Q&A: Vinyl Deals creator Dave Iffland developed a smart, simple way to buy records online

vinyldeals

When Dave Iffland started collecting records a few years ago, he wanted a way to make sure he was getting the absolute best price possible. So he did what any good software engineer would do: built a website that made it happen.

Vinyl Deals (www.vinyl-deals.com) searches various websites for record prices, putting them all in one convenient place. Users are able search for any album and instantly see how much it’s going for on Amazon.com and many other vendors. Has the price changed in the last few days? What was it a week ago? Vinyl Deals tells you.

The site officially launched in April 2015, and I know I’ve used it more than once since then. Iffland and I chatted about Vinyl Deals earlier this week. He told me about the site’s beginnings, what he has planned for the future, and more. Read our full discussion below:

Were you a record collector before starting the site? If so, can you tell me a bit about your collection? Any specific artists or genres you focus on? 

Dave Iffland: I started collecting records about a year before I started Vinyl Deals. My family had a big Zenith console record player when I was a kid that I always played with, but by the time I was buying my own music, CDs were becoming the main way to consume music, so I never really had my own collection of vinyl. Once I started collecting, I focused on replacing albums from my high school and college days that I used to own on CD but sold off years ago.

I’ve always been interested in brand new music. Listening to music from years ago instantly takes me back to whatever I was doing at the time that album was released, but time marches forward and I need a constant flow of new music to make new memories with. New music Tuesday used to be my favorite day of the week. Now it’s new music Friday. Right now, I’m also working on getting the discography of Delbert McClinton.

How did Vinyl Deals come about? Can you take me through getting the idea and then actually turning it into the site?

Vinyl Deals happened because I’m a programmer and programmers are always trying to make their lives easier. Before the site existed, I spent way too much time every day grazing through different sites, manually comparing prices. This quickly turned boring and became a waste of energy, especially when prices didn’t change.

Anyone that’s been around Amazon long enough knows that they change prices on everything all the time. While there were sites to alert you if a price on Amazon dropped, it was limited to Amazon. Ultimately, I wanted to know for a fact that I was getting the best price on a record anywhere, not just on Amazon. I also dreaded buying new vinyl at physical record stores; I always got the feeling I was getting screwed on price for something I could easily get online.

While I’d never built anything quite like Vinyl Deals before, I’ve built custom software and apps for 20 years, so I have the skillset to create a complicated, data-driven website. The first version of the site was built in a couple months in the evenings after work.

What has the feedback been like for the site so far? Also, have you had any interesting reactions or contact with existing online stores or record labels? 

People seem to love the site! I often receive feature requests, and the most common one is releasing a version that tracks prices for Amazon Canada. It’s coming, I promise!

The best record label story I have is that I got an email from a label executive asking me to take down a listing for a record that hadn’t yet been announced. I won’t say the artist’s name, but let’s just say it rhymes with “Zob Rombie.” Everything with Vinyl Deals is automated, so at some point, it picked up the album from Amazon. The label removed it from Amazon, but Vinyl Deals still had the link.

This was a mistake on the label’s end. The smart ones actually put their album on Amazon, but list it under a fake name. For example, Pink Floyd just had a few of their records reissued, but for a long time, they were listed on Amazon under the artist name of New. They also changed the album names, so More was hidden under the name Less. That way, it makes searching and finding it almost impossible unless you know what you’re looking for.

What’s the next step for Vinyl Deals?

I’m in the middle of rebuilding the back-end to support a lot more options. I really want to improve the search ability and the Digger feature. I think the Digger in particular has a lot of potential, because now there’s so much data to sift through. I’m really looking to add more news and review content. That’s a totally different sort of challenge and very difficult in its own way. An updated design is in the works to give more information about each release. I’ve also got a couple of ideas up my sleeve that I think will be very slick once they’re done, but I’m keeping those a secret.

Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

Vinyl Deals is really a labor of love. It may look fairly straightforward on the web site, but there’s a lot of high-tech computing running in the background. The site has given me a way to combine my passions in my own very specific way, and I use it every day. Even if nobody else did, it would still be my No. 1 destination for vinyl.

Note: From time to time, I want to use Paloozapalooza as a way to chat with people playing interesting roles in the world of music and pop culture. This was one of those times. Know anyone who may want to talk? Tell me about it! We can make something happen.

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