How Third Man Records became the "face for vinyl"

Stephen Whiteside

Third Man Records is a music label/retailer that focuses on vinyl. And, in doing so, it has built a distinct brand through a willingness to champion anyone from auctioneers and clown rappers to deceased astronomers.

Founded by musician Jack White in 2001 – initially with the goal of reissuing recordings by his band, The White Stripes – the company now runs retail stores in Nashville and Detroit. Over the last seven years, it also has released 350 titles on two million pieces of vinyl. And if Third Man cannot match the major labels in terms of scale, it is a chart-topper when it comes to capturing – and, frequently, creating – the zeitgeist.

"We're a good face for vinyl," Ben Blackwell, Chief Archivist/Third Man Records, told delegates at BRITE '16, a conference held by the Columbia Business School's Center on Global Brand Leadership. "No one really looks at Sony and says, 'Man, they're doing so many great vinyl things.' It's so big, it is hard to get a feel for them. But for us: we do small; we do interesting; we do craft things"