There might not be anybody more passionate in the music biz than Jack White. Forget the fact that he’s in numerous bands (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and who knows how many collaborations with other artists), on more than one occasion this guy actually displays his tough Detroit roots and fights for his music.
A vicious row sprang up between White and fans, who are members of the subscription service (which is called The Vault) of the record label he runs called Third Man Records. Being a member affords a fan special offers, music, releases, etc. These folks were upset that a limited edition vinyl reissue of the debut White Stripes album was sold by the label through eBay as opposed to directly through the label’s website, thus driving the price up on the open market.
Jack took to the label’s chat room and had it out with a couple of fans, and before you know it the thing was viral. Here’s a transcript of some of the back-and-forth as first posted by Antiquiet:
For nearly every TMR release, there’s an accompanying rare special edition. White’s voracious international fanbase spends batshit crazy amounts of money for these gems as soon as they hit eBay, fueling a black market ruled by “flippers,” record scalpers snatching up every triple-colored vinyl for quick, fat profits.
Yesterday, Mr. White decided to turn the situation to his advantage (if not the fans’), altering the dynamic of music profiteering in the process. Rather than challenge the futility of attempting to blockade the rampant inflation, he shifted the goods himself and stiffed the middleman.
Paid subscribers of TMR’s The Vault were directed to an eBay page with open auctions for copies of the limited edition vinyl version of the self-titled White Stripes reissue. Within an hour, all 5 auctions were above $100 each
The simple nature behind all the profiteering on eBay is that people pay as much as they can for a record they want. As Jack said, “nobody told them to buy it with a gun to their head.” The records are expensive because the fans make them expensive. 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.”
Jack later returned to the site and responded further, directly to reader comments, in a fiery exchange which you can read below, in all his unedited lowercase glory. Further below, read his closing comments on the matter.
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 ….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.
There’s much more than that, even..and it’s an entertaining read. Antiquiet has much more of the transcript here.
Then today, Third Man issued their official statement on the matter, more or less siding with the guy who signs their paychecks.
The music blog Twenty Four Bit did a nice piece on the aftermath, which can be found here.
And for anyone who just plain likes White Stripes music, here’s a track from their debut record which was the subject of this online scrap with the fans: