Vinyl just had its best year in decades, and now record collectors can enjoy a Netflix-inspired subscription service to try out new LPs. For a monthly fee, members of the just-launched venture VNYL can choose from a list of categories, called "#Vibes," and receive records in the mail much in the same way they used to receive Twin Peaks Season 1 DVDs at home before streaming services. The first group of VNYL members will get their inaugural selection of records next month.
Although it is not set up like Netflix, in the sense that members select the records they want, VNYL still caters to subscribers. Once a member has selected a hash tag classification (#lazysunday or #danceparty, for instance) the company will send three albums curated to fit the "vibe" by the VNYL staff. The service costs $15 a month and allows members to spend as much time with the records as they would like, keeping the ones they love and sending the duds back using pre-paid shipping. The cost of keeping an album will run between $8 to $12.
Company founder Nick Alt, a 35-year old software and app developer who was raised on his dad's superior sounding audio gear, came up with the idea for VNYL while working on a different project for a hardware device last fall. As a fan of the format, he was excited about the idea of subscription-based services, and was an early subscriber to Vinyl Me, Please, a Sub Pop Singles Club–style club that sends members a limited-edition record each month that the company deems "essential" for their collection, along with a cocktail paring recipe, for a $23 to $27 monthly subscription fee, depending on the member's level of commitment.
Alt also wanted to incorporate the ease of music streaming, the mix-tape feel of a playlist site and the inclusiveness of the local record store to create something more personal than those sites currently offer. He was interested in connecting people, but he also wanted users new to record collecting to care about who made, produced and played on the records.
"The real magic that I can bring to this is the community aspect," he tells Rolling Stone. "People who listen to vinyl are not connected [the way online users are] unless they go to a record store, so why can't we bridge that for people who are really into listening to vinyl."
Alt and his team of 10 have been working out of a warehouse, carefully organizing the #Vibes bins by mood or subject, much like record stores group by genre or name, and finally reached their Kickstarter goal last night. The 221 current backers will be VNYL's first subscribers, receiving their three records next month, and services will roll out to the general public as early as March.
"It's amazing," he says. "There are so many people who got turntables for Christmas, and they're people that clearly didn't grow up with physical music like I did. I can't be any more thrilled that people who are in their 20s and teens, who basically started with iTunes, are coming full circle and buying records again. It's so cool to me."