it as a result, is simply regaining access to content they had been deprived of.

Now, if the artist got an insufficient or unfair cut from the original Lala purchase, that's between the artist and their publisher. Also not something the consumer is responsible for.

It seems to me that the post I was replying to was making more of a general point of encouraging piracy, not just as a solution to the lala.com streaming purchase problem.

> you're advocating illegal activity

When laws are bad, civil disobedience is morally justified. It's arguably a moral obligation.

> negatively impacting the artist who created the music you like

The guy has already paid for the music. Downloading it will make no difference to the musicians. If someone likes a band, thy can go to their gigs or give them money directly; enriching the likes of the RIAA or Apple is morally wrong, because these people will use that money to restrict everyone's freedom.

> because you dislike a business model

Some business models are evil.

> FYI, in case you missed it, music purchased from ITMS is DRM free.

Irrelevant; music on streaming services such as Lala has DRM, since the whole point of a streaming service is that the listener isn't supposed to get control of a copy (obviously there are ways round that).

What is wrong with Amazon MP3? no drm.

Nothing's wrong with it.

My point was that the original poster paid money to listen to some music, but then the service closed. Therefore he has a moral right to use technical means available to him to continue to listen to it.

But to purchase a company which is pioneering new methods of music distribution, and almost immediately shut them down and force their purchases to fit your distribution model is anti-innovation, monopolistic....

I disagree. While it sucks in the short term, it'll actually cause the opposite effect in the long term.

By Apple doing this, it makes it more attractive for new startups to join this space, because there a likely exit. If Apple intends to keep cleaning them up by buying and shutting them down, it'll just attract more until it is no longer economically feasible for Apple to suppress them.

It'll become prohibitively expensive for Apple to maintain a monopoly by doing this indefinitely.

Although this does look superficially like anticompetitive douchebaggery, I still think Apple plans to release a similar service but not as "Lala." In those cases, the original products often get shut down a few months before the rebranded version is released. Steve Jobs said Apple had several new products planned this year, and that seems like a pretty obvious one.

Isn't offering a similar service prerequisite for anti-competitive doushbaggery? Otherwise it's just traditional douchebaggery.

The non-evil thing to do would be to convert Lala web albums into iTunes Cloud albums or whatever they eventually offer.

No, offering a similar service is not prerequisite for anticompetitive douchebaggery. Like, if the RIAA had sued Lala out of existence based on flimsy loopholes, would we have said, "Oh, but the RIAA doesn't offer any service along the lines of what Lala does, so that wasn't anticompetitive in the slightest"? No, we would have said that the RIAA was trying to squash innovation and didn't want to have to keep up with the times, etc.

The point is that the parent seemed to think Apple was just killing off an innovative business model that threatened its own, but I don't think that's the case.

And the music/movie companies wonder why everyone just pirates their shit instead...

I just got the following email:

This is an automated message. Please do not reply.

Dear _____,

The Lala service will be shut down on May 31st.

In appreciation of your support over the last five years, you will receive a credit in the amount of your Lala web song purchases for use on Apple's iTunes Store. If you purchased and downloaded mp3 songs from Lala, those songs will continue to play as part of your local music library.

Remaining wallet balances and unredeemed gift cards will be converted to iTunes Store credit (or can be refunded upon request). Gift cards can be redeemed on Lala until May 31st.

Click here or visit Lala.com/support for more information, or to view Lala's Terms of Service.

Thank you.


©2005-2010 la la media, inc. All rights reserved.

Anyone tried Grooveshark (http://listen.grooveshark.com)? I know it's in Flash but on first glance it seems to be a combination of Lala and Slacker.

Grooveshark is great (though it occasionally is missing music). But it's only a matter of time before it is shut down.

While I hope your second sentence is false, my wife has that program up playing in our condo about 1/3 of the time.

Grooveshark is good, I switched to it here in China. Outside of China on fast internet, I can usually find a playlist of what I want to listen to on Youtube, so I just do that. For Europeans, Spotify is far and away the best music service I've ever used, but it's not available outside of Europe yet.

Yes, grooveshark is quite fine.

Wow. Shitty. Didn't those of us who used lala join specifically because we hated itunes?


I'm not too upset at my money lost. It easily justifies stealing the music myself. I really will lament not having a good web music player.

Anyone know of an itunes-like client which you can point to your server or S3? I'm happy to host things myself.

There are a number of free web-based players with a nice interface, I use prostopleer.com.

As more such virtual goods (video, audio, books, etc) companies will fail to offer reliable long-term service, customers will force them to switch to a model where you get something better than a temporary database record for your money.

Meanwhile, I'm only paying for service subscriptions.

I wonder about the timing of it; could it be, in fact, a result of Google featuring Lala songs in web search?

I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but in the past few weeks when I would Google a song, a Lala box would be at the top of the page allowing you to stream the song. Obviously now there is no way to stream the song directly from the Google search page.

Now that it's war between Google and Apple, I can see this bringing Lala to Apple's attention.

iTunes Cloud TBA at WWDC? I'm excited to free up some hard-drive space.

