Updated with confirmation from Facebook: There’s more than one way to post a song on someone’s Facebook profile — an Imeem link or a YouTube video, to name two. But Lala.com is set to become the first streaming music provider to offer songs as virtual gifts in Facebook’s store, according to a report today on the New York Times’ Bits blog. Several Facebook third-party apps already provide song streams, and the company has toyed with the idea of introducing a music service for some time. (Its most popular music app, iLike, became a MySpace property at a fire-sale price this summer.) Today’s news, however, represents Facebook’s first true foray into music, as well as a vote of confidence in Lala’s paid-streaming model.
Lala typically offers free one-time streams, 10-cent “web songs” that can be streamed an infinite number of times, and paid MP3 downloads at various price points. The virtual gifts can apparently be Web songs that will cost one Facebook credit, an equivalent of 10 cents, or full-song downloads that cost about 10 credits. Neither Lala nor Facebook is providing details on how their model will work yet, including whether the recipient’s friends get to stream the song as well.
Lala already allows a user to push a single-play song stream out to Facebook and Twitter, or to embed a widget elsewhere using a bit of code, for free. Other services that offer embeddable streams can be less reliable, with some songs reduced to 30-second clips and other embeds disabled upon request of the labels. A virtual gift of a song stream is still mostly about making a gesture, especially with free alternatives floating around, but for music fans, a timely stream is at least as good as a picture of a birthday cake. Update: Facebook confirms in a blog post that it will sell the song streams, part of a fully revamped virtual gifts shop featuring non-profit donation gifts and sports-related goods. Recipients of a gift web song will be able to listen as many times as they like, while their friends will get to stream it once, after which they will be replaced with 30-second clips. Downloadable MP3 gift songs will cost 9 credits.