The main way I got music in my teen/college years was the BMG record club, although I got them on cassette. You would eventually get eight tapes for the price of one; even when you factored in the high shipping of $3 a tape that was a huge saving. Everyone seemed to rip on these clubs however. A lot of people seemed to get unwanted product, though the few times I got something I never ordered it was easy to send back. Although I dropped out in 1999 when the club went all CD (I didn’t have a CD player until 2003), I still have all the tapes. Did you belong to a record club and what do you remember about them?
Didn’t participitate, but certainly remember them! I’m 33, FWIW.
I joined several times over a few years, I think there were two main companies that did this. I finally quit when I couldn’t even pick out any of the 10-13 free CD’s that I wanted. And the negative option sucked, only because the CD of the month that would ship if you didn’t reply was almost always a crap CD (I wanted to hear new music, so getting Jackson Browne’s greatest hits as the selection of the month just blew). It would have been nice, even valuable, if they selected CD’s that were good. Pre-internet, finding new music you liked was a bit more of a challenge than it is today.
There were exceptions. The Polygram ‘Jazz Like You’ve Never Heard It Before’ compilation was (is) a gem and still one of my favorites 20+ years later. I only ever saw it as a club offering. It was one of my free picks, not a selection of the month.
Yep, I did BMG in the 90’s and got a ton of CD’s. Still have most of them. I remember they were identical to what you’d get in a music store, except for a little rectangle on the cover somewhere that identified it as from the BMG club.
In the mid-2000’s, I got a boatload of DVD’s via the Columbia House DVD club. Same kind of deal as the music clubs.
The trick to the clubs is knowing how to work the system to minimize your cost-per-disc. There are whole websites out there devoted to explaining the best ways to do this. I probably joined, canceled, and rejoined the DVD club about ten times so I could keep getting the “8 for 1” deal. You also plan your “fulfillment” purchases carefully so you don’t pay a penny more than you have to by waiting for free shipping offers and box set sales.
Nowadays, I almost never buy CD’s (don’t really listen to music that much anymore) and I only occasionally buy blu-rays since I can watch almost anything via Netflix on disc or onine.
Anyone remember the goofy "secret of the six circles" promotion they did?
As a way to boost interest they started showing TV ads telling people how you could get an extra record by writing its number in the six circles at the bottom of the order form. There was nothing written about it on the form itself so it seemed like it was a bonus for those paying attention. Just a gimmick really as they advertised the hell out of it on TV. Even used that loud pitchman who did the Crazy Eddie commercials in the late 70s-early 80s.
Yeah, I remember record and book clubs. The selection of the month nearly always sucked, and I hated the negative option.
In about 1971, one of the record clubs gave a lot more records if more people joined at once. And there was no minimum purchase. Our dorm hallway went in together, and we got an amazing number. That promotion didn’t last very long.
The old Science Fiction Book Club is still around.
I did it in the '90s. I still have some CDs buried in my closet with the “Direct from BMG Music Service” marker on the back of them.
Musical Heritage Society is still going strong.
I joined/quit/rejoined the Columbia and RCA/BMG clubs several times from the early 1970s until about 2000. Not sure if I ever saved money, the postage and handling on even the half priced sales added up. Of course since for most o the time one club couldn’t license another’s artists. I think once when Bruce Springsteen (Columbia) had a throwaway song on some movie album for a third company, RCA was able to carry it and announced on the cover of the envelope/brochure “Bruce Springsteen!”. They wanted to make you send in the card to not get the main selection but once you bought the minimum,you could pressure them to changing the terms so you had to select before they would mail it to you.
I dropped out of the History Book Club last year because I wasn’t getting around to reading them and books are much easier on an ipad. They keep sending me “please come back” emails every six weeks.
I remember the Record Club of America, which was the best deal around: they never automatically sent you a record. All others would send you a notice of that month’s selection and you had to mail back a card to tell them not to send it (and bill you). RCA just sent out a monthly newsletter with everything a great prices. Shipping back in 1971 was only 40 cents. They did charge a $1 “membership fee” in the beginning, but you earned that back and more simply by making the first order. Records were $1.99 for specials and $2.99 for new records at a time when they were $4.99 in the stores and $6.98 at the Columbia Record Club.
Once, when I complained that I hadn’t received an order, they resent the record to me for free. (I later discovered the original order arrived a few days after the complaint, so I had two copies). The only issue was that the pressings were often cheap; once I got had a skip (luckily, it was the record I got two copies of).
They went under in the mid-70s. I suspect the fact they did not send out unordered records had something to do with it; also, some attorneys general thought the “membership fee” was fraudulent for some reason (once you added it and shipping to the original order, it was still an incredible deal – something like $1.99 each for up to ten albums).
In books, the Book of the Month Club is still going strong (as is its subsidiaries: Quality Paperback Book Club and History Book Club).
I did both Columbia House Canada and BMG Canada in the late nineties, and built up the core of a basic CD collection with them. (I didn’t own a CD player until 1997 or so.)
I like to think I was pretty smart with them - got my freebies, made sure to send in my own picks, got out once I’d finished my membership requirements instead of sticking around for additional months.
I did. It was a rip. You got the free stuff, but if you slipped up and misplaced the return slips, you got stuck with a crappy title and paid more than you would have in a store.
Those record clubs. The first nine were only a penny…but then they jacked up the price!
I joined at various times both Columbia House and BMG. The initial offers were sometimes just too good to turn down, and if you played it smart you could fulfill your obligation quickly and get out ahead.
I’d forgotten all about record clubs until this thread. I got all my worst albums this way, due to not sending back the ‘I don’t want the selection of the month’ card in time.
Still, it was exciting getting the club magazine every month, reading it and trying to decide which record (and this was back in the days of LP records) I wanted to buy.
I forget the sitcom, but one guy was trying to impress a girl:
“I just signed a great deal with a recording company!”
“Yeah - I get 12 albums for a penny…”
I did Columbia House and BMG both. You literally taped a penny to the return card for the first 10 or 12 or so CDs. Then I think you just had to buy one per month over 6 months or so at their regular price, which was about $15. It really was not a bad deal.
I was a member of BMG for years. One day a friend at work gave me a scrap of paper with a secret customer service number where I could opt out of the selection of the month…permanently.
Believe it or not, it did exactly what he said it would. I received the mailings for years, but on the card where they normally said “return card by this date” they Xd out the whole section.
And I bought plenty of good CDs from them at my own pace.
To this day, this was one of my favorite secret tricks that actually worked.