Elton John is among the curators for a new vinyl subscription service based around the favourite records of the stars. Experience Vinyl, a US-based service, is to launch in April, with Elton John as its first curator, followed by the likes of Quincy Jones, Talib Kweli, George Clinton and Sean Lennon.
For a fee of around $30 a month, subscribers will receive one of the curator’s favourite albums by another artist, along with personal commentary, the artist’s Top 10 albums list, access to the service’s store and other rewards. A proportion of the revenues will go to a charity of the curator’s choice.
Billboard reports that the idea for the service came from founder Brad Hammonds’ blog Desert Island Albums, in which musicians were asked to name what they would listen to if only allowed 10 albums for the rest of their life.
“Growing up a vinyl fanatic, I’ve had the desire to create a record club for the better part of my adult life,” Hammonds told Billboard. “Experience Vinyl is a different kind of subscription service and a dream for any vinyl lover. It’s a record club where artists handpick not only the records they love, but the ones they couldn’t live without. Who better to send you great music each month than artists themselves? It’s an honour to work with some of the greatest musicians of all time, and we’re excited to share their personal and meaningful picks with all of you.”
Vinyl subscription services have become increasingly common in recent years, with a wide choice available, often with their own particular gimmick – such as the one that offers craft beer with every record, or the one that sends a bottle of wine with each album.
Subscription services position vinyl unashamedly as part of the luxury goods market, a reflection of the fact that a brand new vinyl album will usually cost around £20. And while vinyl has been a growth sector for the music industry – sales last year reached a 25-year high, with more than 3.2m sales – it remains very much a niche market.
Nevertheless, its revival from its 2007 low point – when just 200,000 new vinyl albums were sold – had provided an opportunity for record labels. One small label owner – releasing records aimed at an older, wealthier audience – recently told the Guardian that vinyl was a significant revenue generator because the margins were so great, given the high retail prices.
Others, though, see less benefit. Nathaniel Cramp of the Sonic Cathedral label wrote in the Guardian recently that it has become harder and harder for independent labels to sell music.
“This year has been the most difficult in the 12 years that I’ve been running my label, Sonic Cathedral. If you are releasing records by new artists, it is getting harder and harder to sell them,” he wrote. “It’s not just me: Fortuna Pop! has sadly decided to call it a day after 20 years; another person who runs a well-respected indie tells me its records sell in smaller and smaller numbers. I’ve never sold many copies, but when one of the major indies is shifting roughly the same amount – seemingly regardless of press and radio coverage or touring – then surely that’s cause for concern, not celebration?”
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