VNYL IS PRETTY MUCH A COMPLETE SCAM

fishmongerfunkfishmongerfunk 4,154 Posts
edited May 2015 in Strut Central
Hand-curate = send you random ass thrift store records. seriously, fuck you Nick Alt!

By Michael Nelson / May 13, 2015 - 1:50 pm

When VNYL launched its Kickstarter campaign on December 22, 2014, the goal was to obtain $10,000 in funding. When the campaign ended 17 days later, on January 9, 2015, the project’s organizers had nearly quadrupled that goal, amassing $36,000 total.

That money came in part thanks to countless news organizations who jumped on the story prior to the campaign’s conclusion: Gizmodo, followed by Nerdist, Rolling Stone, AV Club, Alternative Press, Wondering Sound, Billboard, and literally dozens of others.

All of these stories referred to VNYL in some capacity as “Netflix for vinyl.” Consequence Of Sound did a video interview with VNYL’s founder, Nick Alt, who referred to his service as being like “old-school Netflix.” The idea was that VNYL’s staff would hand-curate a selection of three records for each subscriber (for a fee of $24 per month), and mail out those records to those subscribers, who would have no idea what musical selections they might receive. Then, subscribers would be allowed to keep those records as long as they wanted and return them at any time, at which point, VNYL’s staff would send out a new batch of hand-curated records to that subscriber. Here; watch this and let Alt explain it to you himself:

None of these stories, however, mentioned an element of U.S. copyright law called the first-sale doctrine — specifically section §109(b), popularly known as the Record Rental Amendment Of 1984, which makes it illegal to rent records.

The legalese may be esoteric but the message is clear:

[N]either the owner of a particular phonorecord nor any person in possession of a particular copy of a computer program (including any tape, disk, or other medium embodying such program), may, for the purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage, dispose of, or authorize the disposal of, the possession of that phonorecord or computer program (including any tape, disk, or other medium embodying such program) by rental, lease, or lending, or by any other act or practice in the nature of rental, lease, or lending.

In short, the service being pitched by VNYL would have violated copyright law. The old-school Netflix model worked well for DVDs because movies weren’t covered in the Record Rental Amendment — but applying that same model to vinyl records (or cassettes, or CDs) would have been illegal.

VNYL was supposed to start shipping records to subscribers in early February, but it didn’t actually do so till early April. When those records arrived, there were no instructions for how they might be returned — almost as if VNYL had simply forgotten to include such instructions. Initially, this was met with cheery confusion.

But if subscribers were “missing” anything, it was through no fault of their own. Notably (if not exactly noticeably), the service’s description looked a little different on the official site than it did on the Kickstarter page. On the Kickstarter page, potential backers were told that they’d be able to “Keep the [records] you love, return the ones that were eh. We prep and send more.” However, on VNYL’s post-funded site, the prompt read, “Listen, love, how about some more?”

Here’s how it looked on the Kickstarter:

Here’s how it looks on VNYL.org — notice too that the envelope graphic was flip-flopped with the turntable graphic; that envelope presumably made less sense when the “return” option had been erased from the “Repeat” section (coincidentally or not, the font is several point sizes smaller, too):

We reached out to Alt for this story, and this is what he had to say regarding the service’s abandonment of their “Netflix-for-vinyl” model:

VNYL was Kickstarted as a “Hand Curated Music Discovery” project. I wanted to prove you could build the best human-curated music platform there is. After the campaign, I reached out to all our Kickstarter backers and asked them to fill out a questionnaire about VNYL and their own music experiences. I was really curious — what were they listening to? What genres do they like? What don’t they like? We’re all being sold these digital streaming services, but VNYL is about doing something anti-algorithm and focused on how people experience and actually listen to music.

I also asked members why they backed VNYL. The vast majority (over 80%) chose to back us because they wanted to grow their vinyl collection, try a human curated service, and because they wanted to support vinyl as a medium. For a majority of our backers, the Netflix rental model just wasn’t the draw and actually created the most apprehension. Since we’re constantly making decisions around what the best user experience is for VNYL, it made sense to us to allow our backers and future members keep records they receive from us and pay us no additional costs.

To their credit, VNYL avoided committing any actual crime; irrespective of what they’d proposed, they never actually rented any records, they merely sold a bunch of them. Alt admits that he wasn’t completely aware of the law until after the Kickstarter campaign had ended. “After the Kickstarter closed, and while we were setting up VNYL as a company, this came up,” Alt tells us. However, he claims, “We could have loaned records to our backers and had them return [those records] without violating this Record Rental Exception to the first-sale doctrine.” That seems unlikely; the law seems to make such exemptions only “for nonprofit purposes by a nonprofit library or nonprofit educational institution.”

In any case, no one told the subscribers that the service they’d bought into was no longer “Netflix for vinyl.” Yes, patrons were getting records, but they had no way to return those records. And soon thereafter, complaints started rolling in. You can find numerous such complaints on VNYL’s Kickstarter comments page, but here’s an example, via Rafael Macho, shared on April 21:

Hello Vnyl, how do I return the records I don’t want? I can’t find on your website any info … nor there was a Netflix-like envelope with the last shipment. There is no help or contact info on your website. Seriously?

