On the Record With Cameron Schaefer of Vinyl Me, Please (INTERVIEW)

Since being founded in 2013 by Matt Fiedler, Tyler Barstow, and Cameron Schaefer, Vinyl Me, Please has rode the wave of the vinyl resurgence while also deserving their fair share of credit in playing a role in it. Even as streaming music platforms continue to grow in popularity and CDs go the way of the dinosaurs, vinyl has a certain kind of appeal that speaks to the increasing desire for experiences over products. It also happens to be a super cool product though too. This is especially true for Vinyl Me, Please, which bridges the gap between experience and product by releasing a special limited edition album every month and shipping it to the door of subscribers. As the service has grown, the offerings have too, with the company dropping highly limited pressings of music collections from legendary artists and labels. Most recently they  released a 7LP anthology to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Blue Note Records, and the 1,000 copies they pressed sold out in three hours. This summer they will follow it up with a 10LP box set celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, complete with tie dyed vinyl. We recently caught up with Cameron Schaefer, Head of Music & Brand at Vinyl Me, Please, to talk about the the label’s anthologies, working with Blue Note, and what it takes to give eager music fans an exciting release every month.

You recently partnered with Blue Note Records to celebrate their 80th anniversary. How did that partnership come about?

When thinking with whom we wanted to partner with on the launch of our newest VMP Anthology product, Blue Note Records immediately came to mind. We knew they were celebrating their 80th anniversary this year and after discussing with their team, we felt that a VMP Anthology offering could compliment their efforts in telling the story of their incredible label, while also offering a really unique experience for the jazz community.

How did you even begin curating 80 years worth of material?

It was a very fun process collaborating with Blue Note’s President Don Was. We asked Don for some of his favorite albums from the catalog – stuff that hadn’t been reissued recently, but also records that represented major moments of transition for the label and for jazz as a whole. He came back with 12 titles, two from each era of jazz. Our team then narrowed that list down to six. We then dug into why each album and discussed each’s significance with Don, which we turned into a four-episode podcast that is now available as part of the VMP Anthology: The Story of Blue Note Records experience. That was definitely one of the more memorable music moments for all of us involved.

What role did Don Was and Ben Ratliff play in the whole process?

Don played the role of co-curator and historian. No one has a deeper passion for the label than Don and it was an honor getting to work alongside him. Ben wrote the liner notes that we turned into a beautiful 12 x 12″ booklet, which acts as an excellent companion piece that comprehensively lays out the context for each of the albums contained within the box set.

You’re also putting out a massive Woodstock set for their 50th anniversary. Where did this idea come from and were there challenges to making it happen?

The Woodstock 50th Anniversary box set idea was presented to us by the label, Rhino Records. We were honored they offered it to us exclusively and worked with them on the creative process for the box design and the vinyl colors. Like the Blue Note Anthology release, this was an instance where we wanted to make sure we were honoring a really significant part of music history. The music, of course, speaks for itself so we just had to design a package that pays homage to the culture and then get out of the way.

For people that may not know or are just curious, can you give some behind-the-scenes insight on how you select records to release each month?

We are deeply committed to human curation, especially in the age of algorithmic discovery. Human curation allows for serendipity, or unexpected discoveries, which we believe produce the most joy for us as music fans. When deciding what albums to pick we ask ourselves three questions: Do we want it in our own collections? Can we tell a real story? And how will it look in a 10-year timeline? That’s the magic recipe.

Do you have a record pressing plant that you work directly with?

We work primarily with GZ, QRP and RTI.

Is there an album that you dream about releasing?

Several actually including Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs For the Deaf, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, and Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn…, to name a few!

Can you share you top 5-10 desert island discs based on just the VMP collection?

Ha, no, it’s too hard to pick your favorite children!

Photo credit: Matt Hessler

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