That was my initial thought, but why leave the 1 week gap where people will try to find another solution to replace lala? You'd think shutdown LaLa on June 7th?

Also, do lala users need to know about the change in advance? why not transfer them over to the new service and send a message saying what's changed?

This is kinda looking like myspace/imeem

I've been much more interested in what Spotify is doing. I think if they could get into North America before Apple, they'd do quite well.

At the moment I'm stuck with a UK VPN. I've been really happy with the service, it just feels like the future.

How do you deal with the credit card and address requirements?

I have friends in the UK, I paid them via Paypal and they setup the account for me. I realized when I was there in November last year I could've also gotten a prepaid credit card.

(Edit: Never mind. This is just for unspent credit. Resume being pissed.)

For everyone pissed about being forced to have iTunes credit: You can also have a check instead. Log in and read the fine print. You just have to fill out your mailing address on a form.

Isn't that only for unused credits, not for credit which has been used on songs

First reaction is this sucks, second is I hope iTunes.com is HTML5, else I'm screwed.

It would have really been nice if they would wait until iTunes in the cloud launched

And then automatically migrate over Lala users to the new iTunes service.

As far as I'm concerned, LaLa died when it stopped being the CD Trading community.

This is definitely the last straw. I use Lala daily and it's been a great way to discover new music and bring my collection everywhere I go without having to copy a big library around. I am done as an Apple customer and will do everything I can to make sure all my friends understand the nature of the company before buying any of their products.

This is not the scrappy, innovative underdog Apple we all used to love. This is a nascent suffocating and abusive monopoly that deserves an organized boycott.

What did you expect to happen? A small startup decides it is in their best interest to sell-out to a big company. Google has closed startups. What would you say to the founders? Would you have made the same decision? Sadly, this is the price of being an early adopter.

Some people here really make me laugh. Hating business for what business do is silly. As the saying goes vote with your dollars and convince family/friends to vote with you. If you really feel laws should be changed write to your congressman and/or vote a different congressmen next election.

It's funny, the same thing happened to anywhere.fm, of which lala is basically an updated version. They made a fun way to listen to all of your own music online, they got bought out, and they disappeared. Maybe YC should fund another anywhere.fm?

This shouldn't be that surprising. Lala's deals with record labels weren't transferrable to an acquirer, so the real surprise is how this has ran for so long.

I hope Apple relaunches this within iTunes. I loved lala.com and am sad to see it go. I found myself purchasing streamed albums after a certain point.

Now if they could just get rid of Po and Tinky Winky...

Here's the email from Lala http://i.imgur.com/LzQ3l.png

The founders killed lala.com because they sold out to Apple.

Just like the founders killed Jaiku, MeasureMap, Dodgeball, etc. and any number of other web services we've used and loved... til they got bought.

If you want to be angry at somebody, be angry at the founders for "selling out" - for going for the big payday.

That, after all, what most people here on HN are aiming for, right?

So how can you begrudge them for getting what they wanted?

That's not a reason to be angry at someone. If you're upset that they "sold out," go build your own. Most of us are in this to not only build cool things, but to make money.

True, it depends on the service your offering though, in a case like this the right thing would be to ensure (baring bankruptcy) that the streaming will be available long term, or be more upfront with people that it is limited.

While it is true there is the offer you can't refuse type deal I'm not a fan of some founders who you hear a lot about their big plans and the quality of the product or service they are providing, you get interested in purchasing and the next second they are gone.

In the case of Jaiku, at least they open sourced the entire application. Can't even begin to describe how much I've learned from the Jaiku source code.

Scott Adams explained it very well when he started taking advertisments on the Dilbert site. Dogbert stood up and said something like "For the slower students among us, let me explain. 1. Advertisers give us money. 2. We like money."

No, I'm actually angry at Apple for using it's bank balance to squash a competitor. Should I expect the Lala founders to be saints and walk away from a bit payout? No? Should I expect Apple to compete on quality instead of abusing its position? Apparently not.

Jobs is a dangerous, megalomaniac demagogue.

If you kill a product you own, you are not squashing the competition, are you?

Again, if Lala hadn't sold, they'd still be open.

Where's the evidence of LaLa's ability to maintain operations?

If they had to sell because they built a business they couldn't afford to run… it's their fault, not Apple's.

Again, blame the founders who sold the business, not the buyer.

I agree with you, I think LaLa had an innovative and interesting model; however, it wasn't profitable and tht's why Apple was able to buy it --clearly they had something else in mind.

Wow. I was so mad when they launched. I thought for a while that they had implemented a system I had been working on, and they got 10M in funding. Then I saw how they decided to work it and I laughed. I knew they would fail eventually when they decided to do what everyone else is doing.

I may be slow to get to market, but the entire online music market is still stupid, and nobody is doing what I will.

If by 'fail' you mean 'get bought by Apple', then yeah.

I disagree with his point but to be fair, fragmede, that "sale by Apple" was a firesale.

A company that raised $35.1 million in funding was sold for $17.

So do it already.

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