Lala.com's pay-per-stream program faces tough competition

Lala.com is beta-testing a service that will offer unlimited streams of particular songs for $0.10 per song.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
2 min read

Lala.com has a history of coming up with innovative ideas that don't quite conquer the world. The company is best known for its online used-CD trading service, which is an interesting idea but works well only if you have a large list of CDs available to trade.

Lala.com will let you stream any song once at no charge, and an unlimited number of times for $0.10 per song. Lala.com

It also offers a music "locker" service that allows you to upload your music then listen to it from any computer with an Internet connection...but it only works with MP3 files, so you're out of luck if you've been using (for example) iTunes to rip your CDs to AAC for the last four years. The site was also early to experiment with offering free streaming files, but has apparently shuttered that service because the numbers didn't work out.

Now the company's beta-testing another streaming service that lets you select any song to stream once. Then, if you want to stream it again, you can pay a one-time fee of $0.10 and get perpetual streaming rights to it.

Unfortunately, this pay-per-song streaming model occupies a weird space halfway between all-you-can-eat subscription services and the free streaming files available elsewhere. If I'm a hardcore music fan who likes to discover and listen to lots of new music online, I'll probably subscribe to a service like Rhapsody--one monthly payment gets me streaming access to all the music I want. But if I just want instant gratification--say, for example, I need to hear Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills" right now--I can turn to Imeem, or Last.fm, or the Songerize site (which uses the Seeqpod search engine to discover music files all over the Web, then provides a simple embedded player).

So who would pay $0.10 for unlimited rights to stream a particular song? Probably people who are already using the Lala.com digital locker and want a cost-effective way to add new music to it without having to seek it out online or rip it from a CD and then upload it manually.