Listening to entire albums “in the cloud” is something millions of people are already doing, although they may not know it. Spotify launched in the UK in October 2008, and they already boast of one million users. Though Spotify is not yet available in the US, Lala is. Lala offers a similar service, taking a different approach. We’ll describe and compare the two services.
First, let’s take a look at Spotify:
The first step in accessing Spotify’s services is to acquire an account. If you’re from the US this can be tricky, since their website recognizes your location and politely says “Not available in your country yet.” If you’ve received this message, don’t give up! Simply go to http://www.daveproxy.co.uk/ and type spotify.com in the form, then click GO. Now sign up for a Spotify account, but make sure you’re prepared to provide a UK postal code.
Once you have an account you’ll need to download the Spotify player application (available for Mac and Windows). Log in to the player and you’re good to go… for a few days. Eventually Spotify will recognize that you’re continually logging in outside of the UK and assume you’re traveling. To continue the service you’ll need to upgrade your account to Premium (for £9.99 per month) so you can continue to “travel” outside of the UK.
The Spotify player gives you access to millions of songs or albums. Type in the artist’s name, song name, album name, etc. and you’ll usually find the music you’re looking for. You can create playlists by dragging/dropping the album cover or song into your playlist. Last.fm users can scrobble their Spotify spins by providing your Last.fm login information. You can also listen to the Radio, similar to Last.fm’s Radio. Premium members stream at 320kbps, have access to pre-releases and can collaborate playlists with other members. They’re also releasing Spotify iPod (we’ll see if Apple approves) and Android applications, available for Premium users.
Now let’s look at Lala:
Lala operates in a slightly different way. The focus of Lala is to help you build your music library and then give you access to your Lala library anywhere within a browser, promising to “Play your music, anywhere on the web.” Once you’ve created a free account you can download the Lala Music Mover, which scans your iTunes library and adds the songs to your Lala music library. If the song isn’t available on Lala, the Lala Music Mover will upload the mp3 into your Lala library.
Lala stays with the concept of music ownership by offering to sell you “web songs” or “web albums” for $.10 cents a track. Entire albums are available for $.80. You also have downloading mp3 versions of the songs for $.89. If you’ve purchased the web version then the mp3 is available for $.79. To spare you the confusion though, if the song was found by the Lala Music Mover, you don’t have to purchase the song.
While Spotify lacks a social networking aspect, Lala does not. You can find friends and follow them, finding out what they’re listening to. You have the option to embed playlists, albums, and artist discographies as a player on their websites (or on Facebook, Myspace, Blogger). Lala members can also listen to Artist Radio streams in Last.fm fashion. On the other hand, Spotify gives you a link to the album, artist, song, or playlist that you can share with your friends.
Both services have their obvious strengths. Spotify is more focused on giving you access to millions of songs while Lala is focused on moving your library online and informing you of new or similar music. Purchasing web songs in Lala certainly locks you in to their service, while Spotify believes that music ownership is concept of the past. While they’re offering a similar service, Lala and Spotify differ on whether or not music should be owned or whether it should simply be accessed.