“Built by a team of engineers responsible for services like Yahoo!, eBay, Blogger and AOL,” the new web-centered music service Lala.com boasts a selection of 6 million songs. Here’s the pitch: play songs once for free. Play them online as much as you like for 10 cents each, or download them as non-DRM MP3s for 79 cents each. Like it or not, I think this might be the future of digital music. Music is backed up in the cloud automatically (it’s almost like Gmail for music), and the songs you need locally are only what your iPod is capable of storing or what you really need to have when you’re not online, which, in the age of 3G smartphones, is increasingly rare. Instead of restricting ownership with software like DRM, limited ownership is incentivized with price. Better still, the service eliminates digital redundancy by transcluding data: instead of every user having their own track, it’s one track for every user.
To quote the sagacious Kevin Kelly: “Ownership is not as important as it once was.” Lala.com is proof positive of this trend.
Update: Apple saw Lala’s value as well, purchasing the company in December 2009.