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Lala launches online music store with its head in the clouds

Lala
Lala is back, and while it's probably better than ever, it may not be good enough. Lala started out its life as a CD swapping service. But in a world of digital downloads, that's not much of a business model. Now Lala is back as an online music store - with a twist.

You can download albums or individual tracks of DRM-free music from Lala just as you can from iTunes or Amazon MP3. The company has worked out deals with all of the major labels plus a bunch of independent artists. So while not you might not be able to find every song you're looking for, there's plenty to choose from. Individual tracks run from around $.80 to $.99.

But here's what makes Lala different. The website features a built in music player. You can listen to any song on the site for free. Once. If you want to listen again, you have to pay $.10 for a "web song." You can then listen to that track any time you want from any internet connected device that can access the website. In other words, you can buy some albums for a buck or less, as long as you don't feel the need to download the music.

To get you started, all users get 50 free credits for web songs. So you can check out the service without paying a dime. You do need to register for an account, but you don't have to give up any credit card or PayPal information, so you won't accidentally buy something without knowing about it.

So far so good. But there are a few problems. First, the service is only available in the US. Second, while the downloaded tracks are DRM-free, the web tracks can only be listened to on Lala. If the company goes under next year and you've spent $100 on web songs, I doubt anyone's going to refund your money. Sure, you could download MP3 versions of all the songs. Your $.10 per song will go towar the purchase price. But that means you'd have to pay as much as $900 just to save backup copies of the songs you've already paid for in this hypothetical example.

Finally, there are plenty of other ways to listen to music online - for free. If you want to go the legal route, there are ad-supported services like MySpace Music. And if you don't care so much about legalities, there are services like SeeqPod. While Lala does offer a nice interface and a decent music library, it's hard to compete with free.

Tags: lala, mp3, music

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