When I last wrote my most recent Switched On column about Lala, I noted that the company had shifted direction a bit from its initial plans to offer a service akin to Rhapsody for free, instead offering a single free listen before requiring consumers to purchase a streaming Web song. Only Lala knows whether it or the labels balked at the unlimited on-demand listening, but I can say that the Palo Alto-based Web music seller is generally down on ad-supported listening and has ambitions to be among the largest sellers of digital music online.
But somewhere out there in an alternate universe — let’s call it Europe — a startup has run with the too-good-to-be-true promise of listening on demand. It’s called Spotify, and in a recent talk with some European media, it was praised as delivering a great music experience – somewhat like Slacker except you get to create the playlists (and no offline access as of yet). Spotify joins Nokia’s possibly slow Comes with Music and the Datz Music Lounge as fresh approaches to exploring and enjoying music in Europe. Surely, we Americans will find some way to make them pay.