How Much Would You Spend For Six Million Songs? (Hint: $50 Million May Not Be Enough)

noah | February 18, 2008 2:40 am

In case you were wondering just who owned that six-million-song music collection that’s currently listed on eBay with a starting price of $3 million: Meet Paul Mawhinney, an obsessive music cataloger and record-collectors’-guide publisher who also owned the Pittsburgh-area shop Record-Rama. In a 2003 profile of his business, he was quoted as saying “Almost all the guys out on the front line of the music business are all conniving to get what they can.” And given his past history of deals where he’s almost made some cash from his collection, it’s easy to see why he feels this way!

Mawhinney has had a few prospective buyers for his collection over the years; In 1997, former online-music powerhouse CDNow told Mawhinney they’d buy his collection for $28.5 million, only to wind up in bankruptcy court shortly after; then, a deal to sell his extensive collection of singles to the Library of Congress fell through after Mawhinney’s asking price was too rich for the LoC’s tax-funded budget. Mawhinney–who wants to have a deal in place by March 1–is still working the archivist angle for future buyers, as evidenced by his thoughts on what would make a suitable home for the collection:

The History of American music belongs in a museum or a library; a place where people who love music and have an interest in history and popular American culture can look, listen, touch, read and appreciate this legacy for future generations. It could be part of a stand-alone music museum, a major exhibit in an existing museum, or the basis of a university music library. Cleverly arranged and displayed, and surrounded by additional cultural memorabilia, the collection could even become a tourist attraction.

We’re seeking a buyer who will guarantee to keep the collection intact (other than to sell duplicate copies, if so desired) and to keep the music alive for the enjoyment and music lovers, now and for years to come.

If you represent a museum, library, university, or charitable foundation, or you’re a philanthropist interested in purchasing the collection and donating it, please contact the owner’s representatives for more information, pricing and a personal on-site inspection.

He’s also estimating the value of the collection at $50 million, although if someone can sweet-talk his representatives–one of whom is former sitcom staple Telma Hopkins–perhaps the asking price will be lower. This is the part where I do wish that there was some sort of popular-music museum out there, or at least that the Experience Music Project hadn’t ceded all that space to the science fiction guys over the past few years. Sigh.

The Greatest Music Collection [Official site] Failed deals for fabled musical archive strike sour note with owner [Pittsburgh Business Times] The World’s Greatest Music Collection [eBay; HT PTW]