The Archive, Still Unsold
August 20, 2008 1:25 PM   Subscribe

The Archive. A short film by Sean Dunn and Ed David. "The world is dead out there. They have their ears closed. They don't understand what's going on at this moment. It's gonna take them 10, 15, 20 years to wake up and realize what they missed." Nobody has more records than Paul Mawhinney. He's ready to sell the whole thing for 6 cents on the dollar of their worth. 3 million records for $1 each. And nobody is buying. (Previously on Mefi.)

And if your heart doesn't start cracking around the 6 minute mark, then heaven help you.

(Found via OkayPlayer via NahRight.)
posted by grabbingsand (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A thing is worth what someone will pay for it.
posted by Class Goat at 1:29 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

And in most cases, not even that.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:44 PM on August 20, 2008

How do you even listen to that much music?
posted by owtytrof at 1:49 PM on August 20, 2008

I'd think that selling it piecemeal would be the way to go... that many of anything is a little overwhelming.
posted by Huck500 at 1:57 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd like to see this auctioned at Christie's complete with freestyle mc.

"Ay-yo I slayed emcees back in Philly Phil / Ay-yo, ay-yo... do I see 1 milly mill?!"
posted by basicchannel at 2:04 PM on August 20, 2008

How do you even listen to that much music?

You will never be able to listen to that much music in your whole lifetime. But you can think about potentially being able to listen to all these records and feel great.
posted by daniel_charms at 2:04 PM on August 20, 2008

He could sell them if he broke them into sections and approached various libraries and museums.
posted by clockworkjoe at 2:16 PM on August 20, 2008

If you rented the climate-controlled warehouse space necessary and built the appropriate storage units and hired a staff of researchers and supervisors to sort through the stacks to find anything with a collector's guide value of over $20, putting aside anything worth over $1,000 for auction...

...Well, you might be able to make enough back to justify the effort, assuming you had $3M lying around to indulge in a pursuit that will probably earn less than a more conventional investment scheme. And had landfill ready for the 80% of the collection with too small a market value to be worth a resale effort.
posted by ardgedee at 2:19 PM on August 20, 2008

The problem is usually not whether somebody could find institutions that are interested in the valuable or historically important recordings. The problem is that there probably aren't any institutions willing to pay for the chaff they'd come with or afford the effort necessary to warehouse and sort them.
posted by ardgedee at 2:22 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

You will never be able to listen to that much music in your whole lifetime.

I reckon million LPs would take roughly 75 years to listen to if you went at 24/7 365
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:32 PM on August 20, 2008

Those of you from around the world should note that this fellow has a textbook Pittsburgh accent--listen to the O's. I'm sure after they shot this he headed dahntahn for a jumbo sandwich, hopefully followed by an Imp and Iron. They ought to throw out the records and put this guy in a museum.
posted by Nahum Tate at 2:37 PM on August 20, 2008

Great little movie, but as has been pointed out widely in internet commentary (and, on preview, in this thread), the collection is way over-priced as per its market value. As an "archive" it no doubt has historical value, but even if he were to donate the whole thing, would he get any takers? I bet even the Library of Congress wouldn't want to deal with it...

If he broke up the lot and sold off the valuable pieces, it would surely lose the awesomeness of its totality (the world's biggest, after all), but other than getting into Guinness (BTW, is this collection in the world records book?), what is the point? If this is his labor of love, then he should share the love, like this.
posted by bonefish at 2:46 PM on August 20, 2008

I've run a university recording archive. We were routinely approached by collectors trying to offload thousands of records for a tax deduction or just to get rid of them.

The cost of taking in such a collection is simply not worth it unless the collection is already meticulously cataloged, in the vast majority of cases.

Then there are these guys. In fact, their collection is going to go to a university, but it's taken years to make it happen.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:05 PM on August 20, 2008

Also, I bet the Archive of Contemporary Music (my link in the post above) *does* have more records than Paul Mawhinney. I almost guarantee it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:06 PM on August 20, 2008

People who've seen this collection have mentioned that it's distinctly lacking in rare records (relative to the quantity), and the collector seems to have had a great aptitude for collecting the genres least likely to be valuable in the future or now - non-kitschy easy-listening, children's records, broadway shows, lots of Herb Alpert. Even in the more promising genres advertised - like jazz and folk -the selections tend to be the bland and uninteresting. There *are* (I'm told) some decent r&b and soul albums, but not nearly enough. In short, despite its size, this seems to be a poor collection.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:06 PM on August 20, 2008

I take that back. ARC claims around 2 million items. Mahinney around 3 million.

Having seen the two million in person a few times, it's hard to imagine there are another million unique commercial records out there to be bought. But maybe so.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:09 PM on August 20, 2008

It might be worth buying this collection, letting it sit in a salt mine and then over time see which artists come back into fashion, thus increasing the demand (value) for those artists. This has a number of advantages

1. 3 million is a large number so statistically there will be many winners
2. Pop fashions run in cycles with rise and falls and rises again. It should be possible to keep a steady stream of revenue from sales over time.

The key is software. Everything cataloged and monitored for price fluctuations and when a title reaches a certain market price it is brought out and sold. A lot could be automated to keep overhead low. But I could think of easier ways to make money.
posted by stbalbach at 3:36 PM on August 20, 2008

Frisbees for orphans!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:43 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Man, he probably doesn't even have Harvest.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:58 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems that the recordings in the collection only have real, rare value if few or no copies exist in archives anywhere else. If all of the good stuff in the collection has been archived digitally, for instance, it's not the music itself he's preserving--it's the way the music was packaged and produced in its own time that he's preserving.
posted by LooseFilter at 5:25 PM on August 20, 2008

Maybe it doesn't sell because he doesn't list a price on his website. I couldn't find one at least.
posted by jetsetsc at 6:02 PM on August 20, 2008

If you all would look at his site, it appears he's already worked out a database solution to make this archive searchable. I haven't been in it yet myself, but if it has all the expected searchable data then I'd say this thing is ready to capitalize on, given you have the cash and the space.
posted by Parannoyed at 6:36 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

> he doesn't list a price on his website.

It was priced at $3M in the Ebay auction he put up earlier this year (the subject of the 'Previously on Mefi' link above).
posted by ardgedee at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2008

Excellent post, grabbingsand. Thanks.
posted by sluglicker at 11:01 PM on August 20, 2008

« Older Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses   |   Flying the flag upside down - evil! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments