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USA-based online CD trading site to give 20% of revenue to performing artists.

Today, USA-based online CD trading site la la opened its doors to the public. Although the site remains in beta testing until the official launch in July, new members are able to register without needing an invitation from other beta testers or the site administrators. With this soft launch comes an announcement of the “Z” Foundation, a non-profit organization that will donate 20% of the trading revenue of la la to performing artists. Founder Bill Nguyen hopes to eventually increase that percentage to 90%.

From the start, the vision of la la has been focused more on providing inexpensive ways for music fans to discover new artists and less on getting music for cheap. The site seeks to create a community that promotes music in general and supports performing artists in particular. The “Z” Foundation is one outlet for that vision. Eligibility is available only to working musicians, defined as any individual who has performed on a recorded release or live performance in the last year and whose music-related income accounts for more than half of their total income. To register, musicians can go to http://www.lala.com/z.

I have been a beta tester for la la over the past two months, and with 144 trades (total of sent and received) under my belt, I am willing to admit that I’m a fan of the site. As a friend to several full-time performing musicians, I’m also a fan of the “Z” Foundation concept. Music is an essential part of my life, and I appreciate the opportunity to give back to the musicians while also swapping out CDs I don’t listen to anymore for new-to-me CDs. There are other media trading sites out there (Title Trader, SwitchDiscs, etc.), but only la la has stepped up and given something back to the people who make this music available in the first place. That’s something to sing about.

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A few weeks ago, I heard about a new online service that’s sort of like a mashup of Netflix and a swap meet. Members can list CDs they’re willing to swap on la la, along with their wishlist. The system alerts members when one of their available CDs is wanted by another member, at which point they have a the choice of sending it to the member in the pre-paid envelope provided by la la, or declining. You can receive one CD for free, but if you want more it’ll cost $1 + $0.49 for shipping. Not bad considering that it costs $0.99+tax for just one song on iTunes. As long as you are sending as much as you’re receiving, you get new music for cheap. So far, I’ve sent out two CDs with no problems and I’m waiting on my first request to arrive. The only down side is that it’s all dependent on what other members are willing to swap. It may cost more to buy a new or used CD elsewhere (or download a bunch of iTunes songs), but you get them as soon as you buy them, and sometimes that’s worth paying for.