Jack White Fights Fans Over eBay Flipping

It’s unclear how Jack White throws himself into so many projects and still has too much time on his hands. Pissed at people who purchase Third Man special editions then auction them for higher prices at eBay, White and his label recently hosted their own eBay auction with five copies of the reissued double split-color vinyl version of the White Stripes’ self-titled first album, an edition otherwise only sold at select record stores and at White’s own Nashville TMR store. (It closed yesterday.) At the start, Third Man subscribers were given a link to an eBay page — all five auctions went above $100 each in less than an hour. Still more affordable than the $500 box set or $17,000 7″, but hey, this is when folks got angry. As Antiquiet reports:

[A] small shitstorm of comments began to erupt on The Vault, when, suddenly, Jack White joined the site’s chatroom with a handbasket-gripping introduction of “See you in hell?” and explained, quite simply, why the hell there were people paying 500 bucks for a record you have to crack open to listen to: “Supply & demand.”

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.

When Jack was pushed about the integrity of this move, he responded: “Integrity? What are we doing that doesn’t have integrity? You’re the ones telling us what they are worth.”

After bidding adieu, White returned to the page and got into another argument. Antiquiet kindly offers this transcription, which someone should turn into a one-act play.

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: 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.

Believe it or not, you can feel more of White’s ire at Antiquiet.

Comments (24)
  1. woozefa  |   Posted on Dec 1st, 2010 +18

    for the record, i think burying them in tunnels in vietnam would be great. he could send out special ‘golden ticket’ invites to certain members, fly them to vietnam, arm them with only three days worth of food and maybe a blanket. whoever gathers the most swag wins a trip back home. the rest have to live in the shit.

  2. Kudos Jack White

  3. Whoa. I think I have the original album and a bunch of 7″s somewhere in my record box.

  4. For the record, I like Jack White. I think he’s a nice guy and a very talented musician. Here’s my problem with Jack White:

    He tries to manufacture authenticity.

    He plays shitty guitars through shitty amps and purposely limits himself technologically in order to create music that is more “real”. He attempts to capture a kind of authenticity that he thinks old bluesmen had. The problem is those old bluesmen used shitty guitars and amps and recorded whenever and wherever they could out of necessity. It was all they could afford. It wasn’t a fashion statement. If Son House were around today I bet he would be using the very best equipment he could. And he certainly wouldn’t be releasing his records in limited quantities.

    In this case, Jack White is trying to manufacture rarity as well. The reason old records are so rare is because, well, there aren’t many of them around anymore. Not because there were only three hundred originally made.

    I understand his point about fans dictating the price, but if he really cared about people buying and enjoying the music then he would press more records. I think it’s silly to try to manufacture something in order to make it artificially rare.

    • I couldn’t agree more, very well said. When Skip James went in to record Hard Time Killing Floor Blues (among others), and they let him use a much nicer guitar for the recordings, he didn’t say “no thanks” and kept using his crappy guitar, he used the nicer one.

    • I can see what you’re saying about his sound, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s just something he’s going for. Even though he is influenced by loads of old blues musicians, he does have a signature sound, I think. He just likes that sound and wants to try to emulate it, much like any musician hears other musicians and tries to copy them. Often they lead to new path of creativity by trying to emulate someone else. As a pianist, I know that’s happened to me before. It’s just a style choice, and Jack has the opinion that it’s more authentic. Others might say they think that music sucks and some other style is more authentic. It’s just his choice, and he explores it…and does it well, I might add. It seems to me to reach that sound he’s trying to get, he has to be old, crappy amps and guitars. If he bought new ones, he either couldn’t get the sound he’s going for or it would most likely take him a lot of studio magic to make it happen, something he’s not too fond of.

