Interview: Vinyl Me, Please Founders Talk Wax, First Records + Overcoming Obstacles
Photo of Vinyl Me, Please founders taken by Q Avenue Photos.
With vinyl record sales at an all-time high in almost 30 years, the art of being a crate digger is a cherished trait to have as an audiophile. Regardless if you even have the space or not, music lovers are buying wax, collecting records and playing them for the next generation in droves. In other words, what a time to be alive, right? Whether it is Record Store Day or you stumble across that rare groove on the street being sold by a vendor, we have slipped into a state of musical bewilderment where records aren’t super-expensive or just for hipsters (as if they ever were). In these days and times, there is another avenue for those who really want to be supplied with the grandfather of CDs known as Vinyl Me, Please, a record of the month club for true wax believers.
Founded by Matt Fielder, Matt Hessler, Severan Johnson, Tyler Barstow and Cameron Schaefer — Vinyl Me, Please represents a new-age take on the lost art of record collection. How it works is that VMP features an album that is worthy of your dinero for its members. Then they work with the artist and label directly on creating a custom pressing with exclusive features that are only available to its members. Packaged with a 12″ x 12″ album-inspired art print and custom cocktail pairing recipe, the record is then sent to your doorstep where you are at, hopefully anxiously awaiting to drop the tonearm and needle. Having experienced the situation myself, I can vouch that you get more than what you bargain for by being a member.
Vinyl Me, Please has quickly become the distinguished authority on vinyl, proving that there is a homegrown market for those who love hip-hop, soul, funk, R&B, jazz and blues. No more having to pay $50 at your local Urban Outfitters to own your favorite artists’ record thanks to Vinyl Me, Please. We were blessed to speak with Tyler Barstow and Matt Fielder about the companies place in the music loving world, their most memorable record collecting moments and whether they keep their wax in plastic or play out loud for optimum enjoyment. You may not have heard of Vinyl Me, Please, but you can surely believe that this read will be worth multiple spins. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you guys are making an impact on both sides of the U.S. and possibly the entire globe. What is it that those who are vinyl collectors are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
Vinyl Me, Please: That’s a great question! In the last few years, we’ve watched our member base not just grow, but become incredibly diverse. Our community now includes everyone from music lovers who are just getting into vinyl to seasoned collectors who have pretty intimidating libraries of records. All of this is cool for us because it is living proof that vinyl isn’t just for a certain type of person or certain age group. Instead, it has become a gathering point for all sorts of people who love obsessing over music, and we’ve worked really hard to create a place where anyone can come and freak out over great music regardless of what their history with vinyl is.
It is awesome to see how well received [Vinyl Me, Please] has been so far, and we’re excited to continue growing both in the U.S. and overseas. We have quite a bit of exciting new stuff rolling out over the next six months or so that we think everyone is going to love, so stay tuned!
OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you all have overcome in your career thus far?
VMP: There are quite a few, but we’ll keep this short [laughs]. One of the main things was the whole production and fulfillment process. It takes so much work to get a record from concept to production to actually showing up on your doorstep. Since we are bootstrapped, we went through a long period where pretty much everything other than pressing the records was done by hand. Another obstacle that comes to mind was taking something that started as a hobby and watching that grow into a big business.
There were a lot of personal and professional growing pains that came with that process, and it is hard to prepare for some of those ahead of time. It is just something you just have to go through and learn from as quickly as you can while trying to keep your head above water!
OKP: What were some moments from the company’s recent vinyl collecting travels that will forever stick with you all? Why?
VMP: We had a shopping experience in Chicago when Ryan Adams‘ Love Is Hell MoFi box set was see at a Reckless Records location. They just had the cover and you had to go to the counter to get / buy the actual record. I literally jumped up, squealed and immediately brought the cover up to the desk. They searched for a few minutes, came back and said they apparently didn’t have it in stock. Heartbroken because that record was beloved, the guy at the record store called another location and they had one copy left.
I immediately jumped into a cab, went to the other location, sprinted to the counter and bought the lone copy they had. His cover of “Wonderwall” is still one of the faves of all time. Matt Fiedler, one of our co-founders and CEO, had it played at his wedding, so it is a really special record. He even checked his other bags so he could carry that record on the place to ensure that it didn’t get damaged in transit.
OKP: What was the first vinyl record you all ever purchased for yourself? Can you talk about what that record has come to symbolize for other additions you all have made to your collections?
VMP: For me, Tyler [Barstow], it was a Mac Miller record that I hadn’t listened to in years. It was an earlier record that I still go back to a lot. It was also one of the first ones [that] we featured for Vinyl Me, please, which was “Yore” by Evenings. Nathan from Evenings and I eventually became friends — he was also from Charlottesville — and I think over time that became more and more meaningful to me.
The more musicians I met that we got to work with, the more I realized how important our work was because these albums were people’s lives on wax. We’ve been gathering around storytellers in one form or another since the beginning of time and the stories behind that particular album continue to gain meaning for me. Three years out, and it is still one of my all-time favorites, so I am honored we got to work with him on it.
OKP: How can being a vinyl collector improve one’s taste in music in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists?