We Buy White Albums

The We Buy White Albums project, earlier this year from Rutherford Chang is pretty fascinating.

Chang has collected over 650 first-pressings of the Beatles’ White Album. He considers the serialized first-press, an edition running in excess of 3 million, to be the ultimate collector’s item, and aims to amass as many copies as possible. Over the course of his Session, Chang will create an archive, listening library, and anti-store to house and grow his collection of the Beatles’ iconic record.

Chang will create a record store that stocks only White Albums. But rather than selling the albums, he will buy more from anyone willing to part with an original pressing in any condition.

I like how he’s taken a precious object that is also a ubiquitous commodity and created a very traditional experience that highlights both aspects. As archaic as the original object is, it has managed to hold onto a good chunk of it’s (non-monetary) value over the decades (writing as someone who doesn’t own, has never owned, and will likely never own the White Album). It’s a somewhat retro-futurist idea, that we have retail set up to deal with one item and one item only, decades later. And more generally retro, asking what album in the last two decades could you imagine doing this with thirty years hence? Is the White Album relatively unique in being the touchstone it represents? The way we produce, market and consume pop culture has changed. What would Chang do in 2043?


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