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Lala.com: Stream Music For 10 Cents A Song, But There's A Catch

Lala.com is offering a streaming music service that allows users to download songs for 10 cents a track.

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But the latest iteration of Lala.com might finally be the one that sticks, although it does have a few sticking points.

Lala.com members can access music that has been endorsed by all four major music labels and more than 170,000 independent labels. By signing up for the service, customers can stream an entire song once—and are given 50 free songs to get the hang of the service. If, after listening to the song, users wants to go back and listen to it again, they have to pay 10 cents to upload the song into their music locker, where they can listen to it at will.

Well, almost at will anyway.

Songs on Lala.com are digital right management (DRM) free, which is a good thing. However, the songs uploaded to a music locker cannot be placed on any MP3 player—no iPod, no Zune, no mobile phone. Instead, customers have to stream the music from Lala.com in order to listen to the songs.

That sticking point, for the time being, still limits where users can get a hold of their music. In a city like New York or Boston, or any city where a large majority of people travel underground on public transportation, what happens when the Internet connection is cut?

Even if customers use a smartphone, like an iPhone, that lets them surf the Web continuously from almost any location, once that connection is cut off, so is the music. So while on the subway where a large chunk of users want to listen to music, there's no service, unless the city is equipped to offer it underground.

And that's assuming a Lala.com user lives in an area with a reliable, high-speed network. That's something potential customers should consider.

But on the upside, Lala.com is taking advantage of the way the Web and Web-savvy users are heading. It's a fair assumption that before long every mobile phone will be hooked to the Web and offer browsing capabilities. With that browsing capability comes a Web browser through which Lala.com users can access their music locker. But right now the question remains whether or not potential Lala.com customers will replace their iPods and stored music with mobile devices and streaming music.

A newcomer knocking out an incumbent is a tricky thing, after all.

The price on Lala.com, though, is right. For the incredibly reasonable cost of 10 cents a song, downloading files to a music locker for unlimited access does make the service pretty attractive. As wireless technology matures and cities are equipped to offer high-speed access anywhere, anytime, Lala.com might just give iTunes, Rhapsody and the iPod and Zune players a run for their money. And they'll do it at a cheaper price.

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