A little under a month ago, I was looking for a way to get rid of my old CDs without going the route of getting completely screwed by trading them in the local used stores. I thought that there should be a way to create a site that allowed one for one CD trades from a giant pool. If you put a CD in, you get one out. The only thing that I was stopping me (besides knowhow and time) was that I couldn’t figure out how I was going to cover all of the shipping costs from the pool.
While googling for a solution, I found that there are already a bunch of sites that already do this. Some sites required me to price my CDs using “site bucks”, which seemed like a waste of time: If I want to e-bay a CD, I’ll e-bay for cash. Others just seemed like they were an online version of the brick-and-mortar CD trade rip-off. The only site that I found that seemed aligned with my original vision was Lala.com.
The way Lala works is that you add the CDs that want to trade, and then add the CDs that you want to receive. When someone has a CD that you want, they accept the trade, pop it into a Lala.com shipping envelope, and mail it to you. When you confirm that you received the CD and it was playable, the sender gets credit for a sent CD and are eligible to receive a CD from their want list. At the end of the month, every CD that you confirmed received costs you $1.49, which is charged to your credit card. In effect, a new CD costs you a CD you don’t want plus a buck fifty. To me, it was a simple solution that seemed way better than I could do in any used store, so it was worth a look.
I did some research, and found out that Lala is backed by $9 million in venture capital and has been all over some of the more reputable news sites for the last few months, so I weaseled my way into a closed beta and listed a few of the CDs that I had laying around. Literally, within 5 minutes of signing up, I had gotten rid of a CD which had been mulling around my CD collection for 15 years without a listen. I couldn’t believe that someone wanted it. From there, I have made 15 trades: 8 sent, 5 received, 1 in transit, and 1 lost in the mail. Because Lala guarantees the trades, the CD lost in the mail was resent to me from someone else. You gotta love that.
The site does have a couple of drawbacks. People are only required to send a CD that plays the whole way through without skipping. If you are meticulous about keeping your CDs from being scratched, you quickly find out that the rest of the world is not like you. Some people seem to keep their CDs under the seat of their car or in a sandbox. As long as the CD that they send you plays, you are required to accept it.
A bigger problem is that Lala does not officially support the sending of liner notes or the tray card. They only require that you send an original, non-promotional CD. If you want to send liner notes along, you must affix an additional 24 cent stamp to the pre-paid envelope. And the only incentive to do this is because you want to. For most people, this isn’t enough of an incentive, but I send them along because I would want someone to do the same for me. And sometimes people do, and sometimes they don’t.
So far, I’ve sent 8 clean CDs with liner notes. In return, I’ve received 5 CDs:
- 1 bare CD, seemingly stored in steel wool, but playable,
- 1 CD with front covers (no tray card), slightly banged up, but playable,
- 1 CD with front covers (no tray card), unplayable (to be replaced), and
- 1 pristine CD with full art and tray card (originally lost in mail)
- 1 relatively clean CD with full art and tray card
It may look like I payed $6 to give away more than I got, but I think the key is that I traded away eight pristine CDs that I hated and got three that I enjoy. I’m a big fan of liner notes, but I have to ask myself if they are really worth the extra $9 when there are tons of sites out there like covertarget or cdcovers.cc where I can download them, if I need to.
I don’t like recommending things that cost money, but do I endorse Lala.com? Given the fun-factor of the trading, and the low cost of the trades, I’d have to say that I do.
If you want to give Lala a try, I have 10 invites to give away. It’s no longer a closed beta, so anyone can join by just going to the site, but if you use one of my invites, I get a T-shirt or some crap. If you need a little more incentive, Lala gives you your first CD free (but after that you have to provide a credit card to trade further).
Drop me a mail if you’re interested, and happy trading…