The Death of the MP3

At the end of last year, Apple announced that it had bought Lala Media—the popular music streaming website—for an undisclosed sum.

Although some bloggers have speculated that Apple bought Lala just to eliminate the competition, there is reason to hope that Apple has accepted the inevitable decline of the mp3 and will soon be offering cloud-based streaming on iTunes.

Many thought Lala was awesome because it offered music fans a vast library of songs and albums to stream—for free. You could listen to anything once without spending a penny, or risking a lawsuit. After that, if you wanted to buy an album, it only cost 10¢ a song.

That meant an entire album cost about a dollar, you math genius, you.

Plus, it was nice to have someone else storing our music for us, so we could have the extra space on our computers, and our tiny iPhone hard-drives.

Any way you swung it, Lala was cheaper than iTunes. If you wanted to download the songs, so you could own them permanently, you could buy them for just 89¢. And the 10¢ you spent for streaming counted towards that 89¢ per song.

But perhaps one of Lala’s best features was its embedding capabilities. If you googled a Lady Gaga song, Google would give you the song right away—with its own play button.

This feature was first offered by iMeem, the San Francisco-based music streaming site, before MySpace bought them, a move which did very little to improve already-widespread dissatisfaction with the gigantic music-networking site. Especially since MySpace forgot to include the embedding option.

Well—when MySpace dropped the ball, LaLa stepped up and satisfied our embedding needs. Everything from music blogs to concert venues could add songs with their own play buttons to their websites—an invaluable feature, without a doubt.

Though LaLa has been devoured by Apple, at least Rhapsody is still kicking. With over 9 million songs in their library, you need to be a fan of seriously-weird music to not find what you’re looking for. But the catch with Rhapsody is that there’s an unfortunate $10/month subscription fee.

While we definitely aren’t looking for another monthly bill on top of the ones we already have, the $10/month gets you unlimited music, and you don’t even need an internet signal to listen, since Rhapsody released a feature at the end of last month that lets subscribers download playlists directly to their iPhones.

And then there’s Spotify—which offers a massive cumulous-cloud of music for streaming, just like Lala did, and just like Rhapsody still does—but they offer it for free. The catch is that Spotify, which is based in Sweden, doesn’t offer its services in the United States. (The other catch is that you have to listen to some ads, which vary between a brief ten—and an irritating 30—seconds in length).

With over 5 million users in Europe, there’s reason to wonder what the buzz is about. And Spotify just announced they’ve added US-friendly service plans and are planning a US launch for the third quarter of 2010.

This would be sweet. Aside from being cheaper and faster, streaming with iTunes would mean we could access our music from anywhere with internet access, your computer at work to your Mom’s old Dell. And if your hard-drive bites the dust? No problem. All your music is up there on the cloud.

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– Hunter Stuart


One response to “The Death of the MP3

  1. I don’t see where it follows that the mp3 is in decline. I see the mp3 as an escape valve. As long as the industry tries to control the flow of music and keep the good stuff locked up, music lovers are going to find a way around them. Maybe I’m still stuck in an outdated mindset, but the cloud concept creeps me out. How do you know someone isn’t going to abuse what you put there or just delete it all? I have trust issues.

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