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Mobbed too deep in Madison

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

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You’re looking at twenty-five (25) vinyl copies of Mobb Deep’s The Infamous… and one (1) vinyl copy of John Coltrane’s Blue World.

In November, Vinyl Me, Please—the “best damn” record-of-the-month club out there—sent me twenty (20) extra copies of these Mobb Deep LPs after I placed an order for just five of them. Apparently, VMP’s (warehouse) software had squared at least a handful of orders in what allegedly was a one-time error. While VMP typically doesn’t accept returns, a representative made it clear that the company would be asking for these records back.

Fair enough. Vinyl Me, Please puts out limited-edition pressings—in the case of the Mobb Deep record, just 1,000 copies—so if I’m getting a bunch of extra records, that means someone else out there is empty-handed. These records are available exclusively through the Colorado-based company (which also maintains an office in downtown Madison, thought most of the locally based editorial staff who used it have recently moved away), at least at first, so it’s not as if one can easily nab them from one of our fine local record stores.

Adam Block, the company’s chief financial officer, sent an email to those of us who received extra copies asking that we give up the goods. In return for our excess copies, VMP offered each of us a test-pressing of our choice from VMP’s library, a $35 store credit, and, for every record returned in “good condition,” one ticket to a raffle. As a part of said raffle, I could receive $500 in store credit, a one-year subscription to all three of the company’s subscription “tracks” (worth approximately $850) or a copy of VMP’s recently published book about record stores.

Over the course of just one week earlier in January, several individuals on the VMP subreddit received 24 extra records got 28 unordered LPs (plus a cork slip mat), and, my personal favorite, were sent 26 of the 100 copies of VMP’s exclusive pressing of the new Ainslie Wills album. Beyond these, uh, erroneous “hauls,” one user received an order with nothing in it, another had their order sent to an address in a state they’ve never lived, and many of us haven’t received our December records of the month because some customers received excess copies of records by Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and Run-D.M.C. At some point, I may have gone down a rabbit hole in my efforts to understand just where things went wrong. Then again, VMP’s shipping issues seem minor compared to the major distribution problems plaguing vinyl releases these days.

Block told me VMP wouldn’t be “disclosing” additional information, but this fiasco clearly put the company and its staff, not to mention record-club members, in a tough position. The Mobb Deep records were priced at $31 each for members. To make up for the shipping errors, get the records back, and get them sent out again to the right buyers, VMP offered to give away stuff worth way more than the records themselves. At least one individual received two extra Mobb Deep records, a total retail price of about $62 for members. Had this person somehow won a $500 store credit, the company would be out over $400.

I only took a handful of economics courses, but…that sounds like a lot of cost to choke down. Maybe that’s what it takes to buy back the goodwill of a very picky, very online customer base. And maybe, just maybe, you can’t put a price on having enough copies of The Infamous… to tile your living-room floor.



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New this week:

One of Madison’s most important independent music venues, Art In, will close at the end of February.

Madison hardcore band No Question releases its second album.

The new Canopy nightclub on Willy Street has a provision in its lease that restricts the booking of hip-hop and “urban music.”

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On the Tone Madison Podcast, three of our our film writers discuss their past year of moviegoing experiences in Madison, and their hopes for the year ahead.

Wilder Deitz and band celebrate a new album this Thursday at North Street Cabaret.

Mills Folly Microcinema presents a varied program of locally made short films this Thursday at the Central Library.

Madison trio Woke Up Crying plays Communication this Saturday to mark the release of a tough and tender new EP.

More events of note in this week’s Madison calendar.

Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Get wild. Sally Timms, Jon Langford, and John Szymanski perform “Ghosts Of American Astronauts” at Kiki’s House of Righteous Music. Madison’s Democratic Socialists of America Chapter launches its Red Madison newsletter. Art In’s final show will be an album release for Tubal Cain, on February 29.

Upcoming Tone Madison Events!

March 5: Kayo Dot, Psalm Zero, Telechrome. Communication, 8 p.m. Tickets available now, discount for Tone Madison Sustainers

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