Columbia House Wants to Make a Comeback By Returning to Its Vinyl Roots
Columbia House, the beloved mail-order music retailer originally owned by CBS and Columbia Records, is looking to make a comeback, and it all hinges on the renewed interest in vinyl.
Columbia House originated in 1955 as a popular mail-order service that allowed subscribers to grow their music collections, sometimes offering deals that included as many as 10 records for a as little as a buck. As vinyl was replaced by CDs, the brand shifted its model to fit with the times and the chosen format. When CDs were then replaced by MP3s, Columbia House forwent music altogether and instead focused on DVDs. It still boasts more than 110,000 subscribers.
In those 50 years, Columbia House has also shifted ownership several times, but it’s John Lippman who's looking to return the brand to its vinyl roots. Lippman, the CEO for Filmed Entertainment Inc, recently purchased Columbia House at a bankruptcy auction, and he hopes its latest incarnation can fill what he perceives to be a gap in the growing vinyl marketplace.
“For a category that is meaningful and growing rapidly, you don’t see a whole lot of choice,” Lippman told the Wall Street Journal. Lippman doesn’t want Columbia House to be an online “a la carte supermarket” for vinyl. Instead, he wants to update Columbia House’s mail-order model of old with a new take on membership clubs.
Subscribers would ostensibly receive records on a predetermined regular basis -- not dissimilar to other clubs like VNYL and Vinyl Me, Please, which send records by the month. However, there would be an important distinction: Subscribers will have “some ability to choose the records, genres of music and possibly other types of media they receive” (which has been a weak spot for some of Columbia House's could-be competitors). With that said, subscribers likely won’t receive 10 records for $1 any time soon.
“Our goal is to give consumers the ability to select music that they will love,” Lippman said.