05:27 AM

Lala music swap site expands into streaming live performances

By Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher

It's Tuesday night and I'm at Bimbo's nightclub in North Beach talking with serial entrepreneur Bill Nguyen about his latest venture Lala.com--a music sharing site with a twist, or rather several twists.

Mr Nguyen is animated, relaxed, and looks like he is having way too much fun. He clearly revels in what he is doing: launching another startup, being a doting father of a two year old, taking time to surf, and being able to indulge his love of music.

"Music is so important, it is how we see ourselves and how we define ourselves to the world," he says. I ask him what music was seminal in his life. He pauses, then laughs and says heavy metal. But these days his musical tastes are omnivorous and his appetite ravenous.

He mentions a band he recently discovered. "You have to listen to them, "Architecture in Helsinki" they are amazing. I've got plenty of other recommendations too."

Finding out about little known Australian bands is one of the perks of his job. Lala is a clever way to monetise the incredibly huge store of music CDs sitting in millions of living rooms.

I, like many people, am bored with my collection of CDs, I'd like to hear music I don't have. Lala lets me swap and sample other people's collections--an astounding 1.8 million titles registered by Lala users.

Through Lala I send my disks to others who find my collection potentially fascinating, and I can do the same--request their CDs. All for just $1, plus 75 cents shipping in prepaid envelopes.

For the price of one new CD I can refresh my collection ten CDs at a time. And 20 per cent of revenues are donated to the Lala created Z Foundation supporting working musicians.

Lala has been branching out into some interesting areas. It recently purchased a radio station, WOXY in Cincinnati, a cult station mentioned in the movie "Rain Man," saving it from closure. This led to the launch of "citizen radio" allowing Lala users to create their own streaming Internet radio shows. This drives CD exchanges because listeners can then send out requests if they hear something they like.

And from there, Lala is moving into streaming live performances, which is why we are talking in Bimbo's. Aimee Mann is about to come on stage and her performance will be captured by Lala.

It's a sweet deal for the venues, says Mr Nguyen because it helps them to attract hot acts. The clubs can tell performers that they have streaming capabilities automatically tied to revenue sharing of music downloads. That's attractive to performers seeking wider distribution and a share of online music revenues.

Lala is also establishing locations where local bands can come in and stream their music through Lala's network.

Soon, Aimee Man comes on, along with several special guests. Special guest John C. Reilly, the prolific movie actor comes on several times and steals the show--and doesn't give it back. Here is another person that is having way too much fun...

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It was also good to connect again with John Kuch, Lala's hard working bus dev and marcoms chief,  and also a doting father of a two year old. John, like everyone else at Lala is a huge music enthusiast and constantly discovering new bands. Here is a link to his Lala radio station.

Additional info:

Some of Bill Nguyen's previous ventures: Seven Networks, Onebox.

Lala.com How lala Works

Lala.com About lala