Does shutting down Lala make Apple evil?

Lala Logo

Last year, Apple acquired streaming music service Lala was unique in that members could listen to new tracks in their entirety (iTunes only allows you to listen to a clip) and then purchase the rights to stream the song for pennies. Timing of the deal was suspicious as Apple swooped in just as Lala announced the pending approval of their iPhone app, which would allow members to access their music catalog via an iTouch or iPhone. While some question Apple’s motive to make the deal (because as a standalone service Lala would pose a competitive threat to iTunes), most expected to Apple bring Lala into the iTunes Store “fold” and give members a choice to either purchase music download or streaming rights.

Lala Shutdown Notice
Lala Shutdown Notice

Unfortunately, in Microsoft-esque style Apple has pulled an embrace, extend and extinguish move with Lala. According to an announcement on the Lala website, the service will shut down on May 31, 2010. Some sites, including Gizmodo, are already questioning if this move will be followed by the release of a streaming service within iTunes but most think not. As a fan of Apple, I just find it amusing that the company, who is at odd with Adobe because of Flash performance concerns (which are valid; see my prior post on HTML5 and Flash) may get a pass for exterminating a competing music service.

While I’m not about to call Apple evil, I think that it is time for other fans to admit that Apple is no different than Adobe or Microsoft — it is all about business!

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  1. Wait, when did you think it WASN'T about business with Apple? It's inevitable, get big, get monopolistic, get ugly.

    Let's hope they have a renaissance in 10 years like Microsoft did and at least attempt to truly embrace the web.

    If they don't, Google and Facebook will eat them 🙂

  2. Short answer from Apple: Too bad? 🙂 Who knows, the downloaded stuff is obviously yours, but the 10 cent only on web stuff?

    What I love about this is Apple has managed in one fell swoop to “be evil” and show the danger of cloud only services! Now, if you could just collect a ton of personal information about me (Hello you could have a hat trick of evil!

  3. Shutdown details are on the Lala site (, but basically … if you bought MP3s, they're yours as always, DRM-free. If you purchased web songs, you'll receive credit to use in the iTunes Store — though at a rate of 10 cents a track, that seems like little credit. Does this mean you get credit for the web songs received in conjunction with MP3 purchases? Probably not. And if you've an outstanding wallet balance on May 31, you'll get iTunes Store credit.

    But the iTunes Store is not nearly as useful or as friendly as Lala. The beauty of Lala lies in their allowing a full end-to-end first-time preview of any track on any album in their catalog. If the customer doesn't purchase the MP3 or web song, they are limited to 30-second previews on subsequent listens. This is especially great on Tuesdays when the new releases arrive, as you can hear every track on an album before making an informed decision.

    It would be great if Apple adopts the full-length first-listen model in the iTunes store, but thirty-second demos haven't hurt their sales, so why would they change now?

  4. There was never a second where I didn't believe that it was all about the business. In fact, I have a firm belief in how everything relates back to money in one way or another. Let's see:

    1) Apple is run by humans
    2) Humans are animals
    3) Animals (males) frequently show intermale aggression where they defend their turf.

    So it is purely psychological — Apple is protecting their marketplace. Keep an eye out on Pandora who reportedly has 40M registered users (and to a lesser extent Spotify).Once they start offering songs via a model similar to Lala and the membership trajectory changes, Apple will be forced to bring it back.

  5. I loved Lala for the reason described here by Thomas Strickland – the ability to listen to an entire track of album before deciding whether to purchase. If the price was good and I liked the song or album I frequently purchased it from Lala. I bought a few web albums but mostly regular DRM-free mp3's. There are some credits in my Lala wallet but the iTunes credit will mean nothing to me as I loathe iTunes.

    Apple = monopoly, monopoly = ugly.

  6. What do you think of Spotify ( I heard about them at SXSW this year and it seemed like everyone loved their service. I think they are only in the UK now, but are about to roll-out to the US.

  7. Is Facebook evil for acquiring FriendFeed? Since the beginning of time companies have bought competing companies in order to put them out of business. Does it suck for those of us that used Lala? Sure. Is it something that makes Apple evil? Only if you're prepared to label every other company that has ever done this as “evil”.

  8. While both FriendFeed and have been acquired by a competitor, the situations are completely different (at the present moment) because FriendFeed is not going to be shut down (see comment from cofounder;…).

    The evilness that I'm referring to is in the idea of extinguishing progress. Lala's model seemed to threaten Apple (charging $0.10 vs. $0.99 – $1.29 per song) so it seems that Apple bought the company to protect their turf AND stifle innovation. While it may work in the short term, it is hard to keep a good idea from spreading once it has been introduced into the wild.

  9. The model seems a bit different — I believe that you play albums/songs in the catalog but you don't buy them. I'm wondering if anyone from the UK can clarify.

    Spotify sounds like another great streaming service. It will be interesting to see if Apple brings back Lala once Spotify becomes available in the US.

  10. So just to be clear, your point is that Apple should try and grow its business as long as it doesn't impede on other companies' ability to grow as well.

    Or maybe said another way, Apple's #1 goal should be to make sure it doesn't stop innovation from happening in general across any industry and by any company, and its #2 goal should be to grow its own business.

    Is that really your point?

  11. I thought I liked Apple, well they can kiss my Linux butt good bye. they make me mad.
    Just plain mad about LALA Shut down

  12. I am so bummed, and disappointed. Lala was offering the consumer a better music experience than itunes, it sucks that Apple bought them merely to shut them down.

  13. According to analysis, iTunes constitutes only 3.5% of Apple's revenue:

    That's less than the revenue generated by the iPad. Ouch! But 90% of that 3.5% is music media sales:

    Now that's a crazy! And at this point, it seems that the noise from the Lala acquisition is negligible. In other words, the complaints haven't really been that loud. With that said, Apple did right by their investors to protect their iTunes turf. Good for Apple stock owners but it sucks for music lovers. Those of us that are crying in our beer will have to wait until someone else comes along with a compelling service that's like Lala.

  14. Clay — more people need to be vocal about this move. Either find something else that competes with Lala and vote with your wallet OR start a campaign to bring it back!

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