I have a wall of CDs that sit around gathering dust. I always thought that one day I would just rip them — i.e. copy them to my computer hard drive — and get rid of them. But that day never came, and the CDs just sat there, unlistened to and unloved.
Then came La La, a service that lets you trade your old CDs for new (old) ones. Within a couple days of signing up for the service, I had received a CD from someone else, and had sent out five of my old dusty CDs to others around the country. Believe it or not, someone wanted my Jellyfish album.
I was hooked. Why? It’s a simple premise. You simply list the albums you have, or a subset thereof. And then you list the albums you want, with help from a recommendation engine on the site, or by perusing other people’s collections. As you see albums on the site, you can click the “Want” or “Have” buttons to add them to your lists. You pay $1 plus shipping (about 68 cents) for each album you get and nothing to ship them out. La La provides shipping envelopes a la Netflix.
Probably the best thing about the service is the instant gratification. Within minutes of listing my CDs, I had two requests to send them out. And the day after I listed the ones I wanted, an album was on its way to me. It’s like the Columbia Music Club, but without the hassle of having to quit or pay high prices for a couple albums.
There’s also a bit of a karma check going on, as La La makes sure you’re sending out CDs before you can receive a lot of them. There’s also a social networking aspect of the site, as you can see other collections, and make comments on them. Plus, you can start a blog or add friends just like on MySpace or other social networking sites.
But the real attraction for me was the chance to get rid of the old and receive the new. And as my taste in music seems fossilized in the early ’90s, there’s a lot of music that is new to me — even if it’s not really current.
Despite my instant addiction to this service, there are some downsides. You have to wait for shipping envelopes and cases for CDs before you can send them out. You have to rely on others to send you the CDs and hope they are in good shape. And you don’t send along liner notes or the jewel cases, so you just receive the CD.
In fact, it’s a little odd that the moment you receive a CD, it automatically goes on your “Have” list, so others can claim it immediately. It’s almost as if the system assumes you’ll be ripping the CD to your computer and then mailing it on to someone else. And of course I can rip my CDs before I send them out — though I’m not allowed to send burned CD-Rs to people.
The company believes it’s on the good foot with the record companies and artists, because it plans to give 20 cents on the dollar to artists, but I wonder if the labels will go for that. Mike Masnick at Techdirt blogged about La La, saying that dot-coms have tried and failed at swapmeets in the past, and that the problem with them (and a similar DVD trading service called Peerflix) is that you can only get the bad stuff and never get good stuff. He also questions the legality of ripping and sending CDs around endlessly.
But I don’t think the company is going away too fast, as it just received $9 million in funding. And I don’t see that it has all that many costs, outside of envelopes and CD cases and hosting the site. At the moment, La La is still officially in beta testing, and you have to sign up to get an invitation.
But so far, I’d have to say I’m impressed with how it’s worked out for me. And I can finally see the day when my wall of CDs will disappear, scattered to the far corners of the country, where people can enjoy Jellyfish, A House and Mudhoney and relive the early ’90s to their hearts’ content.
What do you think of La La or other online swapmeets? Do they have value for you? Would you like to trade your old media with others online?