By adaptive - April 4th, 2016
The so-called vinyl revolution in music shows no signs of missing a beat. Consumers in the U.S. bought nearly 12 million albums in 2015, a 30 percent increase over the prior year and the most since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991.
Collectors, record fans, and even music store owners are increasingly turning to a digital marketplace to search, price, buy and sell physical music.
The Beaverton, Oregon-based Discogs has been around for 15 years, although its first app just launched in February. The company reports traffic of 20 million visitors in March
Ahead of Record Store Day on April 16, Discogs’ Founder/CEO Kevin Lewandowski talked with Robert Gray about the company’s growth, opportunities, and digitally crate-diving.
OMM: What’s the story behind Discogs and the name?
Lewandowski: It started because I was looking for a place to catalog my own drum ‘n’ bass records. Discogs is short for Discography, which is a complete collection of an artist’s work.
I started Discogs on Halloween night 2000, with the following email:
OMM: When did your app debut and are you doing in-app advertising?
Lewandowski: We launched the app at the end of February. It's mainly used by collectors who want to track their collection. Just like Discogs, the app is constantly evolving and being shaped by the Community. The app is completely free and that is without any advertising. We do not serve ads to logged in users at Discogs so why would we with the app? Our advertisers on the site could be a mom-and-pop record shop, a record label, or even a lifestyle brand.
OMM: Are you surprised by the so-called vinyl renaissance? And how much bigger do you think it can get?
Lewandowski: When I started Discogs with my own collection 15 years ago, I never thought it would get this big. We started with pretty much only Electronic music and now we cater to all sorts of music styles and genres. It’s great to see so many people rediscovering physical media. People were tired of “renting” music; they want that tangible experience. Our database just surpassed seven million releases, I hope that we eventually hit 101 million.
OMM: How much of a role has Discogs played in helping boost vinyl sales?
Lewandowski: The most collected album this past year was Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, so a lot of our users are not necessarily shopping for that brand new Adele album (the top-selling vinyl album of 2015). In fact, she doesn't crack our Top 100. If you look at totals, we sold 5.35 million vinyl records this year.
OMM: How did your sales of vinyl and other physical formats fare last year?
Lewandowski: Vinyl is the bulk of our marketplace orders. But if you were looking at CDs or even Cassettes, those are tracking more growth year over year. Vinyl was up 31% (in ’15 over ’14), while CDs and Cassettes were up 38% and 37% respectively.
OMM: How does Discogs work? How much of a commission do you take? And why is it better than just going on eBay or Craig's List to electronically crate dig?
Lewandowski: For starters, we’re cheaper. There’s an 8% fee that is collected only after you sell the item, it’s completely free to list items for sale. Next to that would be the accuracy of our data and releases. If you want the second Japanese pressing of Dark Side of the Moon you can get that EXACT copy.
OMM: What do you say to critics that say Discogs unfairly inflates prices for a larger commission?
Lewandowski: We’re a user-built database and marketplace, so we as a business don’t have any control over prices. It is a classic supply and demand model. The scarcity of an album will drive its value. One of the main ways our Community uses the site is as a price guide. If anything, that means folks are getting the best possible deal for a particular release.
OMM: What other business lines are you expanding into?
Lewandowski: I’m really excited about Gearogs! We’re still in a beta, so we’re constantly improving–listening to feedback and adding features. We hope to have the marketplace up and running there by the end of the year. We also are exploring Comicogs, Filmogs, and Bibliogs.
Similar to Discogs the mission for these are the same, to build the world’s largest database of a given item. Outside of the physical collection items, we also have vinylhub which is like Discogs but for brick-and-mortar record shops.