VNYL’s fatal mistake, of course, was in doing a lax job of hand-curation. Had no one wanted to return the records they’d been sent, there would have been no problem. VNYL’s promise was to select records for the individual subscriber based on “#vibe” — with #vibe defined by the subscriber’s existing tastes and interests — but numerous commenters didn’t feel their own #vibe had been reflected in the records mailed to them by VNYL. Here are some samples*:

Wrote Bill LaMonaca on April 22:

I am highly dissatisfied with what I was sent. All three were complete losers, and there was no real variety. And I’m not sure how you categorize the records — I would not call Steppenwolf a “Lazy Saturday” listen, nor would I classify Uriah Heep as “Dinner Music.”

Wrote Kaleena Burgess on May 8:

This was backed and bought as a birthday gift for my boyfriend who is open to all types of music. We waited and waited … no shipment. Finally we received an email stating that our one-month trial was expiring. EXPIRING? We hadn’t even received the first shipment yet. A few days later it arrived! And by “it” I mean three shitty ass old records from the ’60s and ’70s. Things we could have picked up in the bargain bin at our local record store.

Wrote Matt Darst on May 11:

I received three poor-quality ’80s metal albums that were likely pulled from a 50-cent bin that in no way approximate my musical tastes.

Backer Vincent Chang had some positive comments to share: “Personally, I think almost every record in the world is amazing or horrible; it all depends on what we are listening for.” However, the praise was tempered with requests for improved service in other areas:

[P]lease check carefully for scratches — the one album I did like was also the one with a significant scratch on one track.

Even customers who were highly satisfied displayed evidence of hauls that seemed to fall short of what had been promised. Subscriber Alex LaBarba tweeted enthusiastically at VNYL, saying he was “DIGGING the first batch of wax” sent to him by the service. But with that tweet he included a picture of that wax, as well as the note included explaining why these particular records had been chosen for him. The note was signed by a VNYL staffer who identified himself as Sid, and in it, Sid wrote:

Took a peek at your links, saw a ton of artists I love as well, like Spiritualized, Beach House, and LCD Soundsystem, along with plenty of others! Hope you dig these great records by Lionel Richie, Michael Quatro, and a sweet ’70s hits compilation while you spend time with someone special.

The “sweet ’70s compilation” isn’t visible in the photograph shared by LaBarba, but the Lionel Richie record is his 1982 self-titled solo debut, and the Michael Quatro record is his 1976 LP, Dancers, Romantics, Dreamers & Schemers. Both appear to be used copies with worn sleeves. (Alt admits that the majority of VNYL’s current inventory consists of used goods: “It’s a mix of pre-owned and new, and at the moment skews toward vintage,” he tells us. “Over time, it will shift to new.”) It’s not at all clear why these records were hand-curated for someone whose favorite artists include Spiritualized, Beach House, and LCD Soundsystem.

VNYL subscriber Rob Baird talked to Stereogum for this story. For his #vibe, Baird told us, he chose the hashtag #lazysaturday, “based on [VNYL’s] Spotify playlist, which contained artists like Iron & Wine, Jack Johnson, Sufjan Stevens, Father John Misty, and Norah Jones, who I listen to regularly and are part of my record collection.” Baird also shared with us a link to his Discogs profile. This not only helps to give you, the reader, an idea what he listens to; it was ostensibly consulted by VNYL personnel in order to help hand-curate musical selections based on his #vibe. When his first VNYL shipment included old releases from Jefferson Airplane, Dan Fogelberg, and England Dan & John Ford Coley (the picture at the top of his page features the shipment sent to Baird), he took his frustration to Twitter and Yelp. He also emailed Alt directly, and shared screen shots of that exchange on Twitter. Here’s a snippet of Baird’s first email to Alt:

I got my first order today … and I do not like any of the records. In fact, I do not want to keep them. I would like to return them and just get my money back. Also, please cancel my new order for May and refund that charge too. And then, cancel my account.

Concurrently, there arose a problem of perception: On April 16, VNYL opened a brick-and-mortar location in Venice Beach, CA, prompting some backers to claim they’d been victims of a bait-and-switch scam — those subscribers believed VNYL had used a large percentage of the $36,000 of crowdfunded money not to optimize the promised “Netflix for vinyl” service, but to pay down the costs of opening a new record store.

Alt tells Stereogum that’s entirely untrue:

After Kickstarter took their cut, it left us with $32,000 to spend on what the campaign said we would — design and print amazing packaging, pay for the garage space to house all my records, and ship out all the vinyl.

The [brick-and-mortar] record store was entirely bootstrapped. When I first launched our Kickstarter, I thought VNYL would be my weekend side project … and initially, that was all I was equipped for. Having a record store in this age of digital music is so important to me because it’s a way for our customers to rediscover their love of physical music and open the doors to a whole new generation of listeners who never grew up with vinyl.

Ultimately, VNYL’s representatives did themselves no favors by being so publicly opaque about the service they were providing.

“About right” indeed! Alt eventually told Kickstarter commenters to email him directly at hello@vnyl.org rather than leave public feedback on the Kickstarter page, saying, “I don’t look at this comment board all that frequently, but I’m checking that email address all the time.”

In fact, that was the address at which Baird contacted Alt. And Baird got a reply. In the exchange, after hearing Baird’s initial complaint (excerpted above), Alt wrote:

Sorry you didn’t like the records we chose for you. Do you have any more info to give as to why? Unfortunately, we don’t accept returns on the records we’ve already sent you.

(Note the last sentence quoted there: “Unfortunately, we don’t accept returns on the records we’ve already sent you.” That obviously directly contradicts the original promise of, “Keep the [records] you love, return the ones that were eh.” However, by not accepting returns, VNYL successfully circumvent any violation of the first-sale doctrine.)

Baird wasn’t happy with the resolution as proposed by Alt, and said as much in a follow-up email: “I thought the whole point of VNYL was that it was the ‘Netflix of vinyl records.'”

This prompted a second reply from the VNYL founder:

Sorry this wasn’t what you wanted. We really do try our best on every single member, so I thought you’d like those records…

We checked out your Discogs and thought the handful we picked were ones that would be cool to have alongside your current collection. I thought for sure we nailed it for you. But I get it, sometimes we just can’t seem to zero in on your tastes. Sorry about that. We obviously want you to love what you get from us … I’m guessing there’s someone else you might be friends with who might love getting vinyl from you even if these aren’t quite your style.

To that, Baird replied:

If you looked at my Discogs and thought that Jefferson Airplane, Dan Fogelberg, and ENGLAND DAN AND JOHN FORD COLEY were albums I would like, you need to re-assess your business, dude, because it’s not working. I’m not giving those records to anyone, I’m sending them back to you and I don’t even give a shit if you give me my money back. Go pawn that shit off on someone else.

Whether VNYL could in fact “pawn that shit off on someone else” under the first-sale doctrine is a complicated matter; they’d probably be better off not trying to do so without the advisement of a lawyer. However, it remains an open question just what can be done to fairly compensate those subscribers who bought into VNYL thinking it was “Netflix for vinyl” when it would end up operating more like “Columbia House Record Club for random used/overstock albums you might find at a yard sale or storage-locker auction.” Perhaps there’s nothing to be done at all.

Team VNYL Forever. #vinyl #AbbotKinney #venice #recordstore #NowSpinning #nowopen #music #albumart #albums #vinyllove #vinylinsta #vinyllover #vinylalbums

A photo posted by VNYL (@getvnyl) on Apr 20, 2015 at 11:00am PDT

Consider this: Alt and VNYL stopped short of violating the terms of the Record Rental Amendment. Kickstarter, meanwhile, leaves due diligence in the hands of the crowd being sourced: caveat investor. Kickstarter’s terms of use note that, “There may be changes or delays, and there’s a chance something could happen that prevents the creator from being able to finish the project as promised.” As the New York Times wrote in an April 30 story (about a Kickstarter campaign entirely unrelated to VNYL): “Although Kickstarter’s terms of use stipulate that any creators unable to satisfy the terms of their agreement with their backers might be subject to legal action, no sane attorney would initiate a class-action suit on a contingency-fee basis against insolvent creators, and no sane backer would ante up the necessary legal fees.” Numerous aggrieved commenters on the VNYL Kickstarter page have threatened to report the company to the Better Business Bureau, but that seems like a dead end: If it’s hard to account for taste, it’s almost impossible to legally enforce for taste. Was VNYL acting in bad faith, or did its curators sincerely believe those records would appeal to those particular subscribers? Here’s what Alt tells us:

It fucking sucks when we disappoint our members. We honestly feel incredibly sad when a member doesn’t like what we sent. That sucks for them and also for us. It’s like you just spent all this time planning out what you think is an awesome surprise gift idea for someone and then they can’t mask the look of disappointment when they open it up right in front of you. It’s completely deflating. Unfortunately, this comes with the territory of being a human curated service.

With time, VNYL will only improve. As shitty as it feels when someone doesn’t like our choices, when we do get it right, it’s a total rush. There’s nothing more rewarding for me or our curators when we see someone tweet or Instagram their open box of vinyl and are debating which one to spin first.

In March, Alt told the Toledo City Paper that he’d received some 10,000 requests for invites to VNYL, but was proceeding slowly in filling them — partly because VNYL didn’t have enough shipping containers to meet that demand, partly because Alt wanted to “make sure we nail it for the people who got in early.” His ultimate ambition, though?

Hopefully, at the end of the day we’ve created something that didn’t exist before in the marketplace, needs to exist, and creates new [avenues] for people to experience music in a way that they want to.

He did successfully identify “something that didn’t exist before in the marketplace” — although it didn’t exist because it had been forbade by law, not because no one had ever tried to make such a thing exist. He could still, perhaps, achieve that last goal, though. The people behind VNYL could upgrade their service to eventually achieve a standard that is commensurate with their subscribers’ expectations, even if it can never be “Netflix for vinyl.” In the meantime, Venice Beach has a new record store — Rick Rubin has been spotted there! If you go there, you can hand-curate some records for yourself.

http://www.stereogum.com/1801049/vnyl-sliding-why-the-netflix-for-vinyl-service-is-such-a-mess/franchises/essay/
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  • fishmongerfunkfishmongerfunk 4,154 Posts
    Would YOU pay $12 a pop for crap albums from Toto, Pablo Cruise and Leon & Mary Russell? Ye olde editor engages a hip new subscription service that promises “hand-curated vinyl records” to its eager—and apparently young/newbie—clientele. (Additional reading: Stereogum’s “Why The ‘Netflix For Vinyl’ Service Is Such A Mess”)

    BY FRED MILLS

    Like many of you, the BLURT braintrust was excited—or, after reading the fine print, at least optimistically enthused—by the January news that a new record subscription service was preparing to launch in a couple of months, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, which would adopt some of the (wildly successful) Netflix model features —but utilizing used vinyl LPs instead of DVDs, and instead of subscribers making their own choices, have their albums picked (“curated,” in today’s misnomer-strewn parlance) by employees of the service. The classic Sub Pop Singles Club and the Vinyl Me, Please services were also cited as inspirations.

    Dubbed, somewhat minus-a-vowel cutesily/trendily VNYL (motto: “hand-curated vinyl records delivered to your door”), the service, founded by software/app developer Nick Alt, promised early backers that they would receive their initial shipments in February and the general public in March. As Rolling Stone reported at the time,

    “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. 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.”

    Founder Alt added, “The real magic that I can bring to this is the community aspect. 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.”

    Fair enough. Yours truly — who has passionately collected vinyl records since the late ‘60s, from LPs to 45s to 78s to even the stray 5” single or flexidisc (ask me sometime about the 10” flexi of Australian indie bands I curated, er, compiled in the ‘80s for rock mag The Bob) — quickly became a backer of the Kickstarter campaign for VNYL, not only feeling seduced by the possibilities but also sensing a great story about what it means to be a collector and lover of records. I pledged, put in my credit card info, then sat back and waited, having been guaranteed three free months’ worth of records (translation: nine LPs), after which I could maintain my official subscription or cancel any time.

    As an aside, there’s a good discussion about the numerous online record sub services currently operating over at The Record Collectors Guild. Titled, succinctly, “Review of Vinyl Subscription Services,” it’s mostly positive in tone, basically describing VNYL, Prescribed Vinyl, Feedbands, Vinyl Me Please and Turntable Kitchen in terms of what you get for your dough. It also hands out praise for the brick and mortar record stores that still exist, enthusing, “Enter a museum of 12″ square canvases displaying amazing artworks, each unique to the album they represent. Have a funny conversation with the cynical hipster latte sipping record store employee. Learn something, share something, find new music, re-discover old goodies, buy a brand new record, or buy 5 obscure used ones, it’s all part of the experience.”

    ***

    Part of that experience: Alt mentioned magic. Ask any practicing magician, and he’ll tell you that “magic” comprises a series of illusions that feed off observers’ need or willingness to believe what they are seeing or being told, irrespective of the objective facts.

    Today is May 13, and my first box from VNYL just arrived, postmarked April 29 and shipped via Media Mail from Venice, Calif. (The full address: 1136 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA 90291-3314.) If you are doing the math, you have probably noticed that there’s been a slight delay from the original estimation of when backers and charter subscribers would receive their initial shipments. Intriguingly, in looking at my account profile at VNYL now, it says that I joined on April 5, but it was in early January that I made my Kickstarter pledge. But that’s no problem: the VNYL folks have kept all of us regularly updated, including at least one notification of a slight delay. So far, so good.

    Worth noting: backers received an email indicating they needed to officially register and fill out a brief online questionnaire about our musical tastes in order that the VNYL staff might better “curate” our selections—for example, what categories of music we did and did not like, or the URL of our Spotify account/playlist or similar streaming services we utilize. The former was easy enough, and I faithfully documented my likes, which include indie and alternative rock, punk, classic rock, blues, singer-songwriter and more, but not classical, opera, rap and several others. The streaming-service question, however, was pointless: I don’t have a Spotify account for myself, only one that I maintain for BLURT. For that matter I don’t even need a streaming service: I have 10,000 friggin’ records in my collection and another 5,000 CDs. (Full disclosure: I’m in the process of dumping the CDs because their value is rapidly declining; nowadays you can barely get 50 cents a pop for ‘em. Meanwhile, the LPs and 45s are appreciating at roughly the same rate. Hey, Bob Lefsetz, maybe you have a blog post about this soon, hmmm?) And each time I tried to ignore that section of the questionnaire I was blocked from proceeding farther, so finally I just plugged in the URL for BLURT’s Spotify list so I could be done with it.

    Canned Heat cookbook

    I remained optimistic, and I had checked a box that suggested my initial VNYL three-LP shipment could fall under the general category of #work—I think other categories were #lazysaturday, #danceparty, #betweenthesheets and, uh, #cooking. The latter momentarily made me think of that album Canned Heat Cookbook that I used to own, and how cool it might be to have it again, but because I do most of my listening here at work—oh, did I mention that BLURT shares offices with Raleigh, NC, record store Schoolkids Records, and that I am spinning platters all day long?—it made sense to select that “work” hashtag for my category of preferred LPs for my first shipment.

