Online vinyl subscription services offer vinyl experience different from traditional record stores

John Melendez

The end of 2018 marks another consecutive year of increased vinyl record sales. As more people express interest in vinyl, some online subscription services have introduced curation and exclusivity to the
vinyl market.

To many vinyl fans, exploring countless cratefuls of records and discovering vintage gems is an important part of the experience. But in the past few years, a number of online vinyl subscription services have created their own unique experiences that can’t be found in record stores.

Vinyl Me, Please is an online music subscription service that launched in 2013 and currently offers monthly curated vinyl record from a choice of three categories: “essentials,” “classics” or “rap & hip-hop.” Each category includes an exclusive add-on like a cocktail recipe, listening notes booklet or stencil, respectively.

Matt Hessler, head of marketing for Vinyl Me, Please, said the service wants to give their 30,000 subscribers a monthly package that they won’t find anywhere else.

“A record that you get from Vinyl Me, Please isn’t going to sound exactly like a record you might get off the shelf at your local record store or from Amazon,” Hessler said. “We’re handling all the production. Everything from picking the vinyl color and making any changes to the jacket or the package itself.”

Josh LaRue, UT music alumnus and co-owner of Breakaway Records in Austin, said he sees online subscription services as an option for those without access to good record shops. He said his shop buys used records so it gets records from Vinyl, Me Please all the time.

LaRue said he doesn’t see the vinyl subscription services as competition because they help gain more interest in records.

“(A vinyl subscription service) is probably good for record stores because if the person actually does get into records then they’re gonna look at record stores because that’s where you’re gonna find the most stuff in one place,” LaRue said.

Vinylmnky, stylized as vinylmnky, is an Austin-based online vinyl subscription service started in 2015 that focuses on up-and-coming artists by sending their members a Breakthrough Record of the Month from a debut artist. They also work with the record label and artist to create custom add-ons, such as posters or signed copies for their members.

Vinylmnky co-founder Travis Jourdan said he believes vinyl subscription services and record stores are complementary. He said although it’s crucial that record stores exist, he has no plans for a physical
vinylmnky store.

“Everything is becoming internet-based,” Jourdan said. “People physically going to a record store is going to slow down after a couple generations. We’re going to be on our phone ordering the records or signing up for a membership where it’s done for us.”

Forrest Coppock, co-owner of Antone’s Record Shop, said he thinks online vinyl subscription services cause patrons to miss out on all the experiences that come with going to a record store.

“I grew up going to the record store and there were so many experiences that it doesn’t even interest me at all to shop online,” Coppock said. “You go out and buy records every week and you start seeing the same people and you make friends. The idea of shopping for music, it seems like such a loss to do it (online).”