      In terms of manufacturing rarity, you’re right that he tries to do it, but he succeeds too. I mean, I can make one CD-R of myself farting for 45 minutes and try to sell it for thousands being the only one available, but of course, no one would want that. Stuff Jack is making are things that people want, and his style of music is friendly to those older folks who grew up in times where nothing was digital. He’s a collector and he has a lot of fans who are collectors. There’s a big appeal to that lifestyle. He still releases all his records for the everyman to buy, but then he also works his butt off to try and please the collectors by making them things too, in a time when almost no other musicians are making collectible items.

      It’s not like he’s only going to release 500 copies of the new White Stripes album. If he did that, I think everyone would agree he’s gone too far. But he’s just doing this for singles and stuff. I think he’s maintained a fine balance.

      • I think it’s fine that there’s a particular sound he likes. I like it too. I’m a musician too and I love old guitars and amps and recording equipment. There’s definitely a unique sound that stuff has that you really can’t get with anything else. It’s perfectly acceptable for him to want to sound like that and use whatever equipment he thinks will get that sound. But to imply that it’s more “authentic” is ridiculous of him. In fact, I would say his music is less “authentic” than a lot of the stuff he derides as manufactured. His “vintage” fetish seems to me to be a total affectation. And that’s fine with me. Like I said, I’m a fan.

        I agree his style of music is something older people might like, but I would almost guarantee that the majority of the people buying this stuff are under 40. And I bet most of them are more music fans than collector’s. Collecting is fine but I feel like he’s just creating a artificial market. There’s no way he doesn’t know that he is the one (indirectly) driving up the prices. If was as interested in “authenticity” as he claims to be, he wouldn’t be manufacturing collectibles for the sake of them being collectible. I think he would press a cool record and share it with as many people as possible.

        By the way, comments like this are why I love Stereogum. Most sites’ comments devolve into little more than grunting and pissing matches.

        • “And I bet most of them are more music fans than collector’s.”

          collectors

          Damn it.

        • I can see what you mean about saying it’s more authentic. It’s just his opinion, though, now matter how smug it may be. But yeah, I can see how that is annoying.

          I also understand what you mean about manufacturing authenticity, but let’s not forget the context: Jack White has a lot of devoted fans. A lot of those people probably argue with each other over who is more devoted. Having collectible records that hardly anyone else has helps their case. It’s what they desire. Jack saw this and is constantly trying to appease these fans. TMR have invented a bunch of new types of vinyl records which they’ve kept pretty rare for the reason to please, really, a very small amount of people. It’s pretty noble, actually, that he would work so hard to try and do such a thing for so few. All that is to say, these people want those rare records. You can easily get the music from any of those releases online, but it’s about the actual thing, and these people want it. It gives those special fans that feeling of victory when they get it. It gives Third Man Records more revenue to keep doing that for fans in the future. Everyone is happy except the folks who didn’t get one, but worry not, because there will be another round in the near future with another record they can try to get. And those that get it will feel victorious. Jack is concerned with selling people that feeling over everything else, as to be redundant, that’s what all the Vault people want. It’s all about the hunt.

          I’m not one for that personally, much like yourself I’d assume, but I can understand the feeling easily.

    • your missing the point. He is giving his record club subscribers what they want (rare records), by not printing many and then they come back and complain because they can’t buy them for cheap. If he would just print a bunch it would defeat the whole purpose. And things aren’t artificially rare, they are rare because they are rare. And just because it is rare doesn’t mean it has any value. People decide if it has any value or not. In this case, his fans are complaining that they can’t buy something that they really want which is in heavy demand, because it isn’t cheap enough.

      And in his record club case his main concern is not people “buying and enjoying music”, it is providing them a service that record geeks like me appreciate. It is fun to collect records. Jack White already lets people “buy and enjoy his music” by buying his music digitally, on cd’s or finding it online to download for free.

      • I completely get the point and I understand record collecting. I imagine that most rare records that collectors buy are rare because there aren’t many left in existence, not because only a few hundred were manufactured. Let’s not split hairs over the definition of the word “rare’. I think you know what I meant. These records ARE artificially rare by design.

