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Lala Shutdown To Silence Music Websites

So you go to Lala.com, thinking you want to stream some music. Instead, what you find on the site is a big banner telling you it's being shut down.

Apple bought Lala back in December, only to announce it's going to close at the end of the month. So what is the music industry going to do without it?

Click, Play

Lala is easy to love. It costs 89 cents per download, as opposed to the dollar you'd spend on iTunes.

To stream a song and add it to your library without downloading it, the price is a cool dime. And if you want to preview a track, you can listen to it once all the way through, legally and for free.

When you do a Google search, you often get the song you want with its own handy play button. Simply click it, and there's the song. With embedding, you don't even have to go to Lala to stream its music, so it has become immensely popular -- especially with other companies' music websites.

"When they did get to the model of click-to-stream, it was exactly what we had hoped to have on our website as it is," says Reverend Moose, the editor-in-chief of the CMJ New Music Report. Moose's publication compiles airplay charts for college radio, and its online charts use Lala play buttons. Without having to leave CMJ's pages, users can explore anything they're reading about -- at least for now.

"A lot of what benefits our users is not going and saying, 'I wonder what Weezer sounds like,' " he says. "People know what Weezer sounds like. It's really about this band that's getting play in Murfreesboro, Tenn. What do they sound like? Because I see that they're creating some kind of buzz. From a discovery point of view, it's an invaluable asset."

Because Lala built relationships with independent distributors and not just the big music labels, anyone can track down one of those Murfreesboro bands.

The Future Of Streaming

Another place that will have to figure out what to do without Lala is New York's Le Poisson Rouge, a performing arts space that presents world music, jazz, classical and indie rock.

"Because of the wide variety of music we have, it's really important that our website can clearly define each artist and what they're about," says Justin Kantor, one of the venue's founders. "Lala was a really great, easy way for us to be able to do that."

Le Poisson Rouge has play buttons in its online calendar listings, so people can listen ahead of time and see if they want to buy a ticket. Videos from YouTube and Vimeo will have to suffice until the venue sorts out other options -- or if the industry does it for them.

"I don't think we've seen the last of Lala," Kantor says. "I don't know exactly what Apple is intending to do, but there's no doubt about the fact that streaming music is the way of the future. I think eventually MP3s are going to be the same thing eight-tracks were."

Then the Coldplay song in the iPod ads will finally make sense.

You know, the one with the line, "I used to rule the world."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lara Pellegrinelli
Lara Pellegrinelli is a freelance journalist and scholar with bylines in The New York Timesand the Village Voice. She has been the commissioned writer for Columbia University's Miller Theatre and its Composer Portrait series since 2018.