    “Magic” is clearly a relative term. I suppose you could charitably say that my first VNYL batch of goodies made me feel like being on the receiving end of a slick Three-card Monte operation.

    Allow me to detail what I just tugged from my pink-interior VNYL box (displayed at the top and below), which also included a nice note from my personal hand-curator, Teal, who had affixed a photo of her smiling for the camera and clutching my records: “Hey Fred, Hope you like the records I chose for you. Love this Pablo Cruise album. Enjoy! – Teal”



    HPIM4990

    Pablo Cruise – Worlds Away (1978, A&M); hashtag #work, $12 value)

    Toto – Hydra (1974, Columbia) ditto

    Leon & Mary Russell – Make Love to the Music (1977, Paradise) ditto



    Did you get that? Toto, Leon/Mary Russell, and Pablo Fucking Cruise. Gee, thanks, Teal.

    If there is a single record store owner out there reading this right now who has any of the above listed albums in stock and they are NOT in the 99-cent bins, please tell me. Recall that I myself work in a record store, and I have worked in record stores on and off for, cumulatively speaking, nearly 20 years, for extended stints during the ‘70s, the ‘90s and, of course, the past three years during the contemporary vinyl explosion. So I know a little about vinyl. But—Lefsetz mode on here—VNYL values them at $12 apiece, at least that’s what a sticker on each plastic sleeve indicates. Jesus. There’s not a person on the planet who would pay that much for ‘em. They are titles we can barely give away at our store, sitting there in the junk bins alongside the Dan Fogelberg, Loggins & Messina, Poco, George Benson and Eddie Money albums. For $12, we have Dylan, Stones, Neil Young, Reprise-era Kinks, DEVO and the stray early Elvis Costello albums.

    HPIM4991

    Now let’s be fair: back in the day there were undoubtedly folks who cherished those LPs. The Pablo Cruise album even featured the mega-hit “Love Will Find A Way”; although the Toto album, the band’s second, was a relative flop, commercially speaking (chart monster Toto IV was still three years away), and by the time Leon Russell’s record was released, the songwriter’s hitmaking days were long behind him.

    (Caveat emptor: that bassline in the Pablo Cruise song will stick in your head and keep you awake at 4:30 a.m. unless you immediately play some Twisted Sister after it finishes.)

    But while each artist had its share of devoted fans, they’ve all since moved on, and it’s unfortunate but true that none of those albums have stood the proverbial test of time. Records from the same general era by, I dunno, Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, KISS, Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell have, however, and proof resides right here in my record store: when I get in used records by those artists, they don’t stay in the bins for long (Zep and Floyd are typically gone within 24 hours, in fact). See my above comments about our 99-cent bin….

    Pink Floyd

    As a side note, I will mention that the records were in outstanding condition, both the sleeves and the actual vinyl. That’s a plus, although it should be a given that VNYL won’t send out platters that look like they’ve been trashed, or that are excessively noisy or even skip.

    Bottom line: while I am still interested to see what my next two VNYL shipments will yield, this initial installment in the series is not all that encouraging. In fact, it reminds me of that old Monty Python skit about Australian table wines: this is a shipment with a message, and the message is “beware.” In 2015, nobody is going to their local record store and looking for records by Pablo Cruise, Toto and Leon & Mary Russell, much less willing to pay twelve freakin’ dollars for a copy. I posted a shortened account of my experience to the popular Steve Hoffman forums; below is typical of the numerous comments made.



    Ha, well….I thought the idea was odd anyway.

    Well, it’s not like first impressions count, or anything.

    My guess is VNYL owns a record store a found a new way to get rid of that old, dusty stock.

    I can only imagine weeks of dollar bin raids but who knows.



    Indeed, if VNYL expects to make its subscription business a success, it’s going to have to do a lot better than trawl bargain bins and hit thrift stores in search of “product” for the subscribers. (Intriguingly, on the VNYL Twitter page the following info has been added: “New record store at 1136 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA.”) It will also have to conduct some serious seminars in “hand curation” for its employees in charge of making selections for customers. Otherwise the negative word-of-mouth is gonna kill ‘em.

    Strike one, VNYL. Three strikes, and yer out. To be… continued?

    ***

    POSTSCRIPT: Literally as we were preparing this article to post, the good folks over at Stereogum published their own piece entitled “VNYL Sliding: Why The ‘Netflix For Vinyl’ Service Is Such A Mess”. In it, writer Michael Nelson made some observations similar to ours, particularly along the lines of my 99-cent-bin complaints:

    “VNYL subscriber Rob Baird talked to Stereogum for this story. For his #vibe, Baird told us, he chose the hashtag #lazysaturday, ‘based on [VNYL’s] Spotify playlist, which contained artists like Iron & Wine, Jack Johnson, Sufjan Stevens, Father John Misty, and Norah Jones, who I listen to regularly and are part of my record collection.’ Baird also shared with us a link to his Discogs profile. This not only helps to give you, the reader, an idea what he listens to; it was ostensibly consulted by VNYL personnel in order to help hand-curate musical selections based on his #vibe…. His first VNYL shipment included old releases from Jefferson Airplane, Dan Fogelberg, and England Dan & John Ford Coley.”

