Self-service vinyl platform Qrates seems to have imploded with no word to artists who utilized the service—leaving thousands of customers without vinyl they paid to receive.
Qrates promised to offer a one-stop shop for artists who wanted to sell vinyl records on demand directly to their fans. The service was founded by Taishi Fukuyama and is based in Tokyo, but over the course of 2023 the company has ghosted nearly all of its customers.
The company promised to handle all production, warehousing, shipping, and customer service for music fans—so artists could focus on making music. Qrates advertised being able to press as few copies as 100 vinyls or 50 cassettes, making it seem like an ideal approach for small indie artists. It advertised the ability to crowdfund production costs, so artists don’t have to front anything financially or buy inventory they risk not selling.
Around July 2023, Qrates reported a cybersecurity incident with their shipping company. As a result, the company stopped shipping vinyls, despite telling customers that the incident would have no impact on their ability to ship goods. Artist Jade Cicada has revealed around 200 people who purchased a vinyl from them received their record around July/August 2022. Since then, Qrates has ceased shipping for all orders.
“Qrates works off of pre-orders, long pre-orders,” one frustrated artist writes on Reddit. I put my order in January 2023 and I can no longer dispute the order with my credit card provider or PayPal.” Meanwhile, Qrates promises fans who order on the service: “Records and cassettes purchased from Qrates are carefully packed one by one in our affiliated warehouses in the U.S., U.K., and Japan in special packaging and shipped to our customers worldwide.”
The only update from Qrates is an orange banner at the top of their website that states, “We are currently suspending the acceptance of new project starts, due to maintenance work to stabilize the service.” So Qrates is not accepting new projects, but it also is not shipping products that were pre-ordered more than six months ago.
A help article from their website that was published at the beginning of December 2023 says that “orders will start shipping soon.” It notes that operations will resume in a limited shipping capacity, but there’s been no indication that people are receiving records they’ve purchased despite this notification.
Another artist has detailed their troubles in getting Qrates orders to customers. “I’m a relatively small artist who has several projects through [Qrates] and I have fans/customers that have been waiting way too long to receive their orders. The oldest order is pending from July 2022,” the artist writes.
“I have talked to other artists and they are in the same position. Customer support has been unhelpful and has blamed the warehouse for the delay and then later changed it to a ‘hacker breach’ excuse. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s hard to believe their reasoning, as it has changed over the last few months.”
American funk band Vulfpeck was left with customers wondering where their vinyls are to the point that the band switched to a different vinyl producer. “Trying to get in touch with support. No one is responding. Please check email,” the band wrote on Qrates’ official Instagram more than three months ago.
“I ordered two other Vulf records through Qrates and none of them ever came with tracking. They only took six months to ship though and I’m never ordering with them again after this experience. Glad Vulf has already moved to another company,” one frustrated user wrote on social media.
So What’s Going on with Qrates?
At this point, it’s unclear if the vinyl producer will ship all of the record orders it received in 2022. Several artists have moved their production elsewhere, while rumors abound about why the company has been so slow to fulfill orders. One rumor suggests it may be an issue with Qrates vinyl pressing partner.
“Qrates uses GZ Media as their pressing plant. GZ was well known for being a safe plant for sample-based music. Lots of vaporware artists got their stuff pressed there, for instance. Around June 2022, GZ started using AI technology to identify samples and require clearance documentation. A LOT of Qrates’ projects were sample-based music, and around the middle of this year, a lot of projects had to be mass refunded.”
While that is speculation, it could explain why Qrates seems to be having trouble shipping records for so many smaller projects.