Curating exhausted commodities

A case study of We Buy White Albums


  • Iain A. Taylor Birmingham City University Author



Beatles, records, curation, materiality, collection, exhausted commodities


While there has been growing interest in the curation and exhibition of popular music ephemera in recent years, such exhibitions have tended to focus on propagating canonical accounts, or on the telling of local or social histories. This article considers a different form of popular music curation, one driven not by a desire to preserve, but rather with the revaluing of so-called ‘exhausted commodities’—damaged, degraded and defaced artefacts which would otherwise be discarded. Focusing upon the case study of We Buy White Albums—an ongoing collection and exhibition by New York-based collector, curator and artist Rutherford Chang—this article explores the complexities associated with such notions of curation in the context of music-based commodities, and the potential for curatorial recontextualizations of damaged, defaced and degrading artefacts as a means of exploring hidden histories of popular music.

Author Biography

  • Iain A. Taylor, Birmingham City University

    Dr Iain Taylor is a Lecturer in Music Industries in the Birmingham School of Media. His research is concerned with music, materiality and digitalization. In particular, he is interested in the tensions that exist in our relationships with both analogue and digital music formats, and ways of thinking and talking about hybridity between analogue and digital media and practice. Iain is also an editor and designer of Riffs, a journal run by the staff and students of the BCMCR, providing a space for publication of experimental writing on the subject of popular music.


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How to Cite

Taylor, I. A. (2021). Curating exhausted commodities: A case study of We Buy White Albums. Popular Music History, 13(1-2), 126-146.