Over the last year, Vinyl Me, Please has ratcheted up its game for rabid record collectors. Whether it’s the ever-increasing number of exclusive variants, the addition of their Classics subscription track, or introducing the world to mostly-unheard gems, they’re flexing these days.
That said, it all pales in comparison to their latest large project: a seven-LP box set limited to 1,000 copies, celebrating the 80th anniversary of Blue Note Records. Curated by label president and famed producer Don Was, the box itself would be a big enough deal. Blue Note is one of the premier jazz labels, and Was hand picked some lesser-known classics to give a full accounting and appreciation of its history.
“Every one of these records kinda shows artists in transition, moving to something different than what they did the album before,” Was said. “And in retrospect you can see where it aims into where they were going next. But they are all snapshots, beautiful snapshots, of a significant moment of pushing the envelope and that’s what ties them all together.”
But simply showing off these snapshots wasn’t enough for VMP and Blue Note. They wanted to create an immersive experience that hearkened back to the “good old days” of what you might call musical communalism — while also using technology to foster camaraderie.
That starts with the box itself. Instead of announcing all the titles and shipping everything at once, the announcements are staggered, and the set arrives in three bi-weekly installments that explore different eras of jazz. The physical release is then accompanied by exclusive digital materials and a four-part podcast, which features Was discussing Blue Note’s catalog and its significance from both a historical and personal perspective.
“When he was a kid, he used to talk about driving across town literally just to hold a Blue Note record in his hands,” VMP’s head of music Cameron Schaefer told Billboard. “He didn’t have [money] to buy them… And it was actually incredibly inspiring for everyone that was sitting there. He really gave one of the best treatises on why someone should listen to jazz that I’ve ever heard. So I think that was cool for us as well.”
On top of all that, VMP created a closed Facebook group for the 1,000 lucky fans who purchased the box. The group isn’t just for promoting the box set or label, either. With hundreds of posts and comments since its creation three weeks ago, the group has become a digital watering hole for heads to show off their collections, introduce one another to unheralded bangers, and deepen their knowledge of the genre through discussion.
“I’ve discovered some great albums and learned so damn much,” said a group member who wished to remain nameless. “Being able to meet people who are open to learning as much as they are educating has been huge for me. I can’t wait to see how much fun it is once all the records get here.”
While none of these pieces on their own are revolutionary — serialized box sets aren’t new, music podcasts are common, and Facebook groups are myriad — combining them to build a shared world for a small number of dedicated fans is something altogether unique. Fans clearly agreed, as sales exceeded wildest expectations.
“While we were cautiously optimistic that vinyl collectors would see the value in this type of product,” said VMP’s marketing director Matt Hessler, before admitting, “we were overwhelmed by the response and sold out of all 1,000 units in under three hours.”
The success both with sales and a community that is sui generis, Vinyl Me, Please has established a blueprint that might help move record collecting forward in its own small way amidst cultural entropy. “This first VMP Anthology release has proven that in a world increasingly moving towards streaming, there are still fans who will gladly invest in music and this industry on a deeper level,” Hessler said. “We are excited to honor that by curating more exciting VMP Anthology releases in the near future.”