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Columbia House is relaunching to take advantage of vinyl’s comeback

Columbia House is relaunching to take advantage of vinyl’s comeback


Iconic mail-order album service is hoping nostalgia can bring it back from the dead

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For decades Columbia House sold mail-order subscriptions for records, tapes, and CDs, before getting killed by the rise of digital music. Now it’s planning to relaunch by embracing its past and selling vinyl.

“You can see a yearning and an interest to try a new format,” the company’s current owner, John Lippman, told The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, there has been an uptick in vinyl sales — 52 percent in the first half of 2015, according to the RIAA — though they still represent only 7 percent of the music market. Ebooks also seem to have reached an equilibrium with print books rather than replacing them. However, Lippman's plan to target millennials may have trouble considering that, as the Journal points out, only a third of the demographic knows what Columbia House is.

Columbia House began in the 1950s, as part of the Columbia Records label. Its revenue peaked in 1996 at about $1.4 billion, but its fortunes changed quickly with the advent of digital music. It abandoned music subscriptions in 2010, becoming a DVD service, then filed for bankruptcy this summer. In his obituary for the company, The Verge’s Bryan Bishop called it the “Spotify of the 80s.”