New In Extremo Music, Plus Why I Loved LalaSo today I listened to a song - Bleu "Singin in Tongues" - that my uncle recommended on Facebook and saw that it came from ReverbNation. Since I've never heard of it I went there, hoping for a good Lala replacement. Since Lala departed (thanks so much Apple) I've tried Mog, Rdio, Last.fm, the worthless Grooveshark, Apple's horrific Ping, and more; all are missing a different crucial piece of what made Lala great, which is very frustrating. So I go there and search for a few favorite artists, but it seems to mostly be independent bands. Like Pandora, I'll probably go back there when I'm in the mood for something new, but it won't be my main music site.
Anyway...getting a bit off track here...I checked for In Extremo and saw an album cover I didn't recognize. I went to their official site, InExtremo.de, and there was a new album. What? Apparently it came out on February 25. It was around that time that I searched for new music from my favorite German bands and nothing came up. Maybe I searched Amazon.com instead of Amazon.de. Guess I'll have to check again for others. Now it's time to decide: Limited Special edition with DVD concert footage for $25 (€18); the Limited Deluxe edition for $55 (€40); or the Standard edition for $25 and free shipping at Amazon.com? The Limited Deluxe comes with a 3'x4' flag, so I might just get that one.
Update, 3/11/11: I got the Limited Deluxe edition this morning. Took a nice chunk of change, about $68 because of $19 shipping, which is always expensive from Europe even with the cheaper 8-12 week delivery time option. Oh well, I hardly ever get limited edition anything, and I really wanted that flag. And for some reason it was about $6 off when I put it in the cart. Yay, I justified my purchase to myself! I know I won't regret it anyway; I never do with my favorite German bands. But I sure hope my package doesn't come messed up, like the last Unheilig did. Grosse Freiheit's tray was cracked almost in half, but the CD itself was okay (the exact opposite of Rod Stewart's Human, which I bought back in '02 at Media Play), so I didn't complain. Who wants to wait another 8 weeks or more to clear that up?
Getting back to the music sites: Lala was the best because you could upload all your music and listen to it wherever you were. What you and your friends listened to would show up in everyone's feed, and recommendations could be made; so you would always have a steady stream of new music waiting for you. There were ratings and reviews for songs; widgets for other sites; and even music gifting to friends. I have forgotten more of Lala's features than any other music site I've been to. Apparently, no one wants to get this formula right, but if you want to be social - i.e. recommend songs, talk to others, and show the songs you listen to in your feed - and get some good free downloads, then use Last.fm. It is the best choice, primarily because you can send what you're listening to from many different sites and media players.
If you want to just listen to music use Rdio, but there's a monthly fee after the trial - no freebies, just previews - and no community aspect, except for the workaround people have going where they talk by posting under an artist/song or create a playlist for people to comment on. One cool thing is that you can make a community playlist where others can add songs.
If you want to be disappointed go to Mog, which is sad because they were so promising. They do have music, but you have to pay after a short trial. No freebies here either, and no previews. There was a customizable page of your favorite music and you could make it into a simple blog with the posting features, but it wasn't designed to easily build a community. That page is now locked into a plain layout with a terrible design for everyone. It's just depressing because they almost had it right.
So, if you don't mind spending a bit of money and probably a lot of your time, I would say your best option would be the free version of Last.fm for social and the $5/month Rdio for listening if you really need the music browsing functionality that Lala used to have. Of course, you can't ignore Pandora for finding music similar to your current tastes with little effort. And I can't even sign up for Spotify since they're not yet available in the US, but I would love to.