Tuesday, October 21, 2008

LaLa tries again

Remember La La? No, not the one who hung out with Dipsy and Po, the CD-swapping service? It's not a CD-swapping service any more: it's reinvented itself as, erm, something else.

Now, you can copy your music to an online locker, and it will stream you songs that are a bit like the ones you already own. For free, unless you listen more than once. But if you do listen more than once, the ten cents you pay for each play can be set against the price of buying an mp3 file if you decide to keep it. Or something like that. But only one ten cent.

It's certainly a distinctive idea - why hasn't anyone else thought of charging for streaming songs that are a bit like the songs you already like? Apart, you know, from the obvious 'because Last FM do that for free, don't they?' reason, I mean.

La La has an answer to that:

If the goal is to get consumers to buy more music, then the existing model of how it’s priced and sold doesn’t work,” says Lala founder Bill Nguyen. “Look at subscription music. They pay for every single song that’s streamed, but they get a fixed revenue from the customer. So if you’re a big music listener, you actually may cost the service more money that it makes. Instead of a streaming access product, think of it as if it were a real product. It’s just virtual. It doesn’t have the bits, but behaves in the same functional way.”

Aha! It's better for record labels and gives people who listen to a lot of music the opportunity to pay more money. It's hard to believe that there hasn't been a clamour for the chance to pay more - certainly if there was some sort of march, I'm sure I would have heard.

Michael Nash, who oversees Warner's digital strategy, is certainly excited - hey, La La had him at the 'customers pay more' part:
“Lala is a pure transactional player,” Nash says. “They’re not supporting some hardware platform with this. Our interests are totally aligned with theirs. Part of our comfort in the model is recognizing that we have the same interests to engage consumers in a great experience that drives discovery, monetize that, and drive the value of the consumer by upselling them on downloads as often as that makes sense.”

That noise? Oh, that was the sound of Beethoven's ghost wailing that he never got the chance to upsell downloads and drive the value of a monetized consumer. Instead, he wasted his life making an ecstasy of music.

Still, to be fair to La La, they have spotted that they can throw the phrase "cloud computing" into the mix to make this seem less like a mash-up of the old mp3.com and last.fm and more like something that's part of the current web-bubble-buzz.