Retail

Curating Vinyl For Record Collectors Via Subscriptions

vinyl record

Kyle Matthiesen has always been an avid fan of music, with a passion for playing instruments and attending concerts. He expanded his interest by beginning to collect records as a hobby before he started to buy, sell and trade them. Beyond music, Matthiesen studied information systems at the graduate level. He began learning about using technology to harness different websites such as Spotify that have opened up their application programming interfaces (APIs) so that one can get a “whole wealth of information from for given users,” he told PYMNTS.

With that knowledge and experience, Matthiesen was seeking ways to combine his skills with his passion. He also happened to notice a trend: Vinyl records were becoming more and more popular. He decided to tap into that trend — along with his passion and technical knowledge — to create an eCommerce website. Today, his company, Black Box Record Club, offers a vinyl subscription service that sends consumers curated records based on their musical tastes to their doors monthly.

The basic premise of the company is that it sends two records to consumers a month. Still, Matthiesen says its key differentiator has been its commitment to “personal curation.” Members set up a taste profile when they join the site, and the company narrows selections down to what its subscribers like and sends them records from their favorite artists. In comparison to other clubs that send out lesser-known artists that it thinks fit a customer’s interests, it aims to stay focused on what customers like listening to, not what the company thinks they would like to enjoy.

The Curation Platform

Consumers can connect their Spotify accounts to the company’s platform, which, in turn, receives an updated list of their 50 favorite artists and top genres that Matthiesen says is “continuously updated” over time. As a result, the company can receive a “wealth of information” from a Spotify connection to the user. The company can also look at a subscriber’s Discogs account. (Discogs, for its part, is a place that allows consumers to log their vinyl record collections online.) And, with knowledge about the musical tastes of its users, the firm then links to databases of wholesalers through the country to see what records it can source.

The service counts fans of blues, folk, rock, rap and hip hop as members. It has been sending out a lot of Childish Gambino and Kanye West lately in the rap and hip-hop space. And in the blues space, it has been sending out a lot of Buddy Guy, while it has sent out Jimmy Hendrix, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin for classic rock.

The company counts a healthy mix of beginners and experienced collectors among its membership ranks. For the beginning collector, Matthiesen says the service is a way to be introduced to a steady intake of two records a month to build up their collections. And, when it comes to the more experienced collector, the service is more about finding unique additions to their collections. They tend to want to complete their collection, as they want every, say, Elton John record in existence, so the service aims to find that last piece that might be more obscure.

The company offers a variety of plans from a one-month package to a three-month package and a six-month package. It also provides the same options for consumers who wish to buy a subscription as a gift for a recipient. In this, Black Box Record Club is not alone: All of the top-performing merchants in the PYMNTS Subscription Commerce Conversion Index offered them. For payment, the company uses Stripe for processing and a subscription management software called Chargebee.

When it comes to timing for the service, Matthiesen noted there is an “undeniable trend of people wanting to listen to vinyl records.” The growth, however, has been happening for a decade or so, and as Matthiesen was going out to build the business, he looked at that market growth and then aimed to figure out ways to apply new technical avenues to meet that demand.

Matthiesen plans to continue to grow by investing “more and more into personal curation” in the future, as the company harnesses the power of information about its subscriber’s musical preferences to help select vinyl records for them.

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