It’s no secret that when it comes to the music business the times they are a changin’.
Artists, agents, and labels are all trying to find new ways to make a profit, or even just stay afloat, in a world of streaming and pirating. To that end, anything’s game and the guys of Wu-Tang Clan are introducing a particularly unconventional approach to the mix announcing that they will only be selling a single copy of their next album.
That’s right. One copy.
The album’s been in the works, under the radar, for over 2 years. Titled “Once Upon a time in Shaolin”– the album is bypassing the typical release cycle of leaks, a release date and fan access through streaming to take an exhibition tour.
Much like a painting or a physical work of art– the sole copy of the album will be presented for public consumption at museums and potentially at festivals. Fans will then be invited to attend a listening party where they’ll be charged a fee to listen to the double disk album. From there, the album will be available for purchase. There’s a chance that a wealthy individual buys the album and makes it available to the public. Yet there’s also a chance that doesn’t happen which is kind of hard to process.
We live in a world where music has been democratized. We might not get the live experience, but technology ensures that we at least have the ability to experience our favorite artists be it through streaming sites or youtube videos. Wu-Tang’s approach to this album, questions if that’s a good thing. As RZA explains to Forbes:
[Music] doesn’t receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it’s been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free.
On the one hand, it’s tempting to lament the inconvenience; and yet on the other hand this is awesome! In taking ownership over their art, acknowledging its worth and demanding that it be respected Wu-Tang Clan’s liberating themselves from an industry that chews up and spits out artists over and over.
As GZA raps in Protect Ya Neck released in 93:
The Wu is too slamming for these Cold Killing labels
Some ain’t had hits since I seen Aunt Mabel
Be doing artists in like Cain did Abel
Now they money’s gettin stuck to the gum under the table
That’s what you get when you misuse what I invent
Your empire falls and you lose every cent
For trying to blow up a scrub
Now that thought was just as bright as a 20-watt light bulb
Producing a single copy of their album is a totally crazy idea, but it’s one that might be crazy enough to work.
At the very least it’s nothing short of bold– and while everyone’s quick to acknowledge that the status quo is untenable, not enough people are willing to take the leap to actually do something about it.
Here’s hoping the resulting flight is wildly successful.