The box set remains the ultimate collector’s item, though Vinyl Me, Please is radically updating the concept.
Box sets are a delicious deep-dive for superfans. But are they out of date?
Now, vinyl subscription service Vinyl Me, Please is tinkering with the age-old collector’s concept, and updating it for modern times. Called the ‘VMP Anthology,’ the ‘box set 2.0’ goes beyond standard items like LPs, extra liner notes, booklets and photos with exclusive podcasts and content series, as well as private fan communities.
But the real reinvention is the timing of it all. Instead of dropping a beast of a collection, the VMP Anthology spreads the experience over a six week span. That includes staggered shipments of LPs, to allow better soaking in the legacy.
“Great labels and artists can’t be summed up in a single album or quick spin. They require slow listening across a lifetime of work, in-depth storytelling, and space to think and discuss,” said Cameron Schaefer, Head of Music & Brand at Vinyl Me, Please.
“This is more than a box set really, it’s a 6-week journey for the kind of music fan that lives for the liner notes.”
The concept of spreading out a box set sounds novel, but it addresses the reality of content overload. Perhaps back the 80s and 90s, a box set buyer would spend a rainy day going through everything. But these days, it’s hard to get through a stack of LPs, booklets and coffee table books, thanks to extreme information overload and media options.
“How many box sets do you own that have unplayed albums, or albums you’ve only played once?” Vinyl Me, Please asked. “Did you actually take your time with every album, and read the liner notes, and experience the whole box set?”
You might hate answers to both of those questions.
The first VMP Anthology is ‘The Story of Blue Note Records,’ a 1000-copy limited edition that’s already sold out (though see below for details on how to win a remaining copy).
The six-week journey starts with three shipments of two LPs, each from different eras of Blue Note, considered by many to be the best jazz label of all time. But beyond the LPs, VMP recruited the participation of Don Was, President of Blue Note Records and Ben Ratliff, a Grammy-nominated jazz critic.
The Anthology also delves into the deeper jazz scene, including sub-genres like Bebop, Hard Bop, Soul Jazz, Post Bop, Fusion, and even modern jazz.
“A lot of work went into making sure this wasn’t just a collection of albums from Blue Note: we take you from Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff — two immigrants obsessed with jazz — deciding to put out Thelonious Monk records to today, when the label is still putting out albums that are moving jazz into unexpected places,” said Andrew Winistorfer, Vinyl Me, Please Editorial Director.
“The 80 years of Blue Note is an incredible story that leads to incredible music, and we tried to capture that. We did a podcast series with Don Was — who helped us narrow down the albums from each era — and Ben Ratliff’s booklet covers everything from stylistic changes to canon to the iconic artwork.”
The updated approach quickly caught traction, with fans rapidly snapping up the limited-edition release. Thankfully, Vinyl Me, Please partnered with Digital Music News to give away a few remaining copies to a lucky winner (see details below).
The quick success of the Blue Note Anthology demonstrates the continued vigor of vinyl’s resurgence.
More importantly, the success of a deeply-curated box set, complete with accompanying community and podcasting, shows that serious fans are craving serious collections.
Initially, vinyl’s resurgence was met with skepticism, especially since a substantial percentage of buyers apparently lacked turntables to play their mementos.
How long would the bubble last?
Ten-plus years later, Vinyl Me, Please is validating the existing of a serious, returning group that definitely listens to its vinyl. And, this is a crowd that probably wants a lot more curation involving other storied labels, scenes, and legendary artists.
All of that is spurring Vinyl Me, Please to repeat the formula by partnering with the musicians, entrepreneurs, and critics who were central to the movements they aim to curate. That curation process also involves connecting with the most die-hard fans, whether that’s jazz aficionados or old school hip-hop heads.
This result is obviously more than a box set: it’s a connection between creators and fans, a mini-movement that uses technologies old and new.
Indeed, Vinyl Me, Please is looking at quite a canvass of possibilities ahead. The reinvented Anthology approach can be applied to innumerable music scenes, artists, and genres. Possibilities includes earth-shattering movements like Mississippi Delta Blues and Seattle Grunge, as well as iconic superstars past and present.
Anything is fair game, with historic preservation and groundbreaking curation likely to stir up rare gems for fans. In fact, pre-release feedback from fans themselves are likely to spur these discovery-rich curation processes, which makes this concept exponentially more than a collection of dusty records.