Wu-Tang Clan is selling a single copy of its upcoming album The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. Yes, just one copy sold to one person. The sale will be private, like the purchase of a work of art – a Rembrandt or a Picasso – and that appears to be the whole point.
"Contemporary art is worth millions by virtue of its exclusivity. This album is a piece of contemporary art," the album's website reads under the "Edictum" (the mere fact that the album has an edictum gives you an idea of what's going on here). The idea is that "mass production and content saturation" has led to the demise of the music industry. By limiting the audience for its 31-track double album to a sole individual, Wu-Tang Clan is ensuring that Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is inherently valuable. You know: scarcity, supply/demand, all that jazz.
It will only ever exist as an individual copy, sold in a "hand carved nickel-silver box designed by the British Moroccan artist Yahya," because remember, this is a work of art. After the initial sale, Wu-Tang Clan will offer the hoi polloi the chance to hear it only at festivals, museums, and art galleries (they're really making it clear: work. of. art.). Rolling Stone reports that these performances of the album will be "using headphones to protect the songs from piracy." So you'll have a chance to hear the album, you just won't ever be able to own it. Unless you're that one person who does, of course.
Though they argue that "the music industry is in crisis," Wu-Tang Clan is still releasing another new album, A Better Tomorrow, the regular way this summer. So the public will get be able to get their hands on some new Wu music, just not all. We sincerely hope there isn't more than one Wu-Tang completist out there.
Wu says this is their way of combating a crumbling music industry. But really, it's just another way of proving their point: Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothing to fuck with.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.