A new music swapping website went live earlier this week, that seeks to offer an extensive and diverse music catalog online while fostering communities of like-minded fans. Lala.com's model appears to combine a social networking site with an online place to trade used cds, without violating copyright. The move toward networking-style sites like this doesn't surprise me, but I have to wonder how strongly it will appeal to most people. On the one hand, youth culture tends to revolve around musical genres, so building community according to musical taste shouldn't be difficult. The site, however, apparently charges a $1 per album swapped, which seems like a good deal -- except that you don't get to keep the cd. Nothing can prevent you from burning a copy, of course, but that may be the snag that gets this new venture into trouble.
I suspect Lala.com will prove most adept at helping people find more music they like, through meeting others online with similar taste. But I wonder how effective its business model can be -- would you pay a $1 to borrow a cd for a while? Would you just rip it to your music library and pass it on, or would you respect copyright law and purchase your favorite new discoveries? It may come down to how members of Lala.com listen to and consume music, and whether this approach can successfully override our endless thirst for accumulation.