BMG, RIP: CD Club Stops Letting People Into Its 12-CDs-For-One-Cent Lair

BMG Music Club, the last of the old “12 CDs for a penny” clubs from the old days, which taught many a CD-crazy youngster about what a “collection agency” was back in the day thanks to its strategy for mailing its monthly selections if a card saying “I don’t want this” wasn’t promptly returned*, has stopped accepting new members, although the flack quoted by Billboard said that the club was “still very actively engaged with [its] existing member base.” (Translation: Don’t stop sending those postcards back anytime soon!)

The funny thing about the CD clubs was, of course, the way they devalued physical product way, way before the Internet came around—at least if you were smart/creative/ethically flexible enough:

# The Golden Rule
Join, Fulfill, Quit, Repeat. Do not use their so-called “special member deals”, like buy-one-at-half-price. Want more CD’s? Quit and rejoin!

BMG has a one membership, per person, per year restriction. As the restriction is per person, per year, each person at an address should be able to have one membership per year. One suggestion: while a member, use the ‘join a friend’ offer to sign someone else up at the same address. The current member, after fulfilling the membership, quits and uses the ‘friend’s’ membership. Repeat.

Please keep in mind the above BMG membership restriction when reading the next two paragraphs.

+ The stated policy of BMG and CH/CDHQ/PLAY is that they reserve the right to refuse any application. I have been a member of BMG and CH many times, a member of CDHQ once, had a CDx membership converted to BMG, and had my old CH and CDHQ memberships converted to PLAY memberships. As the clubs usually offer preferred memberships to members who have quit or allow past members to rejoin on their own, the clubs’ policy evidently is to allow former members in good standing to join, fulfill, quit (repeat) at will.

After quitting, the club might ask you to rejoin by mail and/or by phone. Be forewarned: the offers to return may not be the best offers then available from the clubs.

Ah, those were the days, when getting your music for low or no cost took work, right?

BMG Music Service Stops Taking New Members [Billboard]
CD Club FAQ: Ethical Issues []
BMG Music Club []

* Cough.

  • Jay-C

    This was the 1992 version of file sharing when I was in college…Everyone signed up for it and I still have a few of the CDs I got from it…

  • Anonymous

    Excited musician: “I just signed a big record deal!”
    Friend of musician: “Really?”
    Excited musician: “Yeah, 12 albums for a penny, and all I gotta buy is six more!”

  • Chris Molanphy

    When I look at my wall of CDs, about half of which were amassed in the ’80s and ’90s, I probably have Columbia House to thank for a measurable double-digit percentage of them. I became a black belt in Join, Fulfill, Quit, Repeat before there was a web to tell me to do so. And back then, you really could knock out two or three memberships a year; they didn’t restrict you at all.

    Also, they don’t mention this little trick above, but the extra-awesome way to Fulfill was to save your two-disc sets for the full-price portion of your membership: they sold for $20-24, yet they counted as two off your membership, which was cheaper than two single discs for $30ish. I picked up a lot of staples, like Neil Young’s Decade or similar double-hits sets, under that plan.

    I had it all down to such a science, I was paying an average of $6 a disc, in the days when CDs retailed for about $16-17 and nothing ever went on sale at retail for less than $11.

    Re: the devaluing — long before Napster, the record clubs were right up there with used CDs and home taping in the category of hot Billboard debates, with retailers griping near-monthly in Ed Christman’s column about the clubs’ evils.

  • DocStrange

    I bought 6 CDs for a penny in 2002 and barely paid them (I didn’t buy six more). The CDs I bought were:
    Phish – A Picture of Nectar (still own)
    Sum 41 – All Killer, No Filler (sold it)
    Mudvayne – LD 50 (give me a break I was twelve! – sold it)
    The Clash – London Calling (still own)
    Rage Against the Machine (sold it)
    The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks (still own)

    This is only 6 of the (at last count) 600 CDs I own (a number which excludes box sets and multi-artist compelations, which i’m sure is another 100, and singles, which brings my total collection to a near incalcuble number in the upper 900s). Most of my CDs came from my local record store Music Box, which has a fantastic used section (I picked up the Grateful Dead’s “Europe ’72″ for $8 once) and reasonable priced new releases (which got even better the summer I worked there, the same summer K-Fed put out “Playing With Fire”, which was one of the best coasters i’ve ever used).

