Where Next For Third Man Records? Our Predictions: London, Austin and...Malta?
Jack White has always had his hometown Detroit's back, whether that means building baseball fields, paying off the debts of the local Masonic temple or—in this case—opening a new location for his Third Man Records. The rocker made headlines all over the nation yesterday when he announced that his label would be opening a new retail store (with office space) in Michigan, expanding from its current headquarters in Nashville.
The expansion certainly begs the question...does White have aspirations to turn Third Man's retail arm into a chain? Everyone knows that vinyl sales are continuing to rise, and no name has more sway in the world of there format than White and his label. Not only does the imprint release original albums, it's also responsible for some of the coolest packaging in the business.
It got us at Music Times wondering, where is he likely to expand to next? Here are five cities that may be the next place to open a Third Man Records location (hint: New York City ain't one of them. White noted recently that he dislikes the city strongly).
We might argue that no performer on the modern music scene is more American than White—born and bred in the rock 'n' roll stronghold of Detroit and a devotee of the blues—yet if White himself had to choose, he might opt for something across the pond when expanding his label (or looking for a new home). There's no question that he appreciates the musical history of the UK's largest city far more than he does that of the United States. He proved his love for the city by playing an elaborate show in the city shortly after the release of Lazaretto during 2014, staging a false quarantine where he played a variety of songs-some new, some from his previous act The White Stripes, some blues covers-before being removed by an ambulance (also part of the show). He also has love for the city thanks to his long relationship with XL Recordings, stretching back to the Stripes' White Blood Cells. He wouldn't need to worry about running into ex-wife Karen Elson either (she hails from Manchester, not London). The Hard Rock Cafe has taken off after being founded in London...maybe some time in England will help out Third Man as well.
This might not seem like the most logical locale for another Third Man Records store...after all, the original is in Nashville, a mere 212 miles across the state of Tennessee. That said, the musical histories of the two cities are greatly varied. Although Nashville occupies the role of "Music City U.S.A.," and White has made no secret about his adoration of country music from performers such as Loretta Lynn, there's no denying that his true musical home is within the blues, and it's tough to find a city that's more rooted in the blues (as well as the earliest strains of rock 'n' roll) than Memphis. Performers such as B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf may not have been born in the state, but they headed up to Beale Street in downtown Memphis to cut their teeth as performers (the stretch also plays home to a park named after W.C. Handy, the man attributed with the invention of the genre as we know it). Sun Records—which broke Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison—is located in the city. Another iconic studio/record store would certainly find a home here.
This is the one entry on this list that we came to out of strictly-financial reasoning. One has to imagine that White will eventually need to move Westward with his brand if he chooses to make it into a chain. We considered several options on the coast, however Los Angeles (although not openly hated by White as New York is) just doesn't seem much like his scene, and Seattle is already well covered by Sub Pop, perhaps the second coolest creator of album packaging (with Third Man being the first). Portland seems like it could serve as a happy home for White's brand, but we're giving the first nod to Austin. White has always been especially on-point when performing in the alt-rock capital of Texas, and it also shares his noted eccentric nature. "Keep Austin Weird" is one of the city's unofficial slogans and White could easily contribute to that cause.
The Three Cities
Does it make any sense at all, from a financial perspective, to open up a Third Man Records retail store in Malta? No. But, as we mentioned with the whole "Jack White is eccentric thing," the guitarist is not totally against doing irrational things. One of the most noted curiosities that White has is his fascination with the number three. It was the inspiration for the name of his record label and has been cited numerous times across his discography. Thus it might make sense that he open up a store in "The Three Cities," a region in Malta consisting of the cities of Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea. Or maybe he should just open a store abroad a boat in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. We're not putting anything past him.
There's more than just Jack White's eccentric nature behind this suggestion...but we'll start with that. The guitarist and lover of recording history, has shown particular interest in Paramount Records, one of the first labels to begin producing jazz, blues and other "race records." He and Third Man teamed with John Fahey and Revenant Records to produce several volumes of Paramount's discography on vinyl and other formats, totaling more than 800 recordings. That label was founded in Grafton, WI as part of the state's once burgeoning music industry...so white could be inspired to resurrect the recording industry just north of Milwaukee. There's a good reason financially as well. Chicago has a healthy music industry of its own just down the shore of Lake Michigan...labels such as Touch & Go and Drag City could use a relatively nearby pressing plant.