If being bumped by Sony’s Record Store Day kitsch wasn’t bad enough, vinyl labels may have another competitor for runs on the handful of available record presses: Amazon has gotten into the vinyl business.
Amazon launched their “Vinyl of the Month Club” this summer. For a monthly fee of $24.99, Amazon will ship extremely well-known records to people who don’t want the hassle of picking exactly which records they want to buy for themselves.
What record will they get? Well, nothing that will upset anyone, that’s for sure. Amazon calls it the “Golden Era of Vinyl subscription box” and the first record is Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Others flashed on the sales page include classic rock staples from Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, The Clash… you get the picture.
You’re not allowed to pick from this pool: Amazon has apparently rolled out the plastic pee bags for “experts” from Amazon Music to curate the monthly selection for you. Surprisingly it’s also not based upon the copious amount of data Amazon has hoovered up about your shopping habits either, as every user gets a copy of the same record every month. (They do, however, notify you in advance, so you can skip a month.) Early reports are that the records appear to be high quality pressings — 180g editions have been reported but are not mentioned or guaranteed.
It sounds like the kind of program one would buy as a gift for their dad or grandpa — crucially, the program launched two weeks before Father’s Day — as these are probably the main market for new pressings of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin records which are otherwise in abundant supply. As 5 Mag has noted before, the bulk of today’s vinyl sales are precisely these type of multi-platinum ’70s rock standards. With some exceptions (and our scene is definitely an exception), the vinyl market and the Father’s Day gift market are the same.
Whether Amazon conceived of this on their own or came up with the “Golden Era of Vinyl subscription box” after record companies dumped a ton of unsold product on them is unclear. But aside from the chance to blow out some excess product that the majors have been using to tie up every pressing plant in the nation, there’s also a digital platform tie-in: users are being sent download links via Amazon Music to the same records that’s shipping after they subscribe.
While evocative of the famous “12 records for 1¢” Columbia House subscription program from the ’80s, Amazon is likely copying one of several independent (and in some cases highly dubious) vinyl subscription models that proliferated over the last decade. VNYL is one that asks you to “select a vibe” and then picks a few records to send you every month. There are currently 223 complaints about VNYL at the Better Business Bureau website; one reviewer calls it “a great idea if you want to find a way to trick people into buying $1.50 worth of records for $25.00.” Which sounds like a pretty good explanation of Amazon’s Vinyl Club and generally the kind of business model Amazon would be interested in.