    A number of the reader comments following the story took a similar tack, like this one:

    “Damn! I thought this sounded like a cool idea and almost signed up. I ultimately decided to cheap out – and now I am so glad I did. I make enough questionable vintage record purchases without needing to pay $24 a month to get Pablo Cruise, Neil Diamond, and Kenny Loggins delivered to my door.”

    Most of the Stereogum story, however, concerned an entirely different matter, that of whether or not VNYL would be violating the Record Rental Amendment Of 1984. It appears that VNYL became aware of this at some point and had to make some small changes in its operating model in order not to run afoul of the law. Writer Nelson delves pretty handily into this and it’s well-worth reading carefully.

    He also talked with founder Nick Alt directly, who discussed that as well as some of the complaints that were starting to come in from subscribers. Among his quotes:

    “VNYL was Kickstarted as a ‘Hand Curated Music Discovery’ project. I wanted to prove you could build the best human-curated music platform there is. After the campaign, I reached out to all our Kickstarter backers and asked them to fill out a questionnaire about VNYL and their own music experiences. I was really curious — what were they listening to? What genres do they like? What don’t they like? We’re all being sold these digital streaming services, but VNYL is about doing something anti-algorithm and focused on how people experience and actually listen to music.

    “I also asked members why they backed VNYL. The vast majority (over 80%) chose to back us because they wanted to grow their vinyl collection, try a human curated service, and because they wanted to support vinyl as a medium. For a majority of our backers, the Netflix rental model just wasn’t the draw and actually created the most apprehension. Since we’re constantly making decisions around what the best user experience is for VNYL, it made sense to us to allow our backers and future members keep records they receive from us and pay us no additional costs…

    “It fucking sucks when we disappoint our members. We honestly feel incredibly sad when a member doesn’t like what we sent. That sucks for them and also for us. It’s like you just spent all this time planning out what you think is an awesome surprise gift idea for someone and then they can’t mask the look of disappointment when they open it up right in front of you. It’s completely deflating. Unfortunately, this comes with the territory of being a human curated service.

    “With time, VNYL will only improve. As shitty as it feels when someone doesn’t like our choices, when we do get it right, it’s a total rush. There’s nothing more rewarding for me or our curators when we see someone tweet or Instagram their open box of vinyl and are debating which one to spin first.”

    Well, only “time” will tell, Nick. But judging from the growing snowball that is the court of public opinion, there’s not a whole lot of time to improve and “get it right.” Remember what I said about “negative word of mouth” at the end of my original article? It’s already started, and in a big way.

  • fishmongerfunkfishmongerfunk 4,154 Posts



  • parallaxparallax no-style-having mf'er 1,266 Posts
    I caught wind of the scam a few weeks ago. People have said any negative posts on VNYL's facebook page is quickly taken down.

    I feel sorry for anyone who actually bought into this VNYL shit.

    b/w

    How's that VNLYST dude doing? Wasn't he poised to change the world with an app, or something?


  • fishmongerfunkfishmongerfunk 4,154 Posts
    vnylst dude nick alt is a sociopath:


  • vintageinfantsvintageinfants 4,535 Posts
    "And on the pedestal these words appear:
    "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
    Nothing beside remains: round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away."

  • DORDOR Two Ron Toe 9,857 Posts
    ಠ_ಠ



  • RAJRAJ tenacious local 7,711 Posts


    Everything about this picture is just wrong!

    P.S. Rinked Jeff Beck - Wired!?


  • DocMcCoyDocMcCoy "Go and laugh in your own country!" 5,921 Posts
    RAJ said:


    Everything about this picture is just wrong!

    P.S. Rinked Jeff Beck - Wired!?


    Does anyone else still do this when they find copies of Endless Flight in the bins?

  • skelskel You can't cheat karma 5,028 Posts
    Wherever the word "curated" is connected to vinyl, any discerning punter should smell a rat.
    Charlatan moves.

  • OkemOkem 4,617 Posts
    Man, I would love there to be footage of the moment they found out their whole revolutionary business plan was actually illegal. It's kinda a shame because in theory it is a good idea. In practice there was just no way it wasn't going to be a chud fest.
    I mean, $24 for three 'curated' records. The quality was never going to be high, especially if they're expecting them in decent condition. Not to mention the fact that it's damn hard to curate a quality collection large enough to fill an across the board service like this. No chance.

    It sure is a clever way to shift the giant pile of dollar bin turds they must be sitting on in their warehouse.

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,518 Posts
    Didn't he come on here and get run off in a hurry?

    Just before they went live I gave them my email.
    Or more specifically I "asked to be invited" or some such language.

    When I got my invitation it was for new vinyl and mostly new releases.
    Posted it up here somewhere.

    RE: Leo Sayer - I used to put it in the front of the bins but never see it any more. That shit is rare.

  • dukeofdelridgedukeofdelridge urgent.monkey.mice 2,439 Posts
    I've only been able to front-row a couple Sayers in this post-9/11 world.


