Music

Exit Lala... Online Streaming Music Has to Start Over

Just as Internet seemed to be progressing in a bold, logical, forward-thinking direction, Apple's acquisition of Lala sadly puts the business model of online music back to square one.

It was good while it lasted. Maybe too good.

Before Lala, if you read a rave album review of a band you've never listened to, you were pretty much at the mercy of the critic. In a pre-Lala age, the only widely-accepted way you could listen to a buzz-worthy album was visit a site like LastFM or Pandora, type in the band's name and cross your fingers that a song from the album would come up – and hope that track would not be one of those "30 second sampler" tracks. Even as beneficial as these sites are, if you clicked on a band's "radio station," you would probably hear one song from the band, then several songs by similar bands. As a result, listeners wind up waiting up to an hour before hearing another track by the band. So, in short, that left you waiting by the radio for a song to come on, just like how your parents used to listen to music.

But thanks to radio consolidation, the chances of hearing bands like Baroness, the xx or Hot Chip on a radio station are slim. For those who didn't want to feel the guilt of illegally downloading tracks via Limewire (plus those who were leery of downloading a potential virus), but still wanted something other than a critic's word to go by, Lala was a great tool.

For those that didn't use it, Lala gave members and nonmembers one listen to an album, free of charge – the equivalent of giving you an hour at a bookstore to look over a new release before purchase. If there was a track you wanted someone to listen to at work, chances were high that Lala would pass work Internet filters while iTunes and YouTube were on the "no surf" list. And if you were a blogger, you could add a soundtrack to your post by embedding tracks onto your site with a widget.

The site wasn't a free-for-all, however. Warner Music Group put anywhere between $20 and $30 million into its development. Like iTunes, it charged users for downloads. And of course, after that first listen, you either had to buy the album, or find another computer to give it another listen.

Apple's purchase and soon-to-be termination of the Lala website leaves a huge void in music. Many websites – from record labels to the AOL-owned Spinner – wisely offer to stream new releases, but the duration usually lasts only a few days or weeks after a release. For lesser known releases that may take months to catch listeners ears (see the xx), that time limit does struggling artists little good.

iTunes has little reason to change. Its store already brings in a tremendous amount of revenue for Apple. But for those that still think of Steve Jobs as Luke Skywalker to Bill Gates' Darth Vader, it's hard to root for Apple on this acquisition. It's unlikely that you'll see the giant iTunes app broken out into little widgets that will embed themselves into peoples' blogs. Giving listeners a free pass to listen to the first Hold Steady or Beck album is even more unlikely.

But Lala has showed there can be a consensus between record companies and people who simply want to hear the product before shelling out $12. Just as Google found a way to make tremendous profits by giving away apps and products for free and stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders found a way to make money by encouraging people to read books off their shelves, Lala's brief success will hopefully encourage other businesses to put a degree of trust with their customers. If listeners are allowed to sample a product they've never listened to before, they will eventually reward the business with their pocketbooks. Hopefully, another company is already studying Lala's business model and is readying to take its place.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image