For his part, White is taking on James Brown's title as "the hardest working man in showbusiness." He recently opened a Nashville music complex that recalls the setup of old-school labels like Stax: recording studio in back, record store in front, office on the premises. His excitement about his new building is contagious, and his eyes brighten and he leans forward when he explains his vision for the label. And while plenty of musicians talk about their love of vinyl, White set up the Third Man store to sell it exclusively.
But not as a collector's item. "We gave all the people who attended the Third Man opening-night event 7-inches with a handmade cover that had pictures of the band," he says. "Right up until the end I was mixing the album, while behind me three people were painting and cutting up photographs and making records. We gave those to people in the record store of the Third Man building that day. We had them in white envelopes and people were afraid to open them and I was like, 'Cut those open! Play these records!'"
Besides the store and studio, the Third Man complex contains a space for photo shoots -- complete with dark room -- and an area for live performances.
"I didn't have any models when I started thinking about the space," White says. "I just kept thinking of things that I would like to have in a building and how many of them I could cram into this space I bought. The vinyl plant, United Pressing, is a few blocks away, so we're going to press everything there."
For the time being, White will be Third Man's only producer, so his aesthetic will rule. "Say a band comes to town and I see them and I like them on a Friday night," White says. "I can go in on Saturday and record them at the studio and take the masters over to the vinyl plant. We'll take the photos at the building and we can put out a record in a few weeks and the MP3s on iTunes can be out very quickly as well."
Control and creativity have always been central to White's musical vision. The White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather all release albums through Third Man. Because of the success of the White Stripes and his other projects, White is in a privileged position -- he can put together a band, fund the recording and then talk to any number of partners about making any kind of deal.
White says all the artists he signs to Third Man will have flexible deals. For example, here's White's game plan for Rachelle Garniez, a singer/songwriter and accordion player signed to Third Man: The label will press 500 copies of her album on vinyl, put the track up on iTunes and give Garniez 10% of the pressing. "She can buy more at cost from the label and take it with her to sell at shows," White says. "Maybe she'll buy 200 copies, and maybe we'll sell them out in two seconds and we'll press another thousand a couple weeks later. We'll just press them as they go. We have the ability to turn on a dime and act quickly."
Which is something White seems singularly talented at doing. After all, how many bands go from jam session to full albums so quickly?
"I learned a lot about how quickly things could be done when I did 'Consolers of the Lonely' with the Raconteurs," White says. "We released a double-album with vinyl in three weeks' time from mastering to in-stores. I loved that because from now on, no label can tell me, 'We can't do it unless it's three months or six months.' And it's like, 'Bull----, I've put out an album in three weeks.'"