As hip hop record sales continue to free fall, rap group Wu-Tang Clan is taking an unusual approach to releasing and profiting from their upcoming album, “The Wu—Once Upon A Time In Shaolin.”
With the widespread piracy of hip hop music, it sometimes seems as if no one out there is paying for new music.
But Wu-Tang is sending the message that hip hop is still an art form, one that should be valued.
“The Wu—Once Upon A Time In Shaolin” will not hit shelves and it will not be up for grabs on iTunes.
Instead the group will launch a listening tour for fans to come and experience the album.
The listening tour will utilize art galleries and museums to house all the fans who are interested in hearing the group’s latest work.
Tickets will be sold for as much as $50 and could possibly go for even higher than that.
After the tour is completed, the group will take the sole master copy of the album, which is currently inside an engraved silver box in Morocco, and put it up for sale to the general public—whoever is willing to bid the highest amount for the album, to then do with it as they please.
“We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music,” Wu-Tang member Robert “RZA” Diggs said, according to Al Jazeera America. “We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”
RZA explained that this will allow the hip hop album to be treated more like high-end art, as opposed to just another piece of free digital content that hits the web.
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“The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years,” RZA said. “And yet it 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.”
While it’s certainly a unique approach, it’s not the first time it’s been done.
In 1983, Jean-Michel Jarre only released one pressed copy of his album “Music for Supermarkets.”
The one-of-a-kind album had a sleeve containing 11 Polaroid pictures that tracked his making of the record. The 12th sleeve was left empty for the buyer to insert their own picture.
Jarre destroyed the master plates after the sole album was pressed.
Based on what most people are willing to pay for unique albums or collectable pieces of music memorabilia, the group could potentially pull in a serious amount of cash for the album.
According to RZA, they have already been offered several million dollars for the album. But the bidding is still open, for all those serious Wu-Tang devotees out there.