It should come as no surprise that hip hop legends WU-TANG CLAN are no strangers to defining and re-defining the boundaries of music as we know it. Starting movements and crafting trends, this iconic group has the internet AND the music world up in arms about a radical new album release technique that they plan to implement for their newest recording: "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin".
Recorded in secret over the last few years, this new album will only be created ONCE. Yes, you read that right. Rather than trying to attempt to sell millions upon millions of copies, or nowadays, shoot for MAYBE selling a few hundred THOUSAND copies, Wu-Tang is only going to allow one copy to be created. Only one copy will be made, only one copy will be sold.
What this means is, because only one party can purchase the only singular copy in existence, the buyer gets to decide how to handle this. Which really lets the mind wander....
One buyer could purchase the copy for a determined price, and said buyer could decide to show everyone, or no one; and every combination in between. They could release the whole thing for free as charitable good will, or they could pay for distribution in a more conventional fashion to profit on their investment, or they could tour the album with paid listening parties, or they could never show a soul, and keep this unique art completely to their own ears and those around them....
The concept is not only ground-breaking and outrageously inspiring, but also poignantly proves the group's main hope: To reconsider music as ACTUAL ART in a day and age where people steal, rip off, and stream under the guise of fair use. Even those of us who DO buy music, pay low values for music, far below the actual cost which helps artists offset the cost of recording, touring, and promoting the music we all say we crave. We all contribute to this, and no one is at fault, yet the toll that new culture and technology has taken on the art as a whole is saddening and limits artists severely.
Music has decayed to mere 'background noise' for so many consumers, yet it takes radical, outside-the-box thinking to elevate music to a proper status as actual art.
The internet age has unquestionably changed music as we know it, for both better and for worse. One of the huge issues (outside of file-sharing) arises in the form of leaked material before a release date. Before the internet and ease of free/rapid communication, an album could get leaked but not spread all over the place. Nowadays, albums are not only regularly leaked, but they spread like wildfire due to our modern culture's impressive connectivity.
Producer, Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh states, “One leak of this thing nