In the age when physical music was king—when people clamored to get their hands on the latest CDs and vinyl releases—several big labels operated mail-order record clubs that delivered new albums to fans on a subscription basis. Such clubs, the most famous of which was Columbia House, ruled from the 1950s to the 1990s, before slowly being edged out by the rise of digital music.
Nostalgia pays. The vinyl record is now making an astonishing comeback, and the revival is being cashed in on by a set of all-new mail-order clubs.
The latest of those? A subscription service called Experience Vinyl, announced this week, curated by Elton John, Quincy Jones, Talib Kweli, George Clinton, and several other musicians. Subscribers will pay around $30 a month to receive these curators’ favorite vinyl albums, as well as perks like concert invites and other “various rewards.”
Experience Vinyl joins an existing group of contemporary vinyl subscription clubs, such as Insound, Vinyl Me Please, That Special Record, and Record Friends. These services speak to the promising rebirth of vinyl. Which is a good thing for artists—who actually still make more from vinyl than services like YouTube.
To an extent, vinyl’s resurgence is a direct response to the proliferation of readily available—and often free—music on the internet. Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services have made on-demand listening so easy, music has shed most of its emotional significance. That’s why live festivals like Coachella have seen such a boom in recent years: They reintroduce emotion and experience into the act of listening to music. Physical vinyl LPs, like festivals, offer some of the lost intimacy and identity back to fans.
As Jack White, lead singer of the American rock band The White Stripes, once said:
Vinyl is the real deal. I’ve always felt like unless you buy the vinyl record, you don’t own the album. And it’s not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past—it is still alive.
And Roger Daltrey, lead singer of English band The Who, once mused: “If I was a billionaire, and had my time all over, I would invest all of my money in setting up a factory to produce vinyl records again.” With the launch of Elton John’s Experience Vinyl and other revival clubs, those wishes may be coming true.