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What is a Club Edition Record?

Britannia Music Club

Tom |

Club edition vinyl records have carved a unique niche within the world of music collectors and enthusiasts. These records offer a distinctive allure, providing exclusive content and limited availability.

In this article, we will explore what club edition vinyl records are, how customers would obtain them, and how they differ from regular vinyl records.

Club edition records refer to special vinyl releases created specifically for music clubs, fan clubs, or exclusive membership programs. These records are typically limited in quantity and designed to provide unique content to dedicated fans.

They often contain rare tracks, extended mixes, remixes, live recordings, or previously unreleased songs. Club edition vinyl records are largely not available for general retail purchase, making them particularly sought after by collectors.

U2 Club Edition Record
U2 Club Edition Record

The concept of club edition vinyl records can be traced back to around the mid-1950s when record clubs and fan clubs would offer exclusive releases to their members.

Over the years, the practice has evolved, adapting to the digital age while maintaining its essence of exclusivity. Today, club edition vinyl records are highly coveted items that offer fans a tangible and immersive experience, transcending the digital realm, yet remaining more exclusive than a regularly issued release.

Did you know?

One of the clubs we've come across is called 'Sonderauflage Sonocord'

Customers would obtain club edition vinyl records through various means. The most common way is by subscribing to a music club or joining an artist's fan club. These membership programs often offer exclusive benefits, including early access to concert tickets, merchandise discounts, and, of course, exclusive vinyl releases.

Club members receive would then these special records either as part of their membership package or as separate limited-edition offerings. Some major record clubs included 'EMI Records Club' (founded 1965), Britannia Music Club and RCA Music Service. They tended to run as a mail order or subscription service, selling records at seemingly unbeatable discounted rates.

Music clubs and fan clubs have been instrumental in fostering a sense of community among fans. By becoming members, fans gain access to a network of like-minded individuals who share their passion for a particular artist or music genre. This wasn't so much the case when it came to club edition records, however.

The Who club edition record
The Who club edition record

These subscription services have also been the source of controversy, being some of the earliest examples of subscription model businesses. Britannia Music Club, for example, locked you into several orders over a number of years where you were most likely to end up with music that you weren't overly interested in, but hopefully, something you'd enjoy too.

Club edition vinyl records differ from regular vinyl records in several key ways. Firstly, club editions were normally pressed in limited quantities separate from the standard releases, which, depending on the record club, can increase their exclusivity and value. This scarcity factor contributes to the appeal and collectability of these records.

The limited production runs of club edition vinyl records ensure that only a select number of copies are available. This exclusivity adds a sense of rarity and prestige to the records, as fans know that they are among the few who possess these unique musical artefacts. As a result, club edition records often become prized possessions that hold both sentimental and financial value.

World Record Club
Britannia Music Club​​

Secondly, club editions can sometimes feature unique or previously unreleased content. This can include alternative versions of popular tracks, live recordings from concerts, demos, or collaborations that are not available on standard releases. By offering such exclusive content, club editions provide fans with a deeper connection to the artist's creative process and a more intimate listening experience.

These records allow fans to explore a different side of their favourite artists, offering glimpses into their artistic evolution or showcasing their experimentation with new sounds and styles. Club edition vinyl records sometimes become cherished collectables for fans who crave a comprehensive understanding of their favourite artists' musical journeys.

Thirdly, the packaging of club edition vinyl records can be distinct from regular releases. They could come in special sleeves or gatefold covers, adorned with unique artwork or photographs. These visual elements enhance the overall aesthetic appeal and add to the collectable nature of the record. In some examples, the record’s label will also show unique differences from its standard-issue counterparts. BMG Music Service included artwork which specified that it was one of their releases.

Paul Simon club edition record
Paul Simon club edition record

Often, however, club edition records are difficult to distinguish from the regular releases. They would occasionally come with a different catalogue number or barcode (if pressed recently enough) or clubs like Columbia House included a blurb summarising the artist as well as details of the record club.

In addition to distinctive packaging, club editions may be pressed on coloured vinyl or include bonus items like exclusive lyric sheets, posters, or additional tracks on bonus discs. These extras contribute to the overall value of the record and provide fans with an enhanced and comprehensive music experience.

It wasn't all fun and games, however. Some of the shortcomings to becoming a member of one of these record subscription services include...

  • As these clubs were typically set up by specific labels or label groups, you were limited to music from their back catalogue only.
  • Deliveries of orders were slow, meaning obtaining new releases soon after they came out was close to impossible.
  • Despite being called a 'club,' they didn't really act as one. There was no community feel and they tended to simply be subscription services that were difficult to exit from.

Club edition vinyl records occupy a special place in the memories of music enthusiasts and collectors. While some may simply remember being locked into a subscription for music they didn't really care for, for many it will have been the path to discovering their next favourite band or genre.

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