Over here at P2P Blog headquaters we just started testing Lala.com - and so far our feelings about the service are mixed. The idea of course is great. An online repository of second hand CDs helps to connect music fans to each other, while at the same time generating lots interesting data that might help the music industry in the long run. Or not, because they seem to hate the the whole thing.
These animosities seem to be at the core of the main problem Lala.com faces right now: The site tries to play safe. Very, very safe. While every second hand CD store on the planet happily sells tons of promotional CDs, oftentimes complete with "not for sale" sticker, Lala tries to ban promos. Of course they can't completely police that, but they are really trying hard to make it look like they could. Which prevents people from listing promo CDs, which in turn limits Lala's stock.

Much more troublesome is the fact that they only allow you to list CDs they already have in their index. We tried to put about 20 import CDs up for trade. Not really that obscure stuff, unless you think of Billie Holiday as obscure. Hardly anything was accepted at all. Next we tried a few US releases. Indie, Electronica, and also some major label released Soul / Nu Jazz stuff. Again, Lala rejected most of them.

There seem to be two main reasons behind this policy: First, known albums are error free, whereas user-generated music directories often have tons of misspellings. Just think of CDDB / Gracenote. They also can be associated with streams that allow users to pre-listen individual songs. That's understandable, but the errors could also be found through peer review. And do we really need to pre-listen CDs that only cost a buck?

The second issue again seems to be copyright-related. Lala wants to prevent people from swapping custom mixed CDs with unlicensed material - and in turn rejects a huge ammount of releases from smaller indie-labels, rarities from overseas and other stuff that never made it into the catalogues of Muze.com and the like, but still has the potential to attract an audience.

In other words: Lala.com tries to be a long tail business, but so far the site is not living up to it's potential.
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