December 22, 2009

Apple buy music streaming service Lala

Lala screenshot
I’ve always liked Apple. They may not have invented digital music, or the portable digital player, but they fine-tuned them and distributed them to mass markets to perfection. More music is being heard by more people in more places than ever before, and for that, we should be grateful. (Figuring out how to strategize and monetize these new markets is a different matter.)

It seems that iTunes has ruled the mp3 generation, but times and trends are moving ever faster, and there’s now a whole new generation of consumers that may never even own an mp3. Streaming is big business these days. Enter Lala, one of several successful (read: popular but not entirely profitable (yet?)) online music streaming services that has established itself with the non-owning and mobile music markets. Being able to listen to music through a web browser is something that gives music fans greater freedom, and access to their collection from any computer, smart phone or other mobile device, and is something that Apple lacks within iTunes.


Apple may well be looking at using the Lala team and functionality to enter into the streaming market, and with the way they have revolutionized similar parts of the music industry, who knows what may be in store.

One thing I hope Apple does figure out, is if they are paying $17m or $80m+ for Lala assets. Either way, it is a lot of money for a service that has et to find a profitable business model. Moving from CD-swapping to a (comparative to Pandora and Spotify) complicated streaming system has proved difficult, and investor Warner Music wrote down $11 million of the original $20 million it put down.

Lala had recently struck deals with both Google and Facebook, hoping to widen it’s user base with new search traffic and gift options. Apparently Google was also looking at acquiring Lala, and having narrowly missed out they may try and pursue other deals in the near future. Finding a way to tie it’s music search division in with either a download or freemium/ ad-funded streaming service seems inevitable, and well within Google’s scope. In fact, there have been several similar deals in recent months. Imeem was bought by Myspace, whom also previously acquired iLike.

Although Apple’s future movements may not be yet announced, I am certain they will continue to push the digital music industry forward (and outwards) with their services and reach new listeners across the globe.

(Cross-posted at US Music Jobs, the premier online community for US music industry professionals and jobs in the music industry)

Lee Jarvis.

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