  • GrafwritahGrafwritah 4,184 Posts
    Who is placing bets that crabmongerfunk signed up for the service?

    I think any normal person would not assume that renting/lending with a for profit service would be illegal. Particularly with Netflix and your local library as similar examples.

    There is such a wide variety of music and collectors are notoriously anal it seems like it would be hard for this to work without pissing many people off, even if it was done much better than it appears to have been.

    Also, Netflix did not function based on selling DVDs for just the monthly fee. Even at $24 that would be hard to make it work. Certainly would not work with new releases.

  • FeldmanFeldman 50 Posts
    Little dude/new jack keeping the sayer placement alive, there are times where I go through the dollar bins at my local spot and replace the same copy back up to the front multiple times over the course of a few weeks, just took a vacation down to outer banks and did it with two copies at two different spots

  • fishmongerfunkfishmongerfunk 4,154 Posts
    G-Writah said:
    Who is placing bets that crabmongerfunk signed up for the service?

    you'd lose that bet. i was skeptical in the extreme from the jump. record scams like this annoy me i guess and so do rank sociopaths like the disingenuous head dude, but what bothers me much more is that all these major news outlets touted this bullshit without even asking basic, key questions or doing any sort of due diligence or research and now they are slinking away like nothing happened.

  • dukeofdelridgedukeofdelridge urgent.monkey.mice 2,439 Posts
    At this point I'm wary of any Kickstarter crowd funding anything really. Combine it with something as crazy as paying someone to tell me what I may like?--bro U krazed

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,518 Posts
    Every kickstarter I have contributed to has been someone I know in the real world.
    Never been disappointed.

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,518 Posts
    crabmongerfunk said:
    what bothers me much more is that all these major news outlets touted this bullshit without even asking basic, key questions or doing any sort of due diligence or research and now they are slinking away like nothing happened.

    Same guys who write "records are dead, the last record store in the world (located down the street) just closed" articles. Who is the same guy who writes the "records are back there is a new record store located down the street" Articles. Child of the person who wrote in 1987 "CDs are perfect, revealing nuances that can't be heard on vinyl, plus they are indestructible and last forever" article. Not to be confused with the guy who wrote the article that said cds sound better when you run a green magic marker around the edge. He's the same guy that said that your amp sounds better if you put a specially made gold plated brick on it.

  • GrafwritahGrafwritah 4,184 Posts
    crabmongerfunk said:
    G-Writah said:
    Who is placing bets that crabmongerfunk signed up for the service?

    you'd lose that bet. i was skeptical in the extreme from the jump. record scams like this annoy me i guess and so do rank sociopaths like the disingenuous head dude, but what bothers me much more is that all these major news outlets touted this bullshit without even asking basic, key questions or doing any sort of due diligence or research and now they are slinking away like nothing happened.

    A scam would mean they intended to rip people off. Running the Kickstarter and then having to adjust for whatever factor arose in the meantime, like finding out about some ridiculous law made to placate the recording industry, isn't unusual and it isn't a scam. It's part of getting a start-up off of the ground. Could they have handled it better? Of course. They could have been upfront about the legal issues and the adjustment to their business plan. But to call the guy a sociopath is a huge stretch. In fact, I don't think you could even find a basis in the guy being a sociopath. Yeah, sure, his master plan was to tell people they could return their records when they really couldn't. After it arose about some stupid law from 1984. All to piss people off so they would cancel in the first month! What a master plan!

    Calm down buddy. The idea wasn't a bad one. Stuff happens when getting a start-up off the ground. That's what Kickstarter is for. If you want a solid, for sure, concrete business model, go to Wal-Mart.

  • RAJRAJ tenacious local 7,711 Posts
    G-Writah said:
    crabmongerfunk said:
    G-Writah said:
    Who is placing bets that crabmongerfunk signed up for the service?

    you'd lose that bet. i was skeptical in the extreme from the jump. record scams like this annoy me i guess and so do rank sociopaths like the disingenuous head dude, but what bothers me much more is that all these major news outlets touted this bullshit without even asking basic, key questions or doing any sort of due diligence or research and now they are slinking away like nothing happened.

    Calm down buddy. The idea wasn't a bad one. Stuff happens when getting a start-up off the ground. That's what Kickstarter is for. If you want a solid, for sure, concrete business model, go to Wal-Mart.

    Attached files

  • GrafwritahGrafwritah 4,184 Posts
    I've seen the pics, and yes, anyone with any knowledge of anything should be embarrassed to send out even one Glenn Miller record. I personally am waiting for a pic of someone holding a Firestone Christmas album (#danceparty).

    Good idea? Yes. Execution? Poor.

    I'm kind of curious how they had planned to source enough non-dollar bin records to fulfill their plan. Even at 777 people, if they were sending out 3 records per month to each member they would need to source nearly 28,000 records per year. I'm sure this project was much more feasible when they were assuming a large quantity would be returned and sent out again.

    Then for people to not feed swindled, they would need to be sending 3 records per month worth at least $24 retail to each person, while still being able to get them for wholesale plus cover (bulk) shipping.

