Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
When Lala.com launched just last year, the company raised eyebrows looking to build a business around trading of compact discs for a dollar per trade while expecting most of its revenue to come from sales of new CDs. The company claims that it actually reached profitability in its core business, but it realized that exposing members to lists of each others' CDs wasn't enough. Soon it added Internet radio by acquiring terrestrial-turned-Internet broadcaster WOXY.com.
Lala has dismissed concerns that it would facilitate piracy as members ripped and flipped with the argument that the real problem that music faces today is the war for time and money versus other media. Consumers are inundated with cable channels, YouTube, RSS, DVDs, video games, Web sites and those clever Engadget columns that you know you should really submit to Digg more often.
To this war, Lala is bringing two major weapons which brings the site determined to disrupt squarely into the realm of digital music. Not only will the company offer free music library hosting and downloading directly to one's iPod, but it is moving to offer free streaming of on-demand libraries from all four major labels, starting with Warner Music.
Lala will enable any members to store their entire digital music collection on its site to stream on demand. Of course, Lala is not the first to have this idea -- MP3.com tried it in 1998 and earned the scorn of the RIAA, which forced the startup to nix the idea. Nowadays, several sites provide music locker services (often for a fee) for those wiling to upload their music files, which can be a lengthy proposition for those with large libraries.