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Spin Me Once, Shame on You

A few years ago I subscribed to a monthly record club, Vinyl Me, Please. It's a curated experience that includes their special monthly vinyl selection, a work of art, and a cocktail recipe meant to go with the selection. I gave myself a year subscription for Christmas. Years after leaving New York the feeling that new music was difficult to come by was continuing to grow. In NYC music just seemed to permeate the place. This was my hopeful attempt to bring music into my life that I was unlikely to find on my own. It worked for the most part. Lee Scratch Perry's Super Ape had been on my list for a while, and J Dilla's Donuts is one of those that I repeatedly believed I'd already purchased because I should have. The rest veered towards what I'll call indie rock, belonging to micro-genres I couldn't name. The only problem is that I've filed the records away and I can't remember the names of all the artists. The final record was Black Sabbath's Paranoid, at which point I decided perhaps they were not curating for me after all and chose not to renew.

I did continue to buy the occasional one-off, they've had a few really lovely re-reissues. Each time that I've made one of these purchases I receive an email the following month that they are preparing the that month's shipment. In other words they auto-subscribe me after I make a single purchase. Each time I've written back immediately to cancel the purchase, until this past month. The email came during the holiday weekend and I didn't notice until days later; too late to cancel the purchase. I was annoyed for a couple reasons. This month's selection is Biggie's Ready to Die. He, as well as Tupac, are artists that I've kinda avoided. It's a mixture of black masculinity that feels stifling and the casual misogyny that makes me more uncomfortable. Although I can't imagine it, if there were music that was asthetically appealing, viscerally compelling, and racist, I don't think I'd find myself dancing. But Biggie is hard for me not to dance to. I feel like it should revile me at times but the beats are classic and never really having listened to Biggie for more than a single at a time while dancing or spinning he’s objectively brilliant but in service of …? My way of dealing with the discomfort of knowing that the shit that should give me pause makes my ass move has just been to not buy it. But now I own it, and that's something better unpacked later.

The real problem is this auto-renewing thing; the idea that after I make a purchase I need to remember to cancel to avoid them sending the next record. They offer a three month subscription at a reduced cost, the year subscription costs even less per record. Initially I assumed that the auto-renewal after a purchase was a glitch now I think it's a feature, that serves them. I can't imagine any consumer knowing that she will want the monthly selection choosing to pay the full per record cost. It's possible but why? In the end the annoyance is familiar, it's borne from predatory capitalism. If you live in a city with a cable monopoly, you're probably familiar with the feeling. It's a form of capitalism that is responsive just enough and centers itself over the consumer. This is a relatively minor form of predatory capitalism, not like the oil companies doing all they can to halt progress on renewables as the Earth melts; or telecoms bribing local officials to stop community based internet service. I even wonder how many of their customers have been affected by this. It's striking because it's such an unexpected reminder of how pervasive this culture is that even this boutique record service is susceptible to its allure.


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