The Wu-Tang Plan: Can collector culture help artists strike gold?

New York hiphop group the Wu Tang Clan have been away since 2007, but upon their return with a new secret album, the band could be about to net themselves $5 million by releasing only one, singular copy. Will future artists be following suit...? 

Although it may not seem like the most logical promotional venture for a musician, Wu Tang Clan have taken on a very unique business model for the release of their first album in over five years; pressing just one copy. 

Bringing whole new meaning to the phrase 'one hit wonder', the new album "The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin" will not experience a traditional release, and instead will be placed on a "museum listening tour", before finally being put up on auction for the ultimate Wu-Tang Fan. 

The technology behind the secret album is behind the doors of the abstruse cyber tomb "EZCLZIV".  claiming to be the world's first private music service. But the question begs; why so secretive? According to the website, the argument seems to be that music is being under-valued in a mass produced market.

"By adopting a 400 year old Renaissance-style approach to music, offering it as a commissioned commodity and allowing it to take a similar trajectory from creation to exhibition to sale, as any other contemporary art piece, we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music. " the website ominously explains. 

We hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music.

So, for Wu Tang Clan, the unique method could be one of the first times the internet won't be able to replicate and share the elusive 31-track album. The project has apparently been in the works for over the past six years, with the idea coming to fruition after Jay Z was paid $5 million to 'leak' his album Magna Carta. 

So how much would a fan really be willing to pay for such a limited edition collector's item?

"So far, $5 million is the biggest number. I don't know how to measure it, but it gives us an idea that what we're doing is being understood by some,” RZA told Billboard.

“And there are some good peers of mine also, who are very high-ranking in the film business and the music business, sending me a lot of good will. It's been real positive."

So, quite a lot. 

The way fans will be able to listen to the ultra-exclusive work, which involves contributions from original Wu-Tang members, the album will rest in a special exhibit, with visitors passing through a ruthlessly heavy security and being abole to listen to the whole 128 minutes through headphones provided. The tickets plan to cost around $30 - $50.

“While we fully embrace the advancements in music technology, we feel it has contributed to the devaluation of music as an art form,” the statement on the website added. “By taking this step, we hope to re-enforce the weight that music once carried alongside a painting or a sculpture.”  

A few more ultra-rare records

  • That'll be the day - The Quarry Men

The Liverpool quartet's body of work is so expansive, it isn't surprising a few rarities are still buried underneath the mainframe of Beatles culture, but it is in fact the The Quarry Men, the skiffle-rock fetus that would eventually grow into the Liverpool quartet that holds one of the most expensive records of all time - a simple Buddy Holly cover, but one of the first recorded moments of The Beatles making music.

Ooh, sounds pretty special - might you get a copy of that? Well, if you have £200,000 to spare, be our guest!

  • The first ever recording of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards rehearsing -  £50,250 
  • A Sex Pistols acetate of "God Save The Queen" - £14,600
  • Frank Wilson's Do I Love You (Indeed I do) - one of only two copies known to exist - £25,000
  • Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan featuring 4 rare tracks deleted from new editions -  $35,000

So, whilst eager fans wait to hear more details, how will this effect the future of other artists?

Will these so called one-hit-wonder business models continue to thrive? 



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