A favorite tune is never more than a tap on a smartphone away for most modern music fans. While that convenience is coveted by many, the suspect quality of streaming audio and its disposable nature can leave some audiophiles and music lovers wanting more.
As a result, a 1960’s anachronism has made a thunderous return. The turntable and vinyl record collections, once relegated to attics and basements, have now found a place on millennials’ shelves — particularly of those with old souls or anyone with a taste for a more intimate relationship with music.
Though vinyl records may offer better sound quality, album art and other benefits, the format lacks what many digital streaming services boast as their most attractive offering: a curated source of new music, finely tuned to one’s tastes and aligned with the platform’s most played artists and songs.
Enter Vinyl Me, Please, a subscription-based vinyl record shop that takes a new spin on that old model. In a recent interview with PYMNTS, CEO and founder Matt Fiedler described how he and co-founder Tyler Barstow set out to create a monthly record subscription service that promises to give music enthusiasts a curated, new, special edition vinyl records.
The pair’s goal? To create “a record club for a new generation.”
Finding the right niche
The company has grown to serve 20,000 monthly customers in more than 40 countries since it launched five years ago.
The subscription process is fairly straightforward, too. Subscribers receive a new vinyl record each month after signing up. The selection is hand-picked by the company’s curation team based on newly released music and an assessment of each customer’s specific tastes. If customers receive a record that doesn’t groove with them, they can return it and get a replacement that’s (hopefully) more their speed.
The Boulder, Colorado-based company currently offers three types of subscriptions. Its most popular plan is a standard “essentials” service offering records in a variety of genres. The two other plans offer curated soul/blues/jazz and hip-hop records to fans of those genres. Those collections include other goodies for genre devotees.
“For the ‘Classics,’ our collection of soul, blues and jazz, each record comes with an eight-page liner notes booklet dissecting the tracks, and the historical context of the artists and the record,” Fiedler said. “The rap and hip-hop collection right now comes with a special edition stencil.”
Once a month, every month
Customers receive a standard subscription delivery each month no matter which subscription package they choose. When that monthly delivery arrives at their doorsteps, it includes their collection-specific record, accompanying goodies, a special 12”x12” art print and custom cocktail recipe that is specially paired with their music.
Each subscription package costs the same amount ($29 for a one-month plan) and the company currently accepts payment via credit card, debit card and PayPal. Subscribers also get access to the company’s online eCommerce store, through which they can purchase past releases that have not yet sold out, other music and accessories.
Customers can also buy subscriptions in bulk, like three-month plans ($27 per month, billed as a one-time $81 charge) and annual subscriptions ($25 per month, billed as a one-time $299 charge). Fiedler said most customers opt to subscribe for three months of music at a time, which is just what the company wants.
“It’s hard to get people to understand the experience we’re trying to offer if they’re only going to stick around for one month,” he said. “So, we really try to push our three-month membership at sign-up. We want people to get three records, get invested in the experience for at least three months and we’re able to retain most of the customers that do that.”
Standing apart from the crowd
Fans of vinyl records are a small but devoted group, as a rule — and one that generates more than $1 billion in sales each year. While it may not be the method of choice for most music lovers, those who do opt for a turntable often have specific and finely tuned tastes. They’re also hungry for new music into which they can sink their teeth (or ears).
Appealing to those two factors has allowed Vinyl Me, Please to build a fairly large following from that niche group, Fiedler said. The company has gotten notoriety and additional subscribers by offering what many record stores, big or small, simply cannot: exclusive recordings or albums, and special editions of well-regarded releases, to catch vinyl listeners’ attention.
“We do a special edition pressing of all of our records,” Fiedler explained. “So, each one has something about it that is unique. Sometimes, it’s even the availability of the record itself, that you can’t get it anywhere else. So, customers will find us by wanting to get their hands on that record or a special edition of another album they like.”
Keeping the record spinning
Fiedler acknowledged that he and Barstow did not create the idea of a curated record-of-the-month club. In fact, the idea has been around for some time, but its earned a reputation as an idea that’s not been done successfully at scale — particularly in the modern era.
Thanks, at least in some part, to both a resurgence in vinyl records and a rise in the popularity of subscription services of all kinds, Fiedler, Barstow and their team have been working to change that reputation. Their work isn’t done quite yet, though. Fiedler said the company plans to continue to grow in 2018 by offering a record club that isn’t just focused on matching — or even improving upon — the efforts of other subscription record services. Instead, it will focus on hearing what its members want most.
“We’ve been hyper-focused on figuring out, as music fans, what we would want from our service, and creating a new kind of record club that’s more appealing to them,” he said. “I think that’s given a better path forward than looking at other companies that have been in the space, and it’s something we plan to continue going forward.”
It seems the song will go on for Fiedler and Vinyl Me, Please.
About the Index
The PYMNTS.com Subscription Commerce Conversion Index™, a Recurly collaboration, measures frictions in the digital shopping experience for subscription services and products and how those frictions impact a merchant’s final conversion rate. This index analyzes why certain sites are better at converting sales than others, examining several pre-payment factors that generate either friction or sales.