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December 5, 2014

Within a matter of hours, newfeeds and bulletin boards blew up with the news that Skrillex’s producer ‘Cilvaringz’ and Wu-Tang affiliates confirmed Skrillex’s purchase of Wu-tang’s new album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” However, a few days later both Skrillex and Cilvaringz revealed that although the real copy of the album was used in the shooting of their MV ‘F-ck That’, the confirmation of the sale of the album with a simple ‘yup’ on a forum board was merely a joke.


Although no transaction was made, the rate of how quickly the news spread is a testament to Wu-Tang’s novel idea of creating only a single hard copy of a modern album. The idea goes far beyond a publicity stunt and making millions (although I’m sure either doesn’t hurt). To put it in a nutshell, their goal is to bring music into the finer arts and change the way music is consumed. Within days of announcing the existence of the album, they received an offer of $5 million, proving that enthusiasts are willing to pay millions of dollars for an album the same way that people pay millions of dollars for a one-of-a-kind painting.


The single copy of a double CD “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is encased in a silver and nickel box, hand-carved over three months by renowned British-Moroccan artist Yahya. Before it is sold to the highest bidder, it will tour the world at museums, galleries and festivals where listening events will be held at a premium price, similar to high-profile exhibits of art. Of course there will be strict procedures to ensure that no listener takes an audio recording during the tour as that would destroy the entire concept. For example, it’s likely that listeners will have to listen through the entire 128-minute album using headphones at the event.


As discussed in our previous post on Spotify (!HOW-WILL-SPOTIFY-DO-IN-CANADA/czto/39F19C42-EC01-4CF2-A8BC-31973308487E), music has become so accessible in this generation that pirating has become the main source of sharing and listening. Today, listening to music has ben devalued to the point where it’s virtually free; Wu-Tang wants to bring music back to the same level of other fine arts.


This is indeed a game-changer, however one potential flaw to the grand scheme is that the winning bidder can do whatever they want with the album. If a museum becomes the owner, they will likely use it to bring in listeners at a premium price. A brand (such as Samsung who partnered with Jay-Z on his album “Magna Carta Holy Grail”) may also buy the album to increase its own goodwill. A recording label could also buy the album and distribute it through the usual commercial channels, or a wealthy citizen could purchase it and keep it to themself or release it to the public for free.


Whether or not the Wu-Tang Clan will be successful in their goal is debatable, however it is clear that this single idea has made waves within the industry.


“It’s either genius or madness,” says Yayha. “And I suppose we’ll [find] out which if it works.”


Below is a 51 second preview of the lone album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.”


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