“If you were stranded on an island and could only bring one album with you, what would it be?”
It’s a question any serious music fan has had to answer at some point in their life. And, in a metafictional twist worthy of a Charlie Kaufman film, many of those fans have gone on to become famous musicians themselves, creating the types of masterpieces that wind up becoming answers to the famed desert-island disc question.
Experience Vinyl honors this strange and beautiful cycle by connecting fans with their musical heroes through that most sacred of artifact: the LP. Every month, a different artist serves as the “curator.” The first step is for them to create a list of their 10 favorite albums. From there, Experience Vinyl takes the artist’s number-one record — that desert-island disc they can’t live without — and sends it to subscribers.
But what separates Experience Vinyl from other record-of-the-month services such as Vinyl Me Please and VNYL — in addition the exclusive artist curation — is the presentation. Fans aren’t just receiving a standard edition of an album available at their local record store, but a lovingly repackaged version brimming with the stamp of the artist all over it. Upon opening a vivid lavender box, subscribers will discover the record (a limited-edition pressing in most months), stickers, and — most exciting of all — a 12″x12″ booklet containing a handwritten copy of the rest of the curator’s list, an essay on their number-one record, additional content on the historical context of the record, and a track-by-track listening guide.
This gives music lovers insight into the fandom and artistry of musicians as diverse as diverse as Sean Lennon, Brian Wilson, Grace Slick, Lenny Kravitz, and Quincy Jones, all of whom will be curators for Experience Vinyl. In June, Carlos Santana steps into the role, meaning that subscribers will receive the Experience Vinyl package for his favorite album of all time, Miles Davis’ seminal jazz recording, Sketches of Spain.
“Going down each of Carlos Santana’s picks really shows what make him him,” co-founder Jake Fishbein recently told Modern Vinyl. “There’s something priceless in that,” he continues, speaking to the inimitable experience of getting to spend time walking through the ears and mind of an iconic musician.
Unsurprisingly, Fishbein and his business partner Brad Hammonds hatched the idea for Experience Vinyl while obsessing over music at another creative venture, Hammonds’ record label, Footnote Records. This was shortly after Fishbein had started working for Footnote, with Hammonds — who also plays guitar and writes in the band Hannah Gill & The Hours — having already laid the groundwork for Experience Vinyl with his Desert Albums blog.
“[I] would ask my musician friends their top-10 favorite albums,” he told Modern Vinyl. “I always wanted to turn it into something more and this was an easy extension.”
Fishbein and Hammonds’ passion as music fans radiates in everything Experience Vinyl does, even when things don’t go according to plan. For instance, with the April box, there was an issue getting curator Talib Kweli’s favorite album, Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest, pressed on a custom-colored LP. To make up for it, Experience Vinyl included the album on a standard black LP, as well as another album from Kweli’s top-10 list, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, for no extra charge.
Anyone looking to gain more insight into what makes musicians tick can join Experience Vinyl through a variety of membership options, starting at $25 per month. And with any luck, one of your own favorite artists will one day curate a list, perhaps introducing you to some new desert-island discs along the way.