Vinyl record sales are big business. In 2020, only one album, Folklore by Taylor Swift, sold more than a million physical units, and in fact annual sales have been down every year since 2011. (Contrast that with Michael Jackson’s Bad, which sold 35 million.) But before we mourn the collapse of the record industry, let us praise the humble LP. Vinyl was the third-most popular format for purchase last year (CDs and digital currently rank one and two, respectively), representing 27% of all album sales and almost 41% of all physical album sales, according to Billboard. This is not an aberration; 2020 was the 15th year in a row when vinyl sales grew (46.2%, year over year), and such double-digit growth isn’t uncommon. It’s into this market space the Amazon, the harbinger of things to come, announced its Vinyl Of The Month Club, and what happens next is anyone’s guess.
Honestly, Amazon moving into vinyl and a subscription service makes a ton of sense, and compared to its other offerings, maybe even more sense. Started as an online book store, the company is the largest web hosting company in the world, and it makes original content to stream, ships your groceries, and probably has something to do with autonomous vehicles. Its net has been cast so wide that it may be faster to mention which pies it doesn’t have its fingers in. But physical, tangible vinyl records are about as close to its foundation of tactile book sales as one could get, and when it comes to shipping you a book, no one does it better.
For $25 a month, Amazon will send you a single record from the “Gold Era” 1960s and ’70s from what it has determined are must-own recordings. Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin, ABBA; the gang’s all there. As one might expect from the company, there are no long-term commitments, free shipping, and free returns within a relatively generous grace period. While it’s only available in the United States, it still sounds like a pretty good deal.
Of course, we have some questions and concerns. From its page, it appears that the first indication of which record you’ll receive that month is when it arrives on your doorstep. And while the classics are nice, many people, including this writer, have a vinyl collection half comprised of decades-old albums as well as new releases. (Indeed, in 2020, Harry Styles’ Fine Line and Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? were the top-selling vinyl records, followed by Queen’s Greatest Hits and The Beatles’ Abbey Road.) Hopefully, if the program proves a success, it will expand to include releases of both yesterday and today.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for further details and clarifications, and we’ll update below if we hear back.
While those who love digging through the stacks for hidden gems may scoff at a program like this, the reality is that records like these are simply not found in the wild any longer. Too many people love vinyl, and even used record shops have challenges in sourcing product (after all, why would you sell to them when you can log on to eBay). Whether you’re deep into music or just looking to expand your collection, Amazon’s new Vinyl Of The Month Club offers something for everyone while only accelerating the pace of physical album sales. If that helps buoy the music industry, then we’re all for it.
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