Columbia House Record Club Resurrected as a Vinyl-Only Service

Back in the summer, we were shocked to learn that the venerable Columbia Record Club had gone out of business. The surprise didn’t come from the company’s closure; it came from the fact that it had still been in operation in 2015. We’d assume that it had died long ago.

“Oh, well,” we thought, “to everything there is a season. Columbia Record House had a good run. Let’s move on.”

But wait. What’s this? A resurrection?

Last night, I was bombarded with emails from readers (thank you all!) with news of the return of the Columbia Record Club as a vinyl-only mail service. In other words, for their next act, they’ve got back to 1981.

 

From EW.com:

Cue up the sound of a record rewinding: Columbia House, the once-famous mail-order business that sold CDs for a penny, is looking to relaunch by selling vinyl records.

John Lippman, who bought the brand out of bankruptcy this month, revealed the plan in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Citing millennials’ enthusiasm for vinyl, he said, “You can see a yearning and an interest to try a new format.”

From Stereogum:

Lippman, a former Lehman Brothers exec, bought the company at auction for about $1.5 million. He’s hoping to use social media to get millennials interested in buying big stacks of vinyl via mail. He doesn’t think there are enough online retailers offering it: “For a category that is meaningful and growing rapidly, you don’t see a whole lot of choice.” He probably won’t offer 12 LPs for a penny. But the mere fact that Columbia House will continue to exist, in any form, is crazy.

“Brilliant!” you might say. “Vinyl continues to be hot! What a great way to get more it to the people!” But let’s go back to the vinyl days of the CH

RC. Record club records were not like the ones you bought in the store. The vinyl was thinner, cheaper. The packaging wasn’t as good. And most artists had a clause in their recording contracts that stipulated that they received reduced royalties (often none at all) from sales of recordings through record clubs. In other words, record clubs were the Spotify complaints of their day.

Before subscribing, let’s just see what will be offered.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Columbia House Record Club Resurrected as a Vinyl-Only Service

  • December 26, 2015 at 3:12 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Allan

    Re your article about Columbia House returning with vinyl only I caught an interesting quote reproduced below.

    Record club records were not like the ones you bought in the store. The vinyl was thinner, cheaper. The packaging wasn’t as good.
    I can’t speak with absolute authority on the vinyl but I can on the packaging. I was Senior VP and GM at Shorewood Packaging from 1989 to 1999. We manufactured packaging for Columbia House during those years (and prior to that) and during 1995 to 1999 we were the exclusive packaging suppliers to Colombia House. The album jackets, 8 track labels, cassette cards and CD booklets and tray cards we made for them were identical to ones we supplied Sony, BMG, EMI, Polygram and Universal.
    Regarding royalties. Prior to Shorewood I spent eight years at CBS Records in Special Markets. Artists did not get royalties on the free (12 for a penny) records the got when they signed up but they did get royalties on everything else, the ones that arrived every month in the mail and other extras.
    I think it is unfortunate that Columbia House got such a bad rap from some. It was undeserved. It was a solid business with a good product that served an in-demand market.
    It could be the right time for a resurrection for a niche market with a high end, supeior quality product

    Ted Southam
    4 St. Andrews Street
    Cambridge, ON
    N1S 1M3

    tedsoutham@rogers.com
    705 794 9542

    Reply

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