In addition to its CD-trading service, Lala.com offers numerous Internet radio station streams, which help make the site a real destination. In October, the service resurrected and incorporated WOXY, a venerable and much-revered indie rock station. In addition to professionally programmed stations, Lala also features user-programmed selections. Although you have to request the privilege to program your own radio station, if you trade a lot of CDs on Lala, they'll probably let you have at it. There are some catches though. Your station has to be three hours long, you can add only two tracks from each album, and--even worse--due to copyright restrictions courtesy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you can't even listen to your own station.
When you get to the Lala site, it's fun to start out by firing up an Internet radio station. Listening to music while you shop makes the whole experience more engaging, and more like being in a real-world record store. If the station is playing something you like, you can add it to your Want List directly from the playback screen. A budding virtual record label, Lala has also begun streaming live sessions. Some of the performances can be downloaded for transfer to your iPod or other MP3 player. Lala seems serious about this endeavor; cofounder John Kuch told us of plans to open studios in Austin, San Francisco, and Brooklyn.
In terms of its online interface, Lala is well organized and pleasing to use. Throughout the site, CDs are listed along with cover art images to keep things interesting. After you've created an account, Lala sends you a starter kit, which contains Netflix-like prepaid shipping envelopes and plastic clamshell-type disc cases. When one of your CDs has been requested, you log on to Lala.com where you'll find a completed shipping label ready to print. Affix the label to a Lala envelope, insert the disc, include the cover art if you have it, and simply drop the package into the mail. It really is that easy.