Recently, we told you about hip hop legends Wu Tang Clan's Wu Tang Plan; the idea of releasing just one physical album of their latest effort Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. However, one Kickstarter project respectfully disagreed with the business model. We interviewed Jacob Horne on what the crowdfunder could do for the fans.
In case you missed it, Jacob and project founder Marcus Scott Wallace are fighting against the Wu Tang Clan's plan to release one album only and put it into an exhibition for fans to come and 'visit' and listen to once. Their Kickstarter vows to raise the exact amount of money the album is reportedly worth ($5 million!) and spread the music organically across the Wu Tang Fan Kingdom.
So, can they do it?
So, what do the Wu Tang Clan mean to you? We would wager a lot based on this Kickstarter!
The Wu Tang are a group that were honest in their art and were always for the people. The music they produced became a voice and medium for society and its shortfalls. We saw one interview where a musician said that Wu Tang made him want to pick up books and read. To have that effect is in incredible. That's what we're fighting for.
Kickstarter traditionally offers awards to contributors. What prizes are you offering the fans to raise this elusive $5 million?
First and foremost – the chance for everyone to be able to experience and be inspired by the album. Secondly, we have an idea for a collaborative artwork to be given to Wu Tang, recognising contributors.
The official website states: "We hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music."
Music has lost its context and warmth. It's not just that anyone can pirate an album, but that it's no different to buying it through iTunes. It's been that way since Napster - and Spotify.
We believe that the music industry has been fundamentally flawed since Napster. Trying to sell individual copies of something that can be so easily shared just doesn't work. Spotify's business model is to be more convenient than piracy.
Surely that's not sustainable, and even if it was - it's cold. It’s no surprise vinyl is making a resurgence when buying music is practically identical to pirating it. Having said that, pricing most people out of music is a pretty scary and drastic solution to that.
What happens if the money you raise isn't enough, in a nutshell?
In short everyone gets their money back, as per Kickstarter policy. But we will do all we can to achieve that goal, and we think that the will is there. It's just about getting the word out.
How would you react if the Wu Tang Clan themselves defied your idea?
Pretty surprised! I guess we'd just stress that music is the most universal form of communication and there is so much magic in the feelings it elicits. Imprisoning music to artificially create scarcity may be a creative, or even a genius idea - but that doesn't mean that it's not a harmful and soulless one.
This isn't just about Wu Tang. This is a discussion about the future of music.
Take for example Radiohead releasing In Rainbows and letting the fans decide the price. Is this a better way of fighting against downloading/filesharing?
Yes and no. Bandcamp uses this model but it's yet to see widespread adoption. And Radiohead later denounced it, which I guess displays some issues artists have with it. But these experiments are important and it was definitely bold.
I thought the Radiohead's donation-only album was really cool because it was such a big name trying a pretty extreme method of selling music. The state of the music industry is forcing it's artists to reinvent how they make money off their work, and Radiohead's response is one of the more idealistic options. I think It's definitely a better way of fighting current file-sharing methods, but the solution that sticks will probably end up somewhere in the middle of Radiohead's and the Wu Tang Clan's models.
The project was apparently put in place after Jay Z was 'forced' to 'leak' his album by his record company for around $5 million.
Do you think the Wu Tang Clan's idea is at least the lesser of two evils?
The act of forcing an artist to leak their music may be worse than the act of locking it up - but having the music enrich more people's lives and create value for years is, to us, a much better outcome.
Anything else you'd like to add about the project?
Mostly that this isn't just about Wu Tang. It may be started by Wu Tang fans and funded by Wu Tang fans. But on some level this is a discussion about the future of music. We value music just as much as we did when the first album came out, and there is certainly no shortage of music - so why has the industry halved in size? The current model of selling music is outdated and is at war with the internet. This project is one step closer to the model that thrives with it. Crowdfunding a bid would prove that fans still value music and are still the best market for music.
The alternative is that the uber-rich become the best market - and the future of music and culture will be in jeopardy. That's a really scary thought.
Do you agree with Open Wu Tang? Visit the Kickstarter here.