Thursday, June 28, 2007

"A Place to Grow Your Music"

It's been a long time since I bought a CD from a traditional brick and mortar store. And I wasn't one of the millions to download illegally through Napster or the like. My wife is a musician (Josephine Cameron) and I know how much a professional depends on selling discs.

I continue to download from iTunes, and we both use the Rhapsody subscription service. These work fine until you want to listen to the Beatles or one of a few bands who aren't available on those services.

I needed the Traveling Wilburys and Mike +The Mechanics (okay, not to hip, but more on that later), and it's no dice with those artists on iTunes. I didn't want to pay full price, as in both instances, I was only interested in one track. I've been conditioned, like millions of others, by iTunes to demand a way to pay by track.

I read at the NY Times about a web service called Here's part of what the article described:

La La Media, which operates and is also based in Palo Alto, is another recent darling of the Silicon Valley venture capital community, having raised $9 million since the business formed in June 2005. According to Bill Nguyen, one of the company’s founders, the site has built an inventory of two million titles since its debut in March, and every day members add 30,000 copies to the collection.

“People are starting to realize this is a really great way of finding new music,” Mr. Nguyen said.

La La charges $1 a trade — about 75 cents for postage and handling costs. The company sets aside about 20 cents for musicians who perform on the disc. “We’re a little bit commie, a little bit co-op,” Mr. Nguyen said.

Here's the deal. It's not really a trade. It's more like used music store meets Netflix. (There is such a thing for movies: Peerflix, but that's a topic for another post.) In effect, you decide to put up some, or all of your CDs available for "trade." Then you select as many CDs as you'd like to receive. LaLa finds someone who wants your CD and another person who has the CD you want. They then tell you to send your Postal Service CD (ok, I'm a little hip) to New Orleans in a pre-paid envelope and case they send to you and some hipster in Portland sends you his beloved copy of the Wilburys. You can send out more than you take in (accruing credits) or receive more (and pay LaLa for the "trade"), though they intentionally throttle your account to keep things in some kind of balance they have computed will make the LaLa universe thrive. I like the fact that they contribute a portion of the proceeds to artists (ask your local used CD shop if they do that!), and I really like that I only have to shell out a bit more than a buck for an entire cd. I digitize albums as soon as I get them, so why do I need the physical copy? Though, I do like to have the album art, which now you can specify to include or exclude in the LaLa trade. They've just moved out of beta, and they offer a whole lot more than just virtual trading (like online playlists). I haven't had time to catch on to the details, so I think a visit to the site is in order. Maybe they're ready to send me my Wilburys.

By the way, in case you think this post strays from the California theme, I should mention that LaLa is based in Palo Alto. (But you gathered as much anyway.) Though, if you're really keeping score, one of the venture capital organizations that's footing a big part of their bill is Bain Capital and they're in Boston.

No comments: