Shortly after the coronavirus forced widespread lockdowns in March, Secretly Group’s monthly record club, Secretly Society, noticed an uptick in direct-to-consumer sales.
“As we got deeper into the spring, it became clear this was A: growing faster than I anticipated and B: growing more durably than I anticipated,” says Hannah Carlen, Secretly Society’s U.S. marketing director. By the fall, subscriptions had more than doubled.
Longtime record-of-the-month club Vinyl Me, Please has had a similar spike, reporting a 108% increase averaged between subscriptions and e-commerce since April, while Discogs recently reported its best six-month period to date. Overall, according to the RIAA’s 2020 midyear report, vinyl sales outpaced CD revenue for the first time in nearly 40 years; plus, despite the pandemic’s impact on physical retail, vinyl accounted for 62% of physical sales, up 46% from the midpoint of 2019.
Carlen believes the increase in subscriptions is a result of global lockdowns, perhaps replacing what fans would have spent on concerts. “This is another way of articulating that fandom and that enthusiasm,” she says. “I think for some people, this is a holdover in the absence of live music — and hopefully, those people become lifelong vinyl buyers.”
To help encourage new vinyl enthusiasts, Secretly Society offers a yearlong subscription (at $200 annually for U.S. customers and $300 annually for international subscribers), in addition to offerings for three and six months. The company recently added an option for subscribers with shorter terms to easily upgrade to longer memberships if they enjoyed the club.
When the club announced its exclusive Bright Eyes pressing — the only multicolor version of the band’s August release, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was — Carlen says its club numbers “went way up.” Secretly Store also offered a midtier bundle that included merchandise and a “super-deluxe bundle” with multiple formats and a registered celestial star for each buyer. Even after the three-month window of subscriptions that title would have generated, she has found retention rates to be holding steady — a positive indicator of what may come post-pandemic.
And though Carlen can’t help but wonder how the vinyl market will react to live music’s return, she’s confident growth will continue. “It has felt more a part of [an album] campaign than ever before,” she says, “and I don’t think that’s going anywhere.”