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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 18 September 2017 at 7:21am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Share your experiences here!

Us Brits had a club called Britannia Music Club (maybe I'm being accurate when I state it's akin to Columbia House in the US). The offer was tantalizing: you signed up for a 2-year membership. Your initial offer - the hook, if you will - was something like 4-6 albums for a quid each. As part of that heavily discounted offer, you were required to buy full-priced albums for the two years of your membership.

So whilst you ended up with something like 6 discounted albums to start with, you had to buy full-priced ones for the duration of your membership. I can't remember the exact terms, I think it was something like six CDs in your first year, four or five in your second year. Once you had honoured the commitment, you were 'free' of the club.

They also had a VHS club with similar offers.

Now, no-one can argue with an initial offer of discounted albums, but the business model was a bit impractical at times. You got a club magazine every month with an editor's choice. Back before there was the internet, you had to OPT OUT of receiving the editor's choice by ticking the "do not want" box - and returning it via post. This worked. Sometimes. At other times, it did not (perhaps due to postal delays or something). On more than one occasion, I received albums I had opted out of (I always returned the opt out form the same day I received the catalogue). This did mean having to package up the album and return it, at your own expense, to Britannia.

I believe Britannia Music folded in 2007. And I'm not surprised. With the likes of iTunes and Amazon, there really was no incentive to stay with the likes of Britannia (I stopped ordering from them around 2001/02). They became, much like many businesses, victims of the progression of technology. It would seem utterly outdated today to have to return an "opt out" form to a company like Britannia. I suppose if they were around, they'd have an online form - but they'd still feel archaic in many ways.

I've heard similar stories about Columbia House. Someone I spoke to told me he used to subscribe to Columbia House's STAR TREK: TNG collection, a tape being sent every 4-6 weeks (with an amazing two episodes per tape!). In an age of boxsets and streaming, how could such a business model work?

Anyone have any views on Britannia, Columbia House, etc?

Incidentally, everyone wanted a piece of the pie back in the day. There was a Fantasy and SF Book Club, too (similar offer, 5 books discounted, but you stay with the club for 2 years and order full-priced books as part of a minimum commitment). There were numerous others: Britannia Classical Music Club, Railway Book Club, World Books, etc.


Edited by Robbie Parry on 18 September 2017 at 7:22am
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 19 September 2017 at 4:00pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Back in the 90's, I was in a cd club and the fantasy and sf book club, where you had to order a certain amount of items before you quit. 

I stayed in the cd club for a while until I decided it wasn't worth the hassle since I didn't order often enough to deal with having to send mail back to say I didn't want their latest selections. I only ordered about 5 cds besides the initial batch you get cheap, and I was in that club for about a year, maybe slightly longer.

On the other hand, the fantasy and sf book club lost my membership when I was sent several books (in one batch, not several) after I had clearly returned the cancellation (ie, do not want) form in with plenty of time to spare. I probably would have stayed a member if that had not happened.

I still have all the cds I got from the cd club, but only 1 or 2 of the books from the fantasy and sf book club. Most of the books I either donated to the library or Goodwill (before I found out they're a scam), or sold to a used bookstore. Mostly got rid of the books to save space, and about 75% of them I probably would never have read again, anyway. I wish I had held onto one of the art books I ordered, though.

*edited to add* They were a good thing, because they had great deals. But having to send forms back if you didn't want their latest selections, rather than only sending them if you did, was a pain.




Edited by Brian Floyd on 19 September 2017 at 4:02pm
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 19 September 2017 at 5:17pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Back in the days of LP records I belonged to both the infamous Columbia House Record Club and its better value follow-up, the BMG Music Service.  Columbia House had good selection but high prices and I got out of it as quickly as I could after fulfilling my obligation (something like 12 albums for a penny followed by a four or five album requirement at jacked-up prices plus shipping, though I think it averaged out to about $5 per album all told, which was a good deal at the time.)  The BMG Music Service contract in its day was a great deal so I completed my obligation then canceled then rejoined probably three more times.  I think it was 8 or 9 albums for a penny or a buck and then two at the regular prices, which were not appreciably higher than the going rates.  The problem with BMG was that I ran out of stuff I wanted to buy.

