By day, Dane Erbach is an educator of curious minds, teaching high school English (specifically, creative writing and journalism) in suburban Chicago. By night, Erbach is, well, also an educator of curious minds, operating not only punk-centric indie label Jetsam-Flotsam with his wife Emily, but also Table-Turned, a budding vinyl subscription service with a unique twist.
Founded on New Year’s Day in 2016, Table-Turned differs from the likes of established record clubs like Vinyl Me, Please or VYNL in that subscribers receive one genre-specific album each month for a year. To clarify, Table-Turned doesn’t license nor press records, rather they purchase stock directly from various record labels, working in tandem to curate genre-based packages. (Erbach quantifies Table-Turned as “a vinyl subscription service for people who still love listening to music on vinyl, as opposed to just being a vinyl collector.”)
Table-Turned’s fourth run will consist of a year’s worth of post-hardcore and/or shoegaze revival releases culled not only from longtime indie stalwarts Equal Vision and Polyvinyl, but “several other incredible independent record labels.” If you’re questioning as to why you should plunk down $15 per month not knowing exactly what you’re going to get (the shoegaze revival is listed “for fans of Nothing, Pity Sex, and My Bloody Valentine,” but that’s merely gateway verbiage, not a guarantee), Erbach’s answer lies in the lure of the unknown.
“I hate reducing it to this, but I like the idea that in some ways we can be the Pandora for vinyl,” he says, although is quick to add, “I’m not selling Table-Turned that way at all. But this notion that if one of these bands strikes your fancy, if one of these genres is something that you’re really into, then you’re not gonna know what other records you’re gonna get here; but that’s part of the appeal—getting surprised each month. Just like when you’re listening to Pandora, the next song that pops on might be a band that you know and like. You might end up getting a band and liking it, and [thinking], ‘Dang, I don’t have this on vinyl.’ Then the next song might not be one by a band you know, but all of a sudden, it’s a band that you might find yourself liking, and on a record label that you might find yourself exploring. I think that’s sort of the idea that we have. I don’t like to think of VNYL or Vinyl Me, Please as competitors because, honestly, I think most of our subscribers subscribe to them, too. I think what they’re not doing that we’re trying to do is really get people to explore the music that they already like.”
Looking at Table-Turned’s brief history, there’s little to worry about as far as quality is concerned. Erbach has worked with labels as diverse as 6131, Spartan, Temporary Residence, Relapse, and Constellation. He developed industry connections via years of blogging, music journalism, and bio writing, but still had his doubts about cashing in those chips. “You kind of have that star-struck syndrome [at first]: ‘Ah, they wouldn’t want to work with us. We’re just a bunch of hopeful DIY entrepreneurs trying to put something together.’” Erbach confesses. “But then you realize they are, too. That’s where they started as well.”
While it’s nice to collaborate with kindred spirits, Table-Turned provides a viable economic opportunity for small labels to reignite interest in releases that may have disappeared into the black hole of the internet. “If our subscribers put their faith in Table-Turned,” Erbach suggests, “we’re contributing to the fix of helping labels put records in the hands of the people that should’ve had them all along.”
While Table-Turned’s first three packages were intriguingly idiosyncratic (in order, emo revival and/or pop-punk, grunge and/or post-rock; noise-rock and/or Americana); there’s no rhyme or reason to each pairing (subscribers have a six-month window to sign up for one, the other, or both).
Erbach began by picking genres that he was most familiar with, but eventually consulted his subscriber base for ideas, which is how post-hardcore and shoegaze revival came about for round four. As a means of incentivization Table-Turned is on the cusp of incorporating supplementary goodies like slipmats and T-shirts (download codes are always included), and already issues a “birthday month record” on the down-low—usually an EP, 7-inch, 10-inch, or 12-inch. (For the post-rock package, Erbach worked with Temporary Residence to make the birthday surprise Slint’s untitled 10-inch EP.)
As for the future, Erbach postulates, “We’re edging closer to hardcore and metal. I think we’re edging closer to an indie-pop kind of thing. It’s hard to cut through the noise of the internet. If I spend money on music each month, I want to know it’s going to be music that I love. That’s what we try to provide.”