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Lala co-founder discusses Google deal, iPhone app

Lala is working with Google to add some intriguing features to its music search service, and it hopes to have its iPhone app approved by Apple next month.

I had a quick conversation with Lala co-founder Bill Nguyen this afternoon, and he filled me in on some of the company's plans to expand its presence in Google's new music search feature. Today, when you search for an artist's name, Google uses mathematical algorithms to determine which songs to display--no editor is involved. But eventually, artists will be able to use Lala's platform to ensure that specific content, such as a new song, shows up in the music search results at Google.

An example of Google's embedded Lala player, which appears on a search for "Joy Division."

Artists and labels will also be able to work with Lala to sell products other than MP3 downloads through Google's search results. For example, Lala is working on a deal with Rhino Records where users will be able to buy vinyl Joy Division records directly from Lala. Eventually, the offer will appear within Google search results on queries like "Joy Division" as well.

For Rhino, this kind of deal is a no-brainer: they're suddenly getting free placement for a relatively high-priced physical product in Google's search results. But it's also beneficial to users: if they buy through Lala, not only will they get the records, but they'll also get all the digital tracks on the LP immediately added to their Lala locker, which lets them listen to those tracks from any PC with an Internet connection. (I've been using Lala's excellent locker service for about a year. Basically, it uploads your entire music collection to the Web, then lets you add additional songs for only $0.10 apiece.) And if users like the deal, then they're more likely to use Google for future music searches. Wins all around.

And that gets me to the most exciting Lala announcement of all: The company has submitted its iPhone app to Apple and hopes to have it approved some time in November. The app will allow users to stream any song in their online Lala locker to their iPhone, over both 3G and Wi-Fi connections. Conceptually, it's similar to iPhone apps from Spotify (in Europe) and Rhapsody, but without the subscription fee; any song you've uploaded to your music locker will be available on your iPhone. And of course, you'll still be able to buy streaming-only versions of new songs for $0.10 a piece. (Lala might charge something like $5 for the app itself, but the company hasn't decided.) I'm getting an early look some time in the next few days. I'll try it and report back on how it works.