The tech blogs have been abuzz for the last few days about Google’s new music service, which apparently will be powered by LaLa. The service is due to be officially announced on Oct. 18th at an event in Hollywood. So far the media has been mostly uncritical although it’s difficult to see why.
LaLa? Really? How underwhelming.
With Spotify, the peer-to-peer streaming service currently available in Spain, the UK, France, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and reportedly launching in the U.S. before the end of the year, the likely question in the minds of many tech watchers is “Why didn’t Google just buy Spotify?” Spotify is the gold standard of music apps. Picture iTunes—the user interface is very, very similar—except that it’s free and streaming, you need only listen to a 15- to 30-second commercial once every half-hour. There is also a pay variant of the service with no commercial interruptions and improved sound quality, although the free version will certainly suffice for most listeners.
Spotify, in a word, is awesome. Many Spotify users are reportedly even giving up illegal music downloads as a result of using the service. I set up a Spotify account via a UK proxy server earlier this year and was quite impressed at the streaming audio quality, ease of use and the absolutely massive song library. When their server finally detected I was outside of their operating countries after two blissful weeks and cut me off cold turkey, I wanted to cry. Does it have everything? Well, Spotify does lack the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but for the most part it’s pretty hard to stump, as even the most obscure performers are usually pretty well represented in its library.
LaLa on the other hand, has simply not become all that popular with the public and the catalog isn’t that deep. Just because a LaLa result comes up in a Google search hardly seems like a recipe for success. Like Rhapsody, Pandora and Last.fm and the other streaming services, LaLa never really caught on with consumers in a big way. Sure the Google deal (Facebook, iLike and MySpace are reportedly along for the ride in some capacity too) won’t hurt the company, but it’s difficult to fathom why Google didn’t look into partnering the superior service, especially if the company will be competing against Spotify in the U.S. market within a matter of months anyway and with Microsoft set to launch what has been whispered of as their “Spotify killer” as well.
Among the mostly neutral chatter, snarky UK tech blog The Register had this to say:
Hyped overnight as a Google ‘Music Service’, what we see instead is set to be the most underwhelming launch in a long history of label-backed music flops. It’s barely a ‘service’ - merely a sorry widget that yokes a DRM-crippled version of LaLa’s already unpopular streaming offering with unsold Adwords inventory.
Instead of a text ad, a search for a music related keyword will show a widget. This allows you to listen to the song, according to Business Week - but only once. After that you pay to hear the stream at 10c a play. (You can also buy the song.)
Don’t all rush at once.
Cross posting this at Brand X
Image from Techcrunch