“Third Man Records puts a creative spin on the record store experience”
By Hannah Sparks
Photos by Rudy Thomas
If you go down to Canfield Street in the Cass Corridor of Detroit, you’ll find Third Man Records (TMR). The storefront is hard to miss with its radio tower statue atop the building, bold lettering and the black-and-yellow color scheme. The record store is the product of White Stripes singer, now solo artist, Jack White.
“The name Third Man Records comes from an upholstery store Jack used to work at called Third Man Upholstery. The black-and-yellow color scheme of our store also comes from the upholstery store,” explains Ben Blackwell, Jack White’s nephew who oversees the vinyl production at Third Man Records. His official title is “Pinball Wizard and Director of Operations.”
TMR began as a record label in 2001 and became a physical location in 2009, with its flagship store operating in Nashville. In November 2015, Third Man Records opened in Detroit.
Why have stores in Nashville and Detroit? Blackwell says it’s because White lives in both cities. “Because it’s where we’re from,” he says.
Having Third Man Records evolve from a record label into an actual store wasn’t the original objective. “It wasn’t like we had a big elaborate plan; we just threw some records into a storefront and waited to see if people would buy the stuff. We were pulling stuff out of Jack’s closet,” Blackwell says.
Going out on a whim and opening a record store has proven to be a great success for the members of Third Man Records. Katie Edmunds, manager of the Detroit store, says people should shop at Third Man over other record stores because “all of the records we carry are artists from our own label; we’re more specialized.”
Blackwell says, “TMR isn’t going to be your go-to for new records; this is a different experience. When people come into the store and breathe it in, it’s a moment of wonderment. Here, you can watch vinyl being pressed; you can literally buy a record hot off the vinyl press. There is nothing like it; there’s no comparison.”
TMR not only sells records off the Third Man Records label, they also sell lots of TMR-themed merchandise. Whether it’s a sweatshirt, a turntable or a TMR-exclusive Polaroid camera, the store has something for everyone.
Third Man Records also features a recording booth. If you’re up to the task, you can go into TMR and record your voice by stepping into the snug yellow booth, inserting some coins and recording. A few minutes later, you have your voice on a tape you can go home and listen to.
In addition, the store has something they like to call “The Vault,” which is a quarterly subscription where subscribers receive a package that includes a 12-inch record, a 7-inch record and a bonus item. Each Vault package highlights a different band. Bonus items can include never-before-seen pictures of the band and some of the band’s merchandise.
The Vault also comes with access to a chatroom, where members can talk with Jack White and the employees of Third Man Records. You can livestream special events, and you also have the advantage of ticket pre-sales. If that isn’t enough, TMR also hosts special events and has a performance stage where artists come to play. These live performances are open to the public and are later made into a vinyl that can be purchased.
“Third Man Records is about making something that didn’t exist before,” Edmunds says. “TMR is definitely in a league of its own and the first of its kind in the city of Detroit. Third Man Records puts a creative spin on the record store experience. It’s a place where people come to fulfill their love for music, and a place to inspire and explore your own creative process.” NS
Sign up for own platinum subscription to The Vault for $60 every quarter.