Tuesday, November 30, 2010

White Stripes: Jack White defends eBay auction of rare vinyl

What should be another cool week in the life of Jack White turned a little nasty Monday, as the White Stripes frontman and record entrepreneur found himself in a heated debate with fans.

As we told you a few weeks back (see “The White Stripes reissue first three albums” here), today marks the first of three consecutive Tuesdays where fans can pick up long-overdue reissues of the first three LP’s by The White Stripes, courtesy of White’s Third Man Records.

Out-of-print in North America since 2005, TMR put the utmost care into presenting these records in the best way possible; in addition, fans have the choice of snagging standard black vinyl copies or limited edition double-colored vinyl.

Available this week is the 1999 self-titled debut of "The White Stripes.” TMR offered five copies of the limited edition double-cored vinyl for sale via eBay auction, which ticked off fans who have a paid membership to TMR’s “The Vault” – a social networking and product subscription service for the label.

Within an hour, all five copies were over $100 on eBay. White’s eBay sale was designed to thwart “flippers,” people who buy rare records cheap and sell them for (often) huge profit; in the process, some fans turned against White and questioned what, exactly, were they getting in return for their paid membership in “The Vault.”

Aware of the nasty comments being posted by fans on his site, Jack stepped in and spoke directly to the issue at hand: “nobody told them to buy it with a gun to their head,” responded White. “Or are they just paying what the going rate is? 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.”

When questioned about the integrity of the auction angle, White answered “You’re the ones telling us what they are worth.” Jack further reinforced the theory behind limited-edition releases, and that fans always have the choice of picking up the standard black vinyl copies of TMR releases.

With thanks to Antiquiet, here’s a transcript of some of the discussion:

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 extraordinary 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 ….ebay?

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: F*** 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 f*** 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?

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. 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 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.

We’ll see if this debate heats up again over the next two weeks, as split-color and black vinyl reissues of “De Stijl” and “White Blood Cells” follow on December 7th and December 14th, respectively.

White Stripes – The Big Three Killed My Baby (1999)