Box of treasures: How JJJ Vinyl have nailed customised vinyl subscriptions

Music has been a lifeline for everybody this year. From working-from-home playlists to weekend tunes, cooking songs, running tracks and virtual gigs, has there been anything getting us through 2020 more than the sounds of your headphones?

One of our favourite initiatives we’ve stumbled across is that of JJJ Vinyl, whose mystery vinyl packages have been a silver lining for music fans in lockdown. 

Co-owner Joel De’ath, who has worked in the music industry for more than two decades at labels such as Atlantic Records and Sony’s rock and metal label Music For Nations, decided to forge himself a new path alongside training to be a psychotherapist. 

So, at the end of 2019, with his business partner James Horwood, the pair began selling records from their original 500-record capacity shop in Loughton, Essex. Their collection has since grown by ten-fold and counting.

Mystery vinyl records

Following one customer’s request that Joel and James would pick the tunes out for them after dropping £100 into their PayPal, this concept of bespoke, curated customer service sparked a full-blown monthly subscription service where music fans can get sent vinyl based on Joel and James’ recommendations for as little as £20. 

"There’s something beautiful about sharing a picture of a record that you’ve just gotten through the post, on Twitter or Instagram"

The service now provides for over 70 returning music fans and it’s still growing. JJJ’s opt-in, opt-out system doesn’t rely on direct debits so the subscription service adopts more friendly and spontaneous experience, which is how JJJ Vinyl made this niche their own.

We caught up with Joel to find out more about the customised record experience as well as launching a business right before the pandemic struck. 

“There’s something beautiful about sharing a picture of a record that you’ve just gotten through the post, on Twitter or Instagram,” Joel tells us, with the majority of participants finding out about the custom record experience through posts on social media. “Some people are now on their 19th package, and they love it and then they love the people they meet on Twitter also doing it; there’s just this real positive community.” 

Seeing others land a goldmine online does most of the marketing for them and Joel emphasises that the true power behind the initiative is the impact on how this has affected people, giving them a little glimmer of excitement during this difficult time.  

“I think the two things that have really driven the vinyl resurgence are Discogs and Instagram,” Joel answers a question we pose on how vinyl is making such a comeback. “It makes it more than just about the music, all of a sudden there was a tangible platform where things can be catalogued and collected, with a kind of Pokemon cards feel to it all.” The excitement around getting one of your favourites, or a mint first edition, is something that keeps even the most casual collector coming back for more.

Influencer gifting

Through influencer gifting on social media, JJJ Records has also effectively reached a younger audience than the average record collector. 

“What do you send the person that really loves modern pop music when all our stuff is indie or prog?” says Joel, “it poses challenges but then you’ll realise they’ll dig a nice 70’s pop record, and say in the letter that you will see a lot of influence in Billie Eilish or Lana Del Rey and they enjoy it!” And more often than not, they do. “They say they like Yungblud, we’re going to send them Rio by Duran Duran.”

"We are temporary custodians on these beautiful sound vessels... we hold on for it for a short amount of time before we can find a home where it will be equally loved"

The process behind curating these picks goes further than just checking a customer’s Discogs and asking what their likes are (as well as dislikes) and the size of their current collection. 

“From learning who someone doesn’t like, you can get just much of a sense about who they are. And if they say I own 25 records, then we’ll throw a classic in there, I’m gonna throw in Moondance by Van Morrison. If they’ve got 2000 records, we’re going into the more obscure white labels or a little promo 7-inch.”  

We asked what Joel loves specifically about records. “We are temporary custodians on these beautiful sound vessels that are often made 20, 30, 40, sometimes 50 years ago. You know it’s been loved by someone, and they’ve given it to someone else and then we hold on for it for a short amount of time before we can find a home where it will be equally loved.” 

But even if you end up with an accidental repeat, you can always make a profit on Discogs. “Because we don't have a lot of space so our model is, in and out, we keep on having a flow of records. Our two three and four pound sections in Soho would go for way, way more than that.”

As far as the physical shop goes, JJJ Records has recently opened back up for scheduled visitor slots though probably the best way to go about finding what you're looking for is to join their WhatsApp group. 

“When we buy a collection of records, even before I've even gone through it myself I'll film a video going through the records, and I'll put them on a private WhatsApp group that has 200 members and myself.” 

From there it’s first come, first serve, but if you’re quick then you can find yourself the perfect gift for either a loved one, or yourself. 

Click here to find out more about JJJ Vinyl