This vinyl rental service is the middle ground between Netflix and Columbia House

January 7, 2015

Blockbuster served an invaluable purpose to the 90s ‘kid. Before VOD, OTT and DRM, it was where you went to find something to watch, or for gamers, play. In its early years, Netflix went one step further, pioneering a mail-order DVD service that allowed the consumer to rent and watch at their own leisure: Mail it back when you’re done, at which point you’re free to rent another.

Of course we know that eventually the dream died and now, here we are, with our Roku’s and Apple TVs and Chromecasts finding new, innovative ways to watch 21-year-old episodes of Friends. But just because the mail-order content delivery system can’t work for video anymore doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for music. At least that’s what the people behind VNYL are hoping.

Like a mix between early-Netflix and Columbia House—y’know, minus the hidden fees and clerical errors—it allows users to pick records, get them in the mail, then return them for the next batch when you’re ready. If you really dig what you’re hearing, you can buy the album for about $12.

It’s an optimistic idea, but on paper, there are some problems. One of the major pluses of vinyl is the collecting aspect. Sure, they’re great to listen to, but also, sometimes, a little tedious. But the kicker is that unlike CDs, you’ve got this big, beautiful square to hold onto. It looks great on your shelf, better in a frame and, if you’re that kind of person, perfect for an Instagram. VNYL, while clever, seems like a fair bit of work just to listen to an album when we’ve got things like Rdio and Spotify at our disposal.

It’s also not practical, in that vinyl isn’t the easiest to take care of. It scratches easily, especially if your turntable isn’t properly set up or you’re using one with weighted, ceramic needles, and it’s also got to be stored, shipped and packaged properly. Blockbuster made it work because cassettes were, in spite of themselves, relatively indestructible and, as the DVD-era ushered in, pretty replaceable.

Of course we wish VNYL the best, even though it likely won’t make its way to Canada, but our optimistm is cautiously coloured. [h/t A Journal of Musical Things]

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