Trading CDs on

Trading CDs on

So, Apple and EMI are now selling music free of DRM handcuffs. So what? That doesn’t change our opinion that the best way to acquire music is on CD. Rip the songs you want from the disc and you can listen them with lossless quality anywhere you want. The best you’ll get from iTunes are tracks that stream at a lo-fi 256Kb/sec.

Now, imagine being able to acquire all the CDs you want for just $1.75 a piece. Too good to be true, right? Well, there are a couple of catches: First, you need to sign up for the not-so-new online service known as lala. Second, you’re not actually buying these CDs; rather, you’re trading CDs you own for CDs that other people have and no longer want.

lala doesn’t charge a subscription fee, you just create a list of the CDs you’d like to acquire and a second list containing the discs you no longer want. When lala’s database finds a member who wants a CD you have, you put it in the postage-paid container that lala provides and drop it in the mail. If other lala customers have CDs you want, they'll ship them to you and your credit card will be charged $1.75 each (at a 1:1 ratio to the CDs you’re willing to part with). This amount includes $0.75 for shipping. Lala takes a measure of profit out of the $1, but they also promise to contribute 20 percent of the non shipping-related proceeds to the artist whose disc is traded. That's 100-percent more than the artist gets when you buy used CDs at retail.

Using is a great alternative to buying used CDs in brick-and-mortar stores.

I’ve been buying used CDs for years, but the downside is that I sometimes waste a lot of time looking for the ones I’m interested in. And it seems like the price of used CDs goes up every time I hit the store. Lala’s search tools make this process a lot easier, and the CDs are a lot cheaper. The big problem is that I like my CD collection and don’t have a lot of discs I’m willing to part with.

I could trade the CDs after ripping them to my hard drive, or make archive copies of them and trade the originals, but that would not only put me in violation of lala’s terms of service, it would also be a serious ethical and legal no-no. Would I ever get caught? Probably not, but I certainly wouldn’t feel right about it.

As it stands, I think lala is pretty slick. And rumor has it that the company’s founders are about to expand it with some even cooler new features. I’ll be talking to them about this new project in a couple of weeks and will post more then.


Updated  4/9/07 with revised pricing information. --mb




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