Michael Robertson: Thoughts on Lala.com

Since Lala’s newly-relaunched music service includes a “music locker” feature that is virtually identical to one that Michael Robertson pioneered with MyMP3 back in 2000 — only to ultimately be sued into oblivion by the RIAA — I emailed him to get his thoughts on what the company is doing, and how things have (or haven’t) changed since he first launched MP3.com. Here’s what he said in response:

“I really admire what Lala is trying to do. Their user interface is nice and concept as you pointed out is one I championed in 2000. The world has changed dramatically since I did my.mp3 in 2000, but sadly the labels have not. My belief back then was that users should have rights to move their own music around. Music lovers want the music everywhere on any device. This means you must support an open API instead of locking users to a single service. This means you must support downloads not just streaming.

Lala is loaded with crippling restrictions which the labels force on them which limit its usefulness (but that’s no fault of their own). e.g If you buy a song from Lala it is automaticaly put into your locker but goes to solitary confinement. You can never, ever download it again. It is locked with server side DRM. If you’re at work when you bought it and need the song at home you’re out of luck. If you want to listen to the song on your mobile phone while in the dentist chair (which I did today) too bad. Consumers are still treated like criminals.

Music in the cloud is a concept who’s time has come but any solution needs to honor the consumer’s right to listen to their music anywhere they want. It needs to work with all computers, home devices, and mobile devices. It needs to offer download and streaming because it will be a decade or more before we all have ubiquitous wireless broadband at a small flat fee. It’s imperative that the system have an API open to every device manufacturer and developer so users don’t find their music trapped with one company or one set of devices.”

Michael is currently embroiled in another music industry lawsuit over an online music service he launched called MP3Tunes.com, which also offers a music-locker feature and was eventually sued by EMI (CNET has more on that suit here). Music-industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz has a take on Lala as well, in his own inimitable style.

7 thoughts on “Michael Robertson: Thoughts on Lala.com

  1. Hi Mathew,
    I thought I might weigh in briefly here. It is gratifying to read that Michael likes what we are trying to do and our UI, but it is bizarre to hear about the “crippling restrictions” of our service. As both a user and the CEO of Lala, I really don't know what he means. For free you get nearly instant access to the vast majority of your music on any internet connected computer (and we will upload the entire library). And for 10 cents you can purchase a web song which gives you precisely the same access. Understanding that we do not yet have ubiquitous connectivity (but we suspect that day is not long from now) we provide a DRM-free MP3 for essentially every track in our catalog of more than 6mm songs. What is more, the web song price is a down payment on the MP3: in any event you do not pay more. And we have done this all in an ad free, subscription free, completely legal service. Admittedly, we do not yet have a mobile solution, but to be fair, we only just launched and, in any event, our first iPhone application will be out within days. Crippling restrictions? Hardly. Read the feedback on the site and see how many users feel restricted.


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