AudioHammock Podcast #78 - Vinyl Subscription Services

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If you're into collecting vinyl records you've no doubt heard of monthly subscription services like Vinyl Me, Please and the kickstarter funded VNYL. The premise is simple; one flat fee and vinyl records shipped directly to you at the beginning of the month. Is it really that easy though? In this podcast episode AudioHammock investigates. We also feature and talk about the new jazz rap album from AntiLilly & Phoniks. You can read our full review on AntiLilly & Phoniks here.

Episode Timestamps:
AntiLilly and Phoniks "It's Nice Outisde" Album review: 0:00-26:15
Vinyl Subscription Services: 26:15-51:20
Talking about Charles Bradley and Tom Petty: 51:20-59:00
Closing remarks and outro tracks from AntiLilly: 59:00-1:08


Vinyl Me, Please

Official Website

Of all the vinyl subscription services, Vinyl Me, Please is at the forefront and stands out the most. Whether this is due to an ever present marketing presence on every social media platform (Reddit included), or the legitimacy and uniqueness of their vinyl pressings, it's safe to say Vinyl Me, Please has the dominant market share of people willing to pay a flat monthly fee for a vinyl record.

Launched in January of 2013, Vinyl Me, Please offers 3 tiers of membership starting at $29 a month (monthly), $27 a month (3-months billed at $81), and an annual membership for $25 a month ($299 yearly billing). So what do you get for that scratch? All 3 membership plans get the same record at the beginning of the month and the record is indeed 90% of the sell. Vinyl Me, Please offers limited edition, often colored vinyl, of new releases that aren't sold anywhere else. Stocking special edition colored/collectors vinyl is becomming quite the niche hobby these days and the allure of these limited edition pressings can be quite strong. Packaged with the record will be an original art print and 3 custom cocktail recipes said to represent the mood and vibe of the album. Membership also includes access to the members-only Vinyl Me, Please store which has past releases available for purchase (sometimes), and a weekly E-magazine called The Standard. So depending on whether you're into cocktails, the accopanying art (always relative to the album of the month), and what in the Vinyl Me, Please store interests you, will gauge how interesting these bonus perks are.

What if I get an album I don't like?

It's bound to happen sooner or later right? You've just paid nearly $30 for an album you have zero interest in. Vinyl Me, Please has a solution to this called "Swaps". Members of Vinyl Me, Please are notified of the upcoming month's vinyl pressing usually a week or two in advance and have until the 2nd of the new month to indicate they would like to perform a swap. When you perform a swap you can make a selection in the Vinyl Me, Please back catalog and have a prior release sent to you instead. Groovy, except that the back catalog isn't as expansive as you might think and as of this article's publication you may only swap for 2016-2017 archived releases and to quote Vinyl Me, Please, "select member titles". In other words, the back catalog is limited. It's also worth noting that only the 3-month and annual memberships can make swaps. These two memberships do come with unlimited swaps but we can't imagine it would take too long to go through the available stock of the back catalog so keep that in mind.

So what's the play here?

Great question. Let's go over a few pros and cons.

Pros:

  • The vinyl pressings are rare and of quality
  • You can swap for records in the back catalog

Cons:

  • This is not an effecient way to discover new music
  • $25-$29 a month is on the high end of vinyl (yet it's becomming the standard)
  • Online store seems to have just as many unavailable titles as available
  • Can only swap for 2016-2017 pressings and the term "select member titles" is ambiguous at best
  • If you dont care about special edition vinyl, standard pressings are widely available and cheaper elsewhere

We've heard the argument that vinyl subscription services are a great way to discover new music. This is utterly ridiculous as there are a plethora of ways to listen to these artists without shelling out your hard earned cash. Vinyl Me, Please is not a label and none of the artists material is exclusive to the service. This music is widely available via the artists website, bandcamp and Amazon, your local record store, and streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. If you dont care that much about vinyl, well, you shouldn't be reading this in the first place.

There are a few plays here for Vinyl Me, Please however. One, subscription services like this make great gifts and it's one that keeps on giving. Two, and the one that we recommend, is joining Vinyl Me, Please for 3 months, pillaging the online store of everything you want, and then quitting and repeating the process every other year or so. Without a doubt the initial pull of joining Vinyl Me, Please will be one specific release of one of your favorite bands and then you're stuck for two more months. That leaves you with 2 swaps you can make (if you don't like what's on the release radar) and gives you access to the limited store, of which there's sure to be at least a few albums you'll want. At this recommendation you'll at least come away with music you know you want without longterm financial commitments, a win/win in our books. We've noticed that Vinyl Me, Please might be privy to this strategy as well as they've hinted at a future feature called "membership pause" which will allow you to pause your membership and payments and pick them up again at a later time. There is no ETA on rollout for this feature but it is a welcome one! They are also in the process of allowing you to make swaps for store credit. Again, stay tuned.

VNYL

Official Website

Much like this service, this review isn't very pleasant. I'll be frank, this is a company taking advantage of the vinyl fad. Their premise is very similar to Vinyl Me, Please (the comparisons stop here), in that you pay a flat fee and you get records shipped to you each month. With VNYL that number is three. Instead of one record each month you get three based on a set of "vibes" that you pick. The fact that you shop based on vibes instead of genres combined with a website that was designed to pander to white teenage girls who shop at Forever 21 should tell you all you need to know about this service. Their tiered service starts at $39 a month (Trio), $37 for three months (3-months billed at $110 and called Triple Triple), and lastly an annual subscription for $35 a month (billed at $420) called #BFF. Yes you read that right, their third plan is hashtag best friends forever. These are also just normal LPs mind you, no special pressings, nothing you can't buy at your local record store or online. Do we really need to continue?

I could not be bothered to sign up for VNYL so I did not get access to their online store, which I imagine looks just like a dumbed down Urban Outfitters so visualize that if you really need to ponder. A quick Google or Youtube search will tell you all you need to know about this service with the key takeaway being - stay away. YouTube videos, Google reviews, and Reddit discussions run rampant on everything from being shipped artists not worth listening to, to receiving bargain bin records and albums in completely different genres, er I mean, "vibes". Our recommendation? Stay away.

So...

A conclusion isn't even necessary at this point. Vinyl Me, Please is a legitimate option for vinyl enthusiasts. Their offerings are of quality and we've discussed on how to take advantage of what their platform has to offer. One other plus of the Vinyl Me, Please community is that it is very active and friendly, especially on Reddit, and the Vinyl Me, Please website does have interesting and compelling articles concerning the music industry, artists, and new releases. Just be cognizant that they will be biased towards whatever they are often promoting. VNYL? They're currently marketing a wireless turntable, doesn't that defeat the purpose of records in the first place?


Russ Bashaw

Founder, Owner

Russ Bashaw founded AudioHammock in the summer of 2013 and continues to be an active contributor and editor. In addition to writing the occasional review Russ is also one of the hosts of the AudioHammock Podcast. Follow Russ on Instagram @russba1 or email him at russ@audiohammock.com.

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