With renewed interest in vinyl records that's growing every year, there's been an emphasis on the kind of records people buy. As the UK integrates a special chart for the format back into public consciousness, it's clear this revival isn't a fad as it is a continued interest in physical mediums. With streaming gaining momentum as the go-to source of music playback for many, owning physical albums has become a declaration of acquiring the "essentials" — the ones that you're certain will stick with you for years to come.
So how about getting your music chosen for you by strangers?
The idea of a record club was established way before MP3s were even invented. An early incarnation, Columbia Record House, allowed consumers to purchase records and cassettes from its parent label Columbia Records. Now with the easy access of online shopping, a record club would have to serve a completely different purpose to appeal to a new generation of a tech-savvy, vinyl-owning generation.
Presenting Vinyl Me, Please (VMP).
Vinyl Me, Please is an exclusive, invite-only record club that prides itself on expert curation and limited edition releases, out to appeal to both curious music fans and avid collectors. It works in a fairly straightforward fashion — you pay a fixed amount per month and a new record ends up in your mail, but not without the many remarkable finishing touches they add. With the claim of being "the best damn record club out there", you'd better expect nothing but the good stuff.
"For us, music isn’t just something we listen to, it’s a part of us." VMP says on their website. "We believe that albums are meant to be connected with and enjoyed as a complete work of art. Vinyl, as a medium, creates an environment for this connection through deep, active listening…the music as the focus, rather than just background noise."
The list of releases by the club, up until April 2014.
These titles are specially picked by the people behind the US-based startup, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary in May. The records can range from brand new titles to classic favourites, along with lost gems made decades ago. "Over the course of your membership, you’re likely to receive a wide variety of music, spanning various genres, times periods, and artists." instructs VMP. "You may not have heard of every artist or record, but you can bet your ass it will be worthy of multiple spins."
A concept like VMP may not be appealing to music fans who would rather choose their own titles but the club banks on special packaging, only available to their members. This can be anything from numbered jackets to special coloured vinyl, topped off with a white sleeve to earmark it as a VMP edition vinyl.
VMP works with several music labels to produce these titles, which have resulted in exclusive versions such as green-coloured vinyl for the critically-acclaimed 2014 album Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs to a deluxe edition of The Year of Hibernation with a custom lyric sheet written by Youth Lagoon himself.
The club also sends out a weekly newsletter called The Standard, where you'll find playlists, MP3 downloads, articles and even more content.
We decided to request an invite to see if VMP is worth the hype and, of course, grab some sweet records for ourselves. 48 hours later, a pristine email appears in our inbox with the golden link to join. The ones we got were released on February and March 2015 respectively: I Love You, Honeybear, the excellent sophomore album by Father John Misty and a brand-spanking new edition of the phenomenal hip-hop classic Donuts by the late J Dilla.
If you join, here's a little taste of what you'll get!
VMP's custom mailer, unceremoniously ravaged by the horrors of the postal service.
The records with our data manager/in-house model Juhardi.
Every monthly edition comes with an external VMP white sleeve, signed by the VMP staff member who packaged it.
Each record is paired with a custom cocktail recipe, prepared either by a VMP partner or the musicians themselves.
A foreword by VMP co-founder Tyler Barstow.
Unlike the regular editions you find in record stores, here Donuts comes with a gatefold sleeve containing an excerpt from the album's 33 1/3 book, along with clear vinyl that ranges from transparent to milky.
With every VMP record comes a newly-minted 12 x 12" art print dedicated to the record. This specific print was drawn by artist Ready2Rumbl.
These are one of four different variations of the centre labels.
Father John Misty's I Love You, Honeybear is bestowed with an incredibly detailed record sleeve, with a small satirical booklet instructing listeners ways to "properly" listen to the album along with a postcard-sized doodle by him. The art print is actually a note left by his now-wife Emma, when he first crashed her apartment.
The record comes with two clear vinyl records, along with a poster-sized lyric sheet to boot!
International subscriptions start from US$44 per month, with discounts applied when you purchase 3-month and annual packages. We'd recommend buying additional records from their store to save on shipping, which includes a special monthly selection along with whatever previous VMP editions are left. If that's too deep for your wallet, you can always call up your friend living in the US. Or heck, just use a shipping merchant! comGateway and Vpost are prime examples.
We're first and foremost music fans — we'll never get tired of raiding our local independent stores or even drunkenly buying cheap records on Amazon at 2am. However, options like Vinyl Me, Please are a great deal if you're willing to take the plunge. New records every month, an art print to frame, a new cocktail to make — we think it's an awesome package. The best damn record club out there? It might just be.