InformationWeek Uses LALA to Take Shots at Apple’s iPod

In the guise of documenting the outage of LALA on its first day, Information Weak (the publication’s more realistic name) writer Alexander Wolfe takes shots at Apple’s iPod in this article, while also begging, groveling, and pleading with somebody, anybody, to join him in his love affair with the failed music rental model.

It starts in the first paragraph, after quickly mentioning LALA was down, he types this garbage:

“No matter; the idea of a service which combines the worst features of the defunct business model with a lock-in to Steve Jobs’s proprietary (yep, that’s the word for it) iPod platform isn’t the service from which I want to be getting my dinosaur rock tunes.”

Well, yeah, “proprietary” is the word for it. Apple is most definitely the proprietor (i.e., owner) of the iPod platform. So what? Of course, what Alex was trying to get a shot at was the mythical iPod “lock-in”. But that’s been discussed to death, even by Steve Jobs, and is a non-starter. The only dinosaurs around are the ones who still shovel this drivel.

Then he displays further lack of research (or ignorance, take your pick) with this beauty:

“Still, it’s the site’s iPod lock-in which really sticks in my craw. As my three regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of both the Samsung YP-Z5 MP3 player and the Microsoft-MTV URGE music service.”

Well, at least he used the term “lock in” this time. Meanwhile, Alex, did you known that the Samsung YP-Z5 MP3 player and the Microsoft-MTV URGE music service are proprietary? Next time at least have a dictionary handy when you write.

The real kicker at this point is that he’s wrong: LALA isn’t locked in to the iPod at all! A review of their site makes this clear. Sure, they can take your iPod library and make that music (if they have it) available from the web on PC or Mac. But they can also do that with your My Library folder.

Their site says they’re “iPod friendly”. Well, why wouldn’t they tout iPod compatibility as a major thing? It doesn’t mean it’s exclusive to that player, and it sure doesn’t mean you can’t use LALA without an iPod or iTunes. It’s not hard to discover this, and Alex would have if he’d wanted to write a LALA article, but this was really just a hatchet job on Apple so why bother?

After getting the purpose of LALA all wrong, and being wrong about their “lock-in”, the article gets even better:

“The reason? It’s the subscription model, stupid. Why pay even a paltry 99 cents to own a tune (regardless of whether it’s with DRM or without) when you can listen to anything and everything you want, and load it onto your player, for $14.95 per month> That’s a much better deal than iTunes’s pay-as-you-go model.”

Poor Alex! The music subscription model? The one that’s failed everywhere it’s been tried? That model?

“Interestingly, URGE and the other viable music subscription services (notably, Rhapsody and Napster) are all aimed away from iPods and towards the Windows-oriented MP3 players, which constitute such a miniscule percentage of the market.”

“Interestingly”? Do you not know why this is the case? It’s because they use exploding DRM. More specifically, they use Microsoft’s exploding media DRM. Of course they’re all “aimed away from iPods”; iPods never used exploding media. What’s funny is that even Microsoft has abandoned this particular technology, having cut loose from URGE and all its PlaysForSure partners! Microsoft still loves exploding media, though, and simply tweaked their DRM so it only works with the Zune.

Oh, and Alex, Zune and the Zune store are also proprietary. Just wanted to make sure you got that.

Let’s summarize so far: Alex doesn’t know what proprietary means; he believes in the mythical iPod “lock in”; he wrongly states LALA is specific to the iPod; he loves the failed rental subscription model; and he’s a huge fan of a player and service that are proprietary and have been abandoned by Microsoft. So, are you all caught up? Good, let’s continue.

“Steve Jobs has rejected any suggestions that he take up the subscription model. Clearly, that’s because he’d lose a whole heck of a lot of revenue.”

Alex, you should not be allowed to write such articles again. You simply don’t understand. Really, you don’t.

It’s pretty well-known that iTunes’ store revenue is not what keeps Apple going. The vast majority of it (around 70%) goes to the labels, leaving Apple with 30% from which they must also cover the operational and advertising costs. It’s all about selling iPods.

Selling tracks is not about huge profits. In fact, if the big profits in digital music were in selling tracks, why would every other digital store on the planet — as well as the major labels — fall all over themselves in worship of the rental model? The reason is all the money it’d make for them if they could ever get anyone to agree to it.

The rental model’s recurring monthly revenue is what has the stores and labels drooling. If they could just get people to sign up, they’d make millions. But they can’t get enough people to sign up. People don’t want to rent their music, and have voted on this with their wallets time and again, but the stores and labels keep trying because they so desperately want that recurring revenue!

Meanwhile, Apple never tried the rental model because Jobs believes people want to buy their music, not rent it. Guess what? He’s right! Everything that has transpired in the last few years proves that he’s right. All the failed or nearly-failed subscription services prove he’s right. All empirical observation would force anyone to conclude that he’s right. In fact, the only other measurably successful digital music store is eMusic, which also sells music; no rentals. And yet, there are some, like Alexaurus Rex, who still do not get it.

“Still, the dirty little secret is that most high-school and college kids don’t pay for their music from iTunes or anywhere else. They get it illicitly from the surviving peer-to-peer services–mainly Limewire.Which is why online music subscription services, with their reasonable costs, are a more sensible option for an industry trying to stanch piracy than lawsuits will ever be.”

Kids aren’t paying for their music? Thanks for the news flash, Alex; got any updates on the Hindenburg?

Having revealed this “secret”, he holds up subscription services as the cure for piracy. Oh please. You cannot swap a DRM’ed subscription track anymore than you can one that you bought. The kids swapping files will not use a subscription model for that very reason. Any kids not swapping tracks don’t have to worry, and they want to own their music.

I don’t know why Alex is one of the few who like renting music. What I do know is that the minute he stops making his monthly payments, for all intents and purposes his music is GONE! For those of us who actually, you know, love music, and don’t just use it for Apple-bashing column fodder, that fact is critical.

People bought 78s, they bought 45s, they bought LPs, they bought 8-tracks, they bought cassettes, they bought (and still buy) CDs, and they are buying digital files. They are not renting them.

Finally, in a vain attempt to act as if the article was really about LALA, and not just a shot at Apple to generate page-hits for Information Weak, Alex posts an update to state that LALA set him strait on their alleged iPod “lock-in”. He doesn’t apologize for not having done any fact-checking, nor does he even remove “iPod-only” from the article headline, but then again why would he? The article was never about LALA anyway.