Farewell, yourmusic.com (aka BMG Music Service)

It’s official. The website yourmusic.com, which evolved from the mail-order music club BMG Music Service, is no more. The site closed down around midnight on June 29th, 2011. This probably does not come as a surprise to anyone. As CD sales have continued to decline, many music retailers have been closing up shop in recent years. It seemed like only a matter of time before this particular enterprise would come to its end.

But, personally, I hate to see it come to its end. I have fond memories of the time when I first became a member of the BMG Music Club. In 1989, after I acquired my first compact disc player, I finally couldn’t refuse those magazine ads for record clubs which I had been seeing since I was a child. As a youngster, I remember seeing ads offering certain numbers of LP records for only one penny. My older siblings repeatedly explained to me that there was a catch: I would be under obligation to buy more records later at full price. So, I had to wait until I “grew up”. And, by that time, vinyl LP records were (temporarily, it turns out) going out of style. CD’s were the new thing, and when I came to own my first CD player, I was anxious to buy CD’s to play on it. Being the fanatical music lover that I’ve always been, I did not wish to buy just a few. When I walked into music stores, I wanted to own virtually every CD in sight! CD’s were expensive, however. They tended to cost about $15 apiece, at a time when I was used to paying less than $10 apiece for records and tapes. Joining a mail-order CD club was the best option I had at the time to acquire CD’s at more affordable prices. Columbia House was the bigger name among CD clubs at the time, but a member of my household was already a member at Columbia House. So I joined BMG. (Many years later, in 2005, BMG acquired Columbia House and merged the clubs under the BMG name).

There were almost always good deals offered through the club. The deals were usually along the lines of “buy 1 CD, get 1 free”, or “buy 1 CD, get 2 at 50% off”; there were many variations. What it basically meant was that I was able to stock up on CD’s for an average price that was lower than the prices I would pay at a music store. These deals made me more willing to take chances on artists and albums that I was curious about. The catalogues offered an extensive selection of titles, usually including recent releases, compilations, back catalogue titles, etc. It’s safe to say that my CD collection would be much smaller if not for BMG. I don’t remember how many CD’s I was required to purchase as per the member agreement, but I had no trouble reaching that number.

I remember a controversy which surrounded the BMG and Columbia House music clubs at some time in the 1990's. Other types of music retailers criticized the clubs for undercutting their CD sales, and some artists complained that they were not receiving proper royalty payments from the clubs. Both of those parties argued that the original purpose of record clubs was to service parts of the United States which did not have easy access to brick-and-mortar music retailers in earlier decades. In the 1990’s, the retailers and artists argued, the clubs were doing more harm than good to the music industry. I can remember shopping at Tower Records and seeing some CD’s advertised as “not available from record clubs”. Of course, this controversy was mild compared to the controversies which later arose over mp3’s – which, as we know, are one of the reasons why the music clubs have become outmoded.

In the late ‘90’s, the BMG club began to seem like old news to me after I started to use the internet and discovered online music retailers. Still, it was there when I needed it, and I still made purchases through BMG fairly often. In fact, their website made even more CD titles accessible for purchase, and made it easier to respond to the monthly featured selections. Being the old-fashioned guy that I am, I long resisted their offers to “go paperless” by only receiving notifications through e-mail instead of postal mail; I also continued to send payments by check through postal mail, instead of paying online by credit card.

When BMG Music Service made its transition to yourmusic.com in mid-2009, they eliminated postal mail catalogues and monthly featured selections. All orders were placed through the website, and all customers were required to pay online with credit cards. They reverted to one standard deal which rarely changed: CD’s were usually priced at $6.99, with free shipping. A very good deal, to be sure. But I usually did not find many CD’s that I was willing to purchase. That may have been due to the fact that many newer artists I was interested in were on independent labels; BMG always mainly sold CD’s by major label artists. Whatever the case may have been, the yourmusic.com experience just wasn’t the same as the BMG experience which I used to take for granted.

After yourmusic.com sent e-mails in May informing its members that the service would close at the end of June, the site held “everything must go” clearance sales, the usual price being $3.99 per CD. I was glad to be able to get in on one last great deal from the old record club. I received an e-mail today (the day after the site officially closed) informing me that the last batch of CD’s I ordered have been shipped. I’m looking forward to receiving these discs and savoring my last record club purchase.

I saw the end coming, but it’s still disappointing to see the club go out of business after I have enjoyed their service for 22 years. Thank you, BMG/yourmusic.com, for all of those great years. You will be missed.