Earlier this week, Antiquiet posted the transcript of an argument between Jack White and members of the Third Man Records subscription service, The Vault, in which a discussion over the label’s eBay auction of limited-edition copies of the self-titled White Stripes debut reissue boiled over into an all-out row between the White Stripes/Dead Weather frontman and a group of fans.
In a nutshell, some believed that the auctions exploited the loyalty of fans by forcing them to unfairly compete with the global market for limited-edition vinyl, escalating the cost of the product to over $500. White argues that by taking the auction option away from eBay “flippers” — such as “a guy who waits in a black suv down the block from third man who hires homeless people to go buy him tri colors when they are on sale” — fans are able to independently value the limited product sans middleman while giving their money directly to the label.
As you may have heard, the story went viral fairly quickly with inevitable heated discussions erupting in comment sections across the blogosphere. So today, Third Man’s Ben Swank reacted by defending his boss in a piece for the Guardian. While Swank’s defense essentially echoes the same points White made in the original debate, he does point out that the label are raising $15,000 for charity through limited vinyl auctions, as well. The real pull-quote, however, is in the final paragraph:
The industry is constantly changing. I can’t believe it’s taken 15 years for a label to start selling its own releases on eBay (even in limited numbers). We’re going to continue doing it. We’re also going to continue all the contests, giveaways, pop-up shops, random mail orders, subscription services and manufacturing of insane new vinyl products and any other ridiculous idea that strikes our fancy. Why? Because we’re American. And American’s do crazy shit for capitalism. See you in hell.
It’s undoubtedly an intriguing and somewhat unprecedented music industry debate (one which I’m a bit surprised Third Man would be involved in), though I suppose we should’ve seen it coming. In some ways we’re entering the Bizarro World of Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want “model” here.