Vinyl Me, Please has shifted Cameron Schaefer into a new role as CEO of the company that specializes in record-of-the-month subscriptions. Schaefer, who says he has been in the position for a few weeks now, has replaced founding CEO Matt Fiedler.
Fiedler will become chairman of the board of Vinyl Me, Please, founded in 2013 as a service to provide vinyl collectors and others with essential albums from a variety of genres both well known and obscure. It currently offers three different monthly subscriptions — Essentials, Classics and Hip-Hop — as well as an online record store and Anthology, a boxed-set series of different artists.
“I’ve worn a lot of hats over the course of coming up on eight years,” Schaefer says. “I started out doing all of our social media and marketing and started taking on more of the music side, both from a curation perspective as well as really starting to build out all of our music-industry relationships.”
He credits Fiedler with infusing a sense of joy about music into the culture of the company during his time as CEO. As chairman, Fiedler will be able to help the company at a strategic level but leave the day-to-day operations to others.
“I was really fortunate that (Fiedler) and our board of directors thought that I should be the one to kind of take the baton at that point,” he says. “Here I am, a few weeks into my new role.”
Fiedler explains in a release that during his time with the company, Schaefer has forged deep relationships within the music industry that have helped VMP position itself as a go-to distributor for labels and artists.
“With Cameron at the helm, we retain all the institutional knowledge that we as a company have gained over the years, not to mention the incredible passion, dedication, and excitement he has for VMP’s mission,” Fiedler notes.
Schaefer says that even though the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an uptick in people taking up vinyl collecting, it’s still been a turbulent year professionally and personally for many. Bearing that in mind, he is prioritizing maintaining stability for employees at VMP and putting together a clear and simple plan for the coming year.
“There is enough stress just in everyday life right now,” he says. “Their workplace should not be a thing that is adding even more.”
He adds that VMP is as healthy as it has ever been and seeing strong growth across its product lines, so the company is also looking to continue to expand even more in 2021. The end goal is to explore music together and bring more people along on the journey of discovery.
“Right now, most people in the world are getting their music from robots, the algorithms,” he says. “Part of the reason people come to work at VMP is because they really believe there’s still this group that loves to curate and touch and own their music.”
He believes people in 2020 are also getting into vinyl in a quest to preserve their humanity in uncertain times, when everything tends to feel flipped on its head. Knowing artists are still making music and others are collecting it helps people feel connected.
“People are potentially scared,” he says. “There’s some magic in the tangibility of a record and being able to drop the needle and have the music from that serve as this touchpoint for their humanity.”
Schaefer says that he personally loves vinyl, because it’s something you can touch. An old record might smell like someone’s basement from thirty years ago when you open up the sleeve for the first time in decades. It's a way more personal experience than just putting on a streaming service and walking away.
“Ultimately, the magic moment for me, and I think for a lot of people into vinyl, is that split second when you drop the needle on a record and that anticipation of what’s about to happen to me,” he says. “That hasn’t gotten old, and I’ve dropped the needle on a lot of records. I still love that moment.”
In case it’s not obvious, Schaefer loves his job. During VMP’s existence, he’s gotten to see the company score big gets, like vinyl releases of Fiona Apple’s Tidal and Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf. The team discovers new albums to release every day.
“We’ve always had our internal dream lists, and we’ve been fortunate over the past several years to cross a lot of albums off that list,” he says. “Two that remain high on that list are Kendrick Lamar, Section 80, and Frank Ocean, Channel Orange. Both are just albums we’ve talked about forever.”
While VMP releases music by rock stars, sometimes the company finds jewels that the average listener has never heard of. Case in point is Ayalew Mesfin, a legend of the 1970s Ethiopian funk scene, who was jailed by the communist regime in that country and forced to promise he would never make music again. Fortunately, Mesfin broke his promise and made a ton of it underground, hours of it, and later moved to Denver.
Schaefer and Eothen Alapatt journeyed to Mesfin’s apartment, and he played music for them that few had heard in decades. VMP later put out a first-ever vinyl compilation of Mesfin’s music, which had really only seen release on seven-inch singles in Ethiopia.
"We are always operating on this spectrum with VMP between lost and found," says Schaefer. "That’s a fun part of what we do. We’re kind of exploring that sonic spectrum every single day, trying to find gems.”
For more information, visit vinylmeplease.com.