Returning those postcards was a pain but I was diligent and only once got stuck (an Alan Parsons Project record I didn't want but was tardy about canceling - what they count on!)   Otherwise, overall a good experience. 
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 19 September 2017 at 6:41pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Returning those postcards was a pain but I was diligent and only once got stuck (an Alan Parsons Project record I didn't want but was tardy about canceling - what they count on!)

***

Yes, they do count on that. Indeed!

I was pretty good at returning the slips for both the Fantasy & SF Book Club and Britannia Music. I think on one occasion, I forgot to return one for Britannia Video Club - and ended up with an exercise video released by a soap actress. Quite a pain to return that one, I tell ya.

I didn't particularly think it offered value for money (stores were cheaper on most occasions). And as time went on, I started using the likes of Amazon and play.com for my CD purchases. But one had to still return those pesky slips.

I wonder if those clubs ever went online. I left Britannia Music around 2002/03. They lasted until 2007. I would have hoped that they'd have done away with those return slips and offered people the chance to opt out of receiving CDs via an online form. 

But I guess that didn't suit their business model. If you Google "Britannia Music Video", you'll find many anecdotes from tardy people who just could not be bothered to return the items - so were left stuck with things they didn't really want. I wonder how much profit those clubs made solely out of such people.

Oh, and years ago, an American told me that he hated Columbia House because they had exclusivity on certain TV shows (he named AIRWOLF as one). Nowadays, all four seasons of AIRWOLF are available on DVD and Blu-ray, but he told me that back in the day, Columbia House was the *only* place to acquire that show, at an inflated price. I guess the likes of them going out of business was karma in a sense.
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 20 September 2017 at 8:09am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I saw the adverts for the cd and book clubs and was
tempted,but being a cynical person i guessed that the
`Full price` products would likely be cheaper at a
proper record store or book shop.Plus,me being into Prog
and hard rock i thought i`d probably struggle to find
something i fancied each month that wasn`t mainstream
pap! Plus the Editor`s Choice thing didn`t appeal to
me,for the reason`s stated(What if i was on holiday
etc?) I think i probably dodged a bullet there!
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 20 September 2017 at 8:11am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Bill, you surprise me. I expected you to have a "shopping list" of anecdotes about joining such clubs. ;-)

Must admit, a lot of these clubs hooked me at a young age. I think I'd been 18 about 3 weeks when I signed up for Britannia Music. And around 19-20 when I signed up for Britannia Video Club, Fantasy & SF Book Club and World Books.

Were such clubs starting today, they would not hook me. Too old, too wise now! 
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 20 September 2017 at 8:59am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Robbie...always read the small print! I do have lots of anecdotes,just not ones regarding music clubs! I must tell you my dwarf anecdotes some time! ;-)
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 20 September 2017 at 9:50am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I'm sorry I asked. ;-))
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 20 September 2017 at 11:53am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Truly I have one bad,one creepy and one funny dwarf
anecdote,all of them true!
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 20 September 2017 at 9:53pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Now that Rick mentioned it, it was the BMG Music Service that I got cds from. I couldn't remember the name of it when I posted before.



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James Woodcock
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Posted: 21 September 2017 at 6:15am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

I joined a SF book club and made sure that I sent the unwanted editors choice back as soon as possible.

The hook that got me in was a few expensive Star wars tomes that came in cheap. I reasoned that the saving on them would cover having to buy some books I wasn't interested in.

I ordered the most expensive books possible for that 1 initial payment!
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 21 September 2017 at 1:55pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I take it none of these clubs exist now. Or that they morphed into something else.

I used to see ads (TV/magazine) all the time for Britannia Music, World Books, Fantasy & SF Book Club. Military Book Club, Railway Book Club, Columbia House, etc.

I suspect the business model would be a "dinosaur" in 2017.
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Jozef Brandt
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Posted: 22 September 2017 at 10:30pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply


I was in the BMG music club.  When I first got a CD Changer, it was a cheap way to fill up the cartridges!  Of course I got effed when I went to college and my parents chucked the envelopes thinking that they were just ads when they would send me my mail.  I came back home to a stack of CDs I would not have ordered in a million years and some nasty bills. 
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