  • Audif Jackson Winters III

    I remember there was some scuttlebutt that BMG Club versions of CDs were mastered poorly and/or somehow sounded worse that commercially-released CDs (if you notice, many had a special stamp on the back cover stating that they were pressed by BMG). Was there any truth to that?

  • Anonymous

    Regarding the inferior sound quality: I had heard about that and sampled the quality of a few BMG Club discs I owned with copies of the same albums (non BMG Club) that friends owned. The verdict…absolutely no difference.

    At one point in the 90′s I simultaneously had a Columbia House membership going and two BMG Club memberships. One of the BMG’s was obviously under a fake name and I’d just make all my payments with a money order (obviously I couldn’t use checks or the credit card that had my real name on them). Then several years ago BMG stopped the Canadian version of their club which really bummed both of us out.

    Over the years I must have rejoined both clubs (particularly Columbia House) about 12-15 times. These things were the biggest contributor to my CD library getting so large (2000+ now) and I miss the excitement of getting that initial shipment containing a dozen new discs.

    I also seem to remember some sort of griping from various artists about the royalties they got from record club sales, no to mention whether or not those sales should count towards an album’s overall sales figures.

  • jumponshipsayahoy

    I was a little more ethically flexible. I used to sign up under fake names on BMG’s website, get my 12 free, and then change the address. I ended up with 200 some odd CDs before I couldn’t select bill me later as a payment option anymore.

  • Reidicus

    Work indeed — I was with Chris at having worked the system enough to get CDs for $6 apiece. (Only fools pay $17.99, I thought at the time.)

    That said, after I got into more of the business end of music and realized what crappy deals club sales were for artists (for example, under most contracts, artists do not get royalties or credit toward recoupable expenses via club sales) I soured a bit on the practice.

    But I suppose, in the final analysis, this is a neat capsule in what’s done the industry in — devaluing the physical product PLUS screwing over the artist. Which goes a long way toward explaining why many people have no issues with grabbing all they can via extra-legal means.

  • downloadaddict

    screw all that…just join a good mp3 site and pay monthly and get limitless downloads …..I average a penny or 2 per song….I have approx. 300 GB of GOOD tracks…none of the bad tracks that usually come with a cd…lol…all hits, baby….penny a piece :)

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  • registrarr

    These things were the biggest contributor to my CD library getting so large and I miss the excitement of getting that initial shipment containing a dozen new discs.

  • Jo

    Ahhhh….those were the days, 12 CDs for a penny. I still have most of my CDs that I got both from BMG and Columbia House way back in the 90s when I was a teenager, although they are now pretty much collecting dust either in my basement or in the closet of my old bedroom at my parents’ house. Like most other people, I had multiple accounts with both BMG and CH and got a ton of CDs. I always used to get so excited when those packages would come in the mail. I kept having to buy more CD towers to keep up with my collection. Now, all of my music is on my iPod. It’s amazing how much times have changed. It has now been right around 8 years since I have bought a CD.

  • alex

    CD clubs were like the Olympics for me, every four years I ended up joining one, realizing what a hassle it was, wondering why I’m listening to the Spin Doctors and just hoping for it all to end. Yeah, it was cool the first time you got your 12 discs -but inevitably, 3 of them were filler selections, so you guys saying you’re happy at paying 6 bucks a copy, remember that 6 bucks calculates in there the crappy second Stone Temple Pilots album you never really wanted to listen to anyway. If I could even find my CDs anymore, you’d definitely see odd spikes of crappy music that came out in 1989, 1993 and 1997.

    I seriously don’t ever want to see a CD again. I’ve taken all CD racks and related junk and hid it beneath my bed. I’ve got a stack of records in my parents basement that I’ll be really bummed out when they sell the house. Other than that, all digital, none of it paid for.

  • goneal1942

    do you have a catlog that
    i can look at?

  • Yael Matsui

    This is really what I was serching for (BMG, RIP: CD Club Stops Letting People Into Its 12-CDs-For-One-Cent Lair | Music News, Reviews, and Gossip on – share).! thank you

  • J.p. Kadavi

    I belonged to the BMG CD club 2 or 3 times, & I ALWAYS made the required purchase with the initial “12 for Whatever” order. That way, I NEVER had to send the cards back!! I ended up with over 300 CDs which I never would have had if iTunes or Amazon had been around. The last time I bought a CD was in 2003!!