Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
Last week's Switched On discussed Lala.com's introduction of free music locker services that sync directly to the iPod (and only the iPod). However, because it believes the sampling capabilities of the original Napster days were key to driving music purchases, Lala is also developing something that is bound to shake up subscription music services such as Napster and Rhapsody -- free and unlimited streaming of user-selected music from major labels.
Once agreements are secured, Lala will essentially be giving away the rough equivalent of Yahoo Music's Unlimited's $5/month PC streaming service.. While Lala's version will have some offline functionality with cached tracks, it doesn''t yet offer tethered or a la carte downloads the way that Yahoo! Music and other PlaysForSure services do.
At its preview launch, Lala will offer access to the complete Warner Music library -- hundreds of thousands of tracks -- and is pursuing agreements with the other major labels, as well as independents. It expects to pay approximately $140 million on licenses in the next few years to spur huge increases in music sales via viral and social network marketing; something that Napster.com's limited free listens were unable to do.