The Record Clubs. Subscribe and get an endless supply of music.

Discussion in 'Radio' started by scotrace, Nov 16, 2017.

  1. scotrace

    scotrace Head Bartender Staff Member

    Small Town Ohio, USA
    Anyone remember the record clubs?
    You'd get a mailing, offering a subscription service from one of the major record labels. I specifically remember Columbia House, but there were others.

    You would accept the subscription offer by return mail, agreeing to buy a certain number of records within a given amount of time, perhaps a year. Then you would receive a shipment of record albums featuring some of the better known performers that month, along with some clunkers. Keep what you want, send the rest back. Same deal the next month, and the next, etc.
    They were banking on the pain-in-the-butt factor involved in shipping record albums back, and that you would forget to do so by the deadline, resulting in an invoice.
    It was also a way for recording companies to get rid of stocks of lesser known artists.
    Books were also sold this way, among other things.
    Today, it's razors, gourmet ingredients, and surprise boxes. Same basic concept.

  2. scottyrocks

    scottyrocks I'll Lock Up

    Isle of Langerhan, NY
    Yes, I did the record club thing once after months and months of kicking it around. I was almost instantly regretful. Getting to the post office in time to get the unwanted records back in time was a complete PITA, and I hate pressure.
  3. 3fingers

    3fingers One Too Many

    I did it with books. I had to return a postcard before a certain date or receive the book. I think their return mail involved a tortoise since I sometimes received the book after dropping the card back in the mail the day it was received. I cancelled as soon as my obligation was complete but still had a time trying to rid myself of them. Never again no matter the product offered.
    scottyrocks likes this.
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    They got the concept from the world of stamp collecting -- it was very common for stamp dealers in the Era to run ads in comic books and pulp magazines offering "This Exciting Packet of World Stamps For 10 Cents," but if you didn't read the fine print you missed where it said "and other fine stamps on approval." "Approval" meant "buy what you like and send the rest back," but a lot of kids got stuck because they didn't understand what the ad meant.

    A lot of kids got stuck on these record club deals as well -- "Get 10 Great Albums for One Penny" was a great deal, and after a few too many kids sent in their penny without realizing what they were signing up for and their parents complained, the ads started including "OFFER LIMITED TO AGES 16 AND UP" or some such phrasing at the bottom of the coupon. Columbia House was a subsidiary of Columbia Records, which was a subsidiary of CBS -- and it always annoyed me that a giant megacorporation with nothing but money felt the need to go after clueless teenagers with shady marketing gimmicks. RCA, another giant megacorporation with more money than ethics, also got in on the game with their "RCA Victor Record Club," which worked the same way.

    There were companies in the Era that sold records by direct mail to niche markets that might not be served by mainstream record dealers -- the most famous being the Hot Record Society, which distributed repressings of many important early jazz records to aficionados of "le jazz hot" starting in 1937 and continuing well into the forties. Many of these reissues came from the Columbia/ARC vaults, and it's possible that Columbia's observation of the success of this venture might have suggested the later project.

    vitanola, 3fingers and scotrace like this.
  5. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

    Gopher Prairie, MI
    The record club idea probably started with Bill Seltsam's International Record Collectors Club, which he originated in 1931.




    LizzieMaine likes this.
  6. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The amazing thing is that there are still enthusiasts today having custom re-pressings made of early 20th Century opera records as vinyl 78s These are said to sound even better than the originals, but I haven't encountered any so can't confirm if that's so.
  7. vitanola

    vitanola I'll Lock Up

    Gopher Prairie, MI
    I have quite a number of such original master pressings which were jointly commissioned by my father-in-law and his friend Aida Favia-Artsay. Mostly early piano accompanied celebrity vocals. These vinyl pressings can be a revelation.

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