AOL’s Spinner for New Music Releases

Since I can’t visit Lala to check out new releases, I’ll be visiting Spinner’s Listening Party even more. It features a dozen or so recently-released albums, with the roster being refreshed every Tuesday.

Spinner is owned by AOL, which means that it has me visiting an AOL site regularly. That’s quite an achievement these days.

Currently spinning albums include Antifogmatic by the Punch Brothers. My first impression is very positive. If it continues to sound this good after a few more listens, it’ll make my soon-to-be-posted list of 6 albums from the first 6 months of 2010.

Not the Lala: Grooveshark and Rhapsody

I miss Lala,and its extensive music library, more and more as I try other music services. Yes I am using the “does this service give me what I liked about Lala” test.

That test may be particularly unfair on Grooveshark, which has a music library comprising stuff that users have uploaded and labels haven’t demanded be taken down. Basic Grooveshark is free. VIP includes ad-free service and access to mobile clients. It usually costs $3 a month, but the first month is free for Lala refugees (thanks to Mashable for the heads-up).

Rhapsody provides a more direct comparison with Lala, and suffers for it. It has a smaller music library, is far less exciting on new release Tuesdays, insists that you download an app, wants that app to be the default player for all sorts of things, and… I think there are other things I’ve forgotten.

In sum, there is still an opening for Andrew’s favorite music service. If you have suggestions, particularly if you are a USA-based Lalagee (Lala refugee) and have found a new promised land, I’d love to read.

MOG isn’t for me, but Josh Ritter might be

MOG is prominent among the alternatives to Lala, which just shut down. I’m about halfway through the free 3-day trial of MOG All Access.

I don’t think that MOG is the service for me, for reasons including the following.

  • The album I first tried to listen to, Josh Ritter’s So Runs The World Away, isn’t available on MOG (with the exception of the very short opening track/overture).
  • Another album I wanted to listen to doesn’t even have a page at MOG. The album in question is Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Song And Chanteys. It didn’t exactly dominate the charts, but it’s not the most obscure of albums either, given some of the people who play on it, and its movie tie-in.
  • MOG seems more inclined to buffering interruptions than was Lala.
  • There isn’t an easy way to embed playlists at blogs and other sites (although there are FaceTwit buttons).
  • MOG doesn’t have an affiliate program (which reminds me, my links to music are affiliate links to Amazon).

In sum: MOG’s missing music, compared with Lala. The other objections are minor. I admit that all my objections are based on a short period of pseudo-research. I also admit that MOG is tremendous value for $5/month (currently). But I suspect that I can do even better, and so will keep on exploring music web services.

As for Josh Ritter, he has long been an artist who makes music I kind of like, but don’t really really like like. His new album might change that, which is why I want to give it a few more listens. I heard a recent NPR studio appearance while driving, and like the web version even more, featuring as it does a rather cool video.

I’ll look for Josh at the next music service I check out, which will probably be Rhapsody.

I Quit the Wrong Service

As of today, I have a Facebook account, but not a Lala account. That seems like the wrong way round, given that yesterday was Quit Facebook Day, and that I liked Lala.

But Lala did indeed close as yesterday turned into today,so it really is time to look at alternatives to Lala. I’ll probably start with MOG, since its free trial does not require a credit card; on the other hand, that trial only lasts three days.

Local Natives

Today is the last new release day ever at Lala (Tuesday is new release day in the USA, and Lala closes next Monday, May 31). So this seems like a good time to reflect on music itself, as well as on the tech through which we access music.

My favorite of 2010 so far is Local Natives’ Gorilla Manor. I see the comparisons with Fleet Foxes and with Vampire Weekend, but find LN very different from, and preferable to, those bands. Anyway,here’s a video of a rather good version of “Wide Eyes.”

I feel as though I ought to link to Local Natives’ site, and I feel just as strongly that I ought to warn you that it might hurt your eyes.

Simplify Music the Android Way

Alternatives to Lala are much sought-after at the moment, if the search traffic arriving at my post with that title is any guide. One things I didn’t mention in that post, or in the follow-up about music lockers, is that I was disappointed when Lala was acquired by Apple, rather than by Google.

One of the many interesting pieces of news coming out of Google I/O is that Google did make a music-related acquisition recently: Simplify Media. According to MG at TechCrunch, Google will use the acquired technology to give your Android devices access to your music – including music you’ll soon be able to buy in the Android marketplace.

Farhad at Slate provides more detail and enthusiasm.

As [Google’s Vic] Gundotra explained, you’ll do this by installing a small app on your desktop that will send your music… to the Internet… Once the files are online, your phone will have access to your entire music library whenever you’ve got an Internet connection… Even though the music doesn’t live on your phone, it behaves exactly as if it does.

Count me interested, although not inclined to get as carried away as Farhad. Here’s where he goes further than I’m willing to.

In the future, not only will you not get a CD when you buy an album, you won’t even get a digital file. All you’ll have is an access flag tied to your account in a database in a server farm in some far-off land.

I know that land: it’s Lala land, which got taken over, and is about to shut down. That model counts has too many breakable components to be feasible in the forseeable future.

Music Lockers and Lala Knockers

The Lala shutdown is just a couple of weeks away. How you replace Lala depends on what you used it for. For me, MOG looks like the closest thing to a replacement: a previous post includes a comparison of MOG with some of its rivals.

That post drew a comment from Martin Rigby of Psonar, a music locker service. Lala does provide a locker, as well as samples and streams, and so Psonar is a Lala replacement for those who used it mainly as a locker. Martin is critical of the Lala shutdown.

Isn’t it incumbent on Apple, as Lala’s acquirer, to continue to offer the service as designed to the people who had signed up for that service?

At Psonar we offer our users and prospective users this pledge – we will never do anything that denies you perpetual access to your music other than due to events beyond our control. And, if we are forced to change or take down the service, we will do all we can to ensure users get adequate notice… and are given a means to transfer their music elsewhere.

Michael Robertson of MP3tunes offers a similar mix of criticism and comfort to Lala users (via RWW).

I feel bad for those who purchased Lala songs with expectations of permanency only to find out they lost their music. To help those jilted customers take back control of their music MP3tunes is offering a music locker for 10 cents – the cost of just one of those web songs.

The MP3tunes offer seems to be for a 50 GB locker for one year. I presume that subsequent years will cost the regular price (currently $40, although I’d expect the price and/or size of a Premium locker to change over time).

I’m not particularly surprised or outraged by the Lala shutdown. In particular, it doesn’t change my attitude toward Apple. I didn’t expect that the Lala service would be around forever, and factored that into the decision to spend a buck for multiple plays of an album I particularly like.

One of the last albums I added to my library was Gogol Bordello’s Trans-Continental Hustle. Had Lala stuck around long enough, my cost to listen to a track would have fallen below a cent. That won’t happen, but I think I’m getting value for my dollar.

I still have $3.38 in my Lala wallet. I decided to spend it, and an additional $1.61, on The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter. It’s as eclectic as Trans-Continental Hustle, it’s freak-folk from the 1960s. As Pitchfork’s Andrew Gaerig remarks, it’s the Incredible String Band’s best album and “A Very Cellular Song” is their best song: “a 13-minute tour de force” (as much a suite as a song, and yours for only 69c if you follow the above link to Amazon).

Which brings me to something that does annoy me about Lala. If you buy something for more than you have in your wallet, you are steered toward paying for the whole thing and leaving your wallet intact, rather than emptying your wallet and paying the difference.

That said, I will miss Lala, and not just for the streams I paid for that will dry up at the end of this month.

Without the Family, I Stop Making Sense

For the first time since we moved down to Maryland, I have the house to myself for an evening. I put on Stop Making Sense, the Talking Heads performance movie.

Although I miss the family (who will be back tomorrow), it’s great to have the place to myself, to choose a movie, to choose this movie, to play it loud, to start it at just the right time so that it’s getting dark as the show gets under way. Here’s the first song with the full augmented band (FAB?). I note that the still features guitarist Alex Weir, perhaps my favorite “character” from the movie.

I love so much about Stop Making Sense. It famously starts with David Byrne alone, then adds the other Talking Heads one at a time. “Heaven,” the second track, is my favorite from this four-song sequence (here’s a link to video).

There is some cheating: although only David Byrne and Tina Weymouth are on stage, Lynn Mabry sings from the wings, as the movie’s Wikipedia entry points out. Her singing, and Tina’s wonderful bassline, really make this track, setting the tone for a show that’s about a lot more than the genius of David Byrne. Byrne recognized that, introducing the band by name, and bringing the crew on to be acknowledged, during the last songs.

If I had to choose one movie to own for myself, it would be Stop Making Sense. That’s not the same as declaring it the best movie ever (although I wouldn’t argue with you if you declared it so), or saying that it would be a great choice for family movie night with the kids being 6 and 3.

Alternatives to Lala

Lala will shut down at the end of this month. Since I do much of my music-listening through Lala, that’ll leave a gap. So what are the alternatives?

Frederic at ReadWriteWeb discusses five alternatives, and mentions a few more, and yet more are mentioned in comments. I mentioned Frederic’s post in my own post of yesterday, but forgot to link to it.

Posts I didn’t mention or link to, because I hadn’t seen them at the time, include: Peter Kafka on why you shouldn’t hold your breath a streaming service from Apple; Pitchfork, which makes extensive use of Lala amongst its reviews, and is exploring other media options.

Talking of exploring other options, I’d like a table, or some sort of graphic, to compare alternative music services. Here is such a table. Note that MOG is one of the music services in the table, as well as one of Frederic’s five. MOG is also the source of the table, as you may have guessed from how well MOG seems to compare with the other services.

  MOG Pandora iTunes Rhap-sody Last.fm MySpace Music Groove-shark
Instantly play any song Y N Y Y N Y Y
Non-stop artist radio Y Y N N Y N N
Community-based recommendations Y N N N Y N N
CD-quality audio streams Y N N N N N N
Mobile app Soon Y Y Y Y N N
Comprehensive music library Y N Y Y N Y N
Legally licensed music Y Y Y Y Y Y N
Free access Y Y N Y Y Y Y

The Free access line is rather misleading. If I were to switch to MOG, I’d pay $5/month. Given that services differ with respect to what you pay for, how you pay for it, how much you pay for it, etc., it’s hard to provide a good comparison of the services in terms of cost.

Are there better comparison tables or tools out there for those of us pondering life after Lala?