    It would seem that a combination of those factors above plus the human curating part would make it very difficult to maintain much of a margin without sending out dollar bin raers.


  • fishmongerfunkfishmongerfunk 4,154 Posts
    G-Writah said:

    Calm down buddy. The idea wasn't a bad one. Stuff happens when getting a start-up off the ground. That's what Kickstarter is for. If you want a solid, for sure, concrete business model, go to Wal-Mart.

    Buddy, the idea was ultra bad (and convoluted) and it was an obvious scam from the git go. the fact that they failed to even do their homework is besides the point. for $25.00 a month they are sending out barabara streisand, k-tel comps, acker bilk and pablo cruise with disingenuous, manipulative personal notes. i don't blame kickstarter, i blame this dude and the media rubes who went all-in on the basis of some bullshit buzzwords and vague representations. the way he he has evaded the questions and charmed his way through this scam is impressive (as if he doesn't know he is ripping people off by sending them shit records that have nothing to do with their tastes). as sociopaths go, this guy is textbook.

  • GrafwritahGrafwritah 4,184 Posts
    crabmongerfunk said:
    G-Writah said:

    Calm down buddy. The idea wasn't a bad one. Stuff happens when getting a start-up off the ground. That's what Kickstarter is for. If you want a solid, for sure, concrete business model, go to Wal-Mart.

    Buddy, the idea was ultra bad (and convoluted) and it was an obvious scam from the git go. the fact that they failed to even do their homework is besides the point. for $25.00 a month they are sending out barabara streisand, k-tel comps, acker bilk and pablo cruise with disingenuous, manipulative personal notes. i don't blame kickstarter, i blame this dude and the media rubes who went all-in on the basis of some bullshit buzzwords and vague representations. the way he he has evaded the questions and charmed his way through this scam is impressive (as if he doesn't know he is ripping people off by sending them shit records that have nothing to do with their tastes). as sociopaths go, this guy is textbook.

    If the idea was ultra bad they wouldn't have been able to call it the Netflix of vinyl. Since we have a multi-million dollar company already doing something fairly similar (and successfully, at that) that alone is enough to make it not "ultra bad" as far as ideas go.

    So it ended up being a steaming mess. I'm not understanding your next level, four-posts-talking-to-yourself-before-anyone-else-posted thread, over the top conspiracy theory sand-panties madness about it. It ended up sucking, so what. So he did a Kickstarter to get it going... so what. Plenty of Kickstarters fail. Plenty of start-ups end up being crap. The market will speak, people will cancel their memberships and/or not sign up at all. I don't understand your little guy excitement over something you didn't even sign up for.

    New Coke = sociopath

  • fishmongerfunkfishmongerfunk 4,154 Posts
    man, are you ever a rube. you want to start making any more bets?

  • GrafwritahGrafwritah 4,184 Posts
    crabmongerfunk said:
    man, are you ever a rube.

    Yes, because I don't roll all over the floor about some minor business launch that failed. Oh noes, he raised $30k on Kickstarter. He could be driving a used Honda Accord right now with his ill gotten gains. What a master schemer. Next Madoff.

    If you want to toss around terms like sociopath and get all heated about the injustice of it all, go after someone who rips off orphans or scams old people in the name of charity. Some guy that gets a bunch of free press and raises money via platform used to raise money for speculative ventures and then actually rolls out the speculative venture... and it sucks... wtf? It's a shitty service, the end. Welcome to the world of commerce.

    I'm not making any more bets, mainly because it blows my mind someone would waste so much time complaining about a service they didn't even use.

  • parallaxparallax no-style-having mf'er 1,266 Posts
    Who is placing bets that G-Writah is Nick Alt?

  • OkemOkem 4,617 Posts
    Nobody, dude has been on the board since the early days.

    -

    There are other vinyl subscription services out there that are legit enough, and 'record clubs' have been around almost as long as lps. In principle the idea is sound, it's just dudes running this one are clearly clueless.
    What they're offering isn't a lot different from how parts of the secondhand record business works already, they just tried to offer it on the large scale. Plenty of djs have people who shop for them or private dealers who operate in a similar way. But that shit takes time and a lot of work to put together, you have to build up stock and then constantly replenish it with similar quality. If these VNYL dudes had done that, it may have worked, but in this day and age sourcing enough quality stock to make a large venture like this possible and for the low price point they're aiming for, it never really stood a chance. But go back 10 years or so, if someone on here with taste I trusted offered me a similar service that promised to send me 3 reasonable soul/funk 45s a month $25, I would've thought it was a great idea.

  • dukeofdelridgedukeofdelridge urgent.monkey.mice 2,439 Posts
    Frank's thoughts, please.

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,518 Posts
    I'm with CMF on this one.
    CMF called the dude out when this was in the kickstarter phase. Think it's in the AOR thread.

    "In principle the idea is sound, it's just dudes running this one are clearly clueless."
    No.
    In principle the idea is bogus. The dudes running this one are clearly scamming.




  • vintageinfantsvintageinfants 4,535 Posts
    is this or is this not the "VYNLST" project that was propped here a year ago?
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