        I’m not saying he’s wrong and that the people complaining are right. I’m just saying I find the whole thing a little silly and fake. It’s kinda like going to the House of Blues. It’s a recreation of an authentic thing. In this case, buying “rare” records.

    • To be fair, White uses new guitars for The Raconteurs and Dead Weather. Custom made guitars, one of the kind guitars that he probably spent a good amount of money on. I really think he uses that shitty guitar for The White Stripes because that’s what they started with. And, for international tours, he uses Fender Twin Reverbs which certainly are not shitty amps.

      I understand what you’re trying to say, but I feel the criticism that he purposely uses shitty instruments is unfounded with all of this in mind.

      • The subscribers are already paying $20 a month. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of them to expect that might give them access to good records, not access to the chance of paying $500 for one.

        Jack White has got this completely wrong. If a record is unaffordable, most won’t pay for it, they’ll wait for the bootleg. And if the sole worth of a record is how much is paid for it, what’s that saying about his cheaper records?

        • Good point. Well now let’s work out the math shall we?

          Subscribers pay $20 a month.

          As an example let’s say there’s 1,000 subscribers right now,
          that’s 1,000 (subscribers) x $20 = $20,000 x 12 (months) = $240,000 annually

          Now to the “rare” reissued double split-color vinyl version of the White Stripes’ self-titled first album, $500 each and only 5 available, so that’s $500 x 5 = $2,500

          Well it only makes sense to keep those subscribers happy. I know there’s some overhead cost invested with having people subscribe but demand is naturally high due to the extremely low supply of only having 5 “collectible” records available.

          Word of advice, don’t piss-off your fans Mr White.

        • But they do have access to good records. Jack said that they all were a rare record for free as part of their subscription service. That’s pretty generous for $20. Plus a lot of other stuff they get in the package….

          And you’re right, most won’t pay for it if the record is not affordable. That’s why those who do get it feel victorious. It’s why they’re the people who collect rare records. The music of any of those rare records (or any rare record) can be easily obtained digitally. It’s all about the physical product.

          Concerning this: “And if the sole worth of a record is how much is paid for it, what’s that saying about his cheaper records?” It’s not about the quality of the music in this whole situation, it’s about the availability of the physical product. His most rare and expensive record/single/EP/whatever could be his worst artistically, but because he’s a musical figure people love, and some folks are love collecting everything he has, they will pay enough money and their prize is proudly claiming they have one of the only copies in the world. It’s the feeling of victory and triumph which sort of seems stupid on paper, but it means a lot to them.

          These are the people he’s trying to cater towards and who are giving them crap about it.

      • Yeah, I should have been more specific I guess. I was talking about the White Stripes mainly. I realize he uses more modern equipment in his other bands.

    • Brad you are right on and said it so more articulately than I could have, although I think Jack White and other musicians who gravitate to lesser quality gear do it for a wide variety of reasons one of which is it is just damn fun to create more with less. It does bother me when music artists, especially someone as big as Jack does create demand by making a limited edition. When you are an up and coming band and you produce your 7 inch vinyls or cassettes – those are the things that may become rare gems when those bands blow up. That is entirely different than a Jack White or a Radiohead putting out a limited pressing- AND don’t get me wrong, it is all about business and in a time when most music is traded or downright stolen, artists have to find ways to generate money. What drives me crazy is that flippers are merely business men as well and not doing anything illegal. Jack White or anyone else who puts out limited editions creates these flippers.

  5. it was just a bad idea to use ebay. that’s all there is to it.

  6. Bring it, Jack.

    BRING IT.

  7. I agree with him wholeheartedly. I’ve noticed that too many of his fans think they are entitled to products that are guaranteed to be worth more than the purchase price, immediately. The White Stripes poster collectors are a great example of this. They post items on eBay before they receive the item themselves. That has nothing to do with affection for the product, just a feeling of entitlement to the profit, which Jack is arguing should go to the artists, not the collector.

  8. I AM THE GUY IN THE BLK SUV DOWN TEH STREET!!1!

  9. Oh Karl Marx, if only you were here today!

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