Jack White didn't think that auctioning records online could create such a dust-up with his fans. But that's exactly what happened this week when White's Third Man Records imprint decided to auction off five limited-edition newly reissued White Stripes debut LPs on their own eBay page. The bidding on all five copies immediately went over $100 within an hour, and when the last record eventually sold for $510, certain fans got pissed and lashed out at White for ever holding the auction in the first place. Many of them were clearly upset about the prices.
Music site Antiquiet first reported on the situation a couple of days ago noting that when comments on The Vault -- TMR's online forum -- started to get increasingly negative, Jack White actually jumped in the conversation to defend the eBay auction. White alluded to the fact the move was intended to outmaneuver "flippers" who only buy limited Third Man releases to later make money off of them through eBay. As Antiquiet reported:
When a fan tried to argue that people with “more money than sense” were to blame, Jack retorted: “Or are they just paying what the going rate is?” White explained: ”We sell a Wanda Jackson split record for 10 bucks, the eBay flipper turns around and sells it for 300. 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.”
He didn't stop there. He tried to say his goodbyes but eventually got goaded into another argument with a fan. And his comments weren't so nice. After the jump, check out the full transcript of White's argument, plus a new comment from Third Man's general manager that hit the Web today.
Fan: Alright? Is this a big FU or something to vault members?! I ran home all excited to see what was going to be posted and this is it?! Seriously this is a bunch of crap. I pay my membership and have really got nothing extrodinary for it in return really?
Jack: you’ve gotten NOTHING extraordinary in return? i’d have to disagree with you, as the records you’ve received you can ONLY get with a vault membership. i won’t bore you with online content and free giveaways, and first admission privileges, etc. but are you saying you aren’t getting rare records at a price that’s at least a third of what they go for on, oh i don’t know
Fan: Well I think it’s official this is my last Vault experience. Really nothing on here worth paying for anymore. Think you get something special with a message, but it’s really just a link to fan exploitation.
Jack: fan exploitation? really? if you don’t want it, DONT BUY IT. and if you do want it, don’t act like you DON’T want it. get in line like anyone else, hunt for it like anyone else. you act like we bury them in tunnels in vietnam for god sakes, you can get one randomly in the mail if your lucky, in line at a store if you’re lucky, in your hometown if you’re lucky, etc. who is guaranteed a rare hard to find record? only vault members and their quarterly subscriptions. there’s luck in every other version.
Fan: Fuck you, Third Man.
Jack: really? you think we deserve that? would you like us to just stop making limited edition records? you would go so far as to say fuck you to us? for what? we didn’t do anything to you but give you what you want. you’re a vault member obviously, for what reason? limited records you can’t get elsewhere? would you kindly send us those records back so we can sell them to some other fan who didn’t get to have them? don’t want a split colored limited edition record? then guess what? don’t buy one. don’t want them to be expensive? then guess what? don’t WANT them. it’s you and others wanting them that dictates the price and the entire nature of the idea
make no mistake, we could make twenty thousand split color whatevers for you, and they’ll be worth 20 bucks, and you’ll pay 20 bucks for them, and you’ll never talk about them, desire them, hunt to find them, etc. why should ebay flippers, who are not real fans, dictate the price, make all the profit (taken from the artist and the label) and take the records out of the hands of real fans. there’s 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. doesn’t even get out of his car. should he be charged ten bucks or two hundred? don’t be spoiled, don’t insult people who are trying to give you what you want. last quarter every vault member got a black and blue live record. a record you’re only supposed to get if you ACTUALLY GO to a live show at third man. are you pissed about that?
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 dot 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.
As of today, Ben Swank, general manager of Third Man Records posted a long-form missive on The Guardian's music blog further defending the eBay auction as well. The premise is simple: independent record companies should be able to do anything they want to stay afloat considering how shaky the music biz is these days. And Swank has a good point. He also mentions Third Man plans to donate $15,000 from record sales to charity. It sounds like White and crew weren't going to just sit back and let online fans talk trash without replying. That's punk rock. That's online community. And that's the right thing to do.
One more thing: God bless music that you can hold.