Jack White has turned the tables on eBay resellers of limited-edition records. On Tuesday, White’s Third Man Records put up its own auctions for five copies of the split-colored reissue of the White Stripes’ first album. Not only was it a compelling experiment on the economy of scarcity, but it served as a challenge to those who resell Third Man releases online at enormously inflated prices.
The auction was initially made available to members of The Vault, Third Man’s subscription-only service for exclusive offers. As negative comments began to pour in, deriding the auctions as “fan exploitation,” White himself joined the fray on The Vault’s forum to defend his mission to keep physical formats alive and create special fan collectibles.
Obviously, White would prefer that buyers pay Third Man instead of the middleman. ”We sell a Wanda Jackson split record for 10 bucks, the eBay flipper turns around and sells it for 300,” White wrote. “If 300 is what it’s worth, then why doesn’t Third Man Records sell it for 300? If we sell them for more, the artist gets more, the flipper gets nothing. We’re not in the business of making flippers a living. We’re in the business of giving fans what they want.”
As a rule, Third Man Records specializes in small-batch releases for strictly curated artists, trophies for serious collectors. However, many Vault subscribers remained dissatisfied and expressed that they did not believe they were getting their money’s worth.
“We’ve done giveaways, contests, auctions, etc. a lot of different ways for Vault members to get first crack at limited records when we don’t have to,” White said. “We do it because by being a member, you’re supposedly making a statement that you’re a real fan who wants the music, and to be involved in collecting rare and interesting vinyl. From some of these comments, I take it that a lot of you would like this to be all digital, available to anyone on Amazon.com, anytime. Boring, lifeless, lazy, and redundant. Don’t get mad at Third Man for giving you exactly what you’ve asked for. And seriously stop all of the whining, because what you communicate to us is that all of the trouble we go to isn’t worth it because nothing we do will make you happy. We’ll try to do back rubs door-to-door when we get a chance. Sincerely, the staff at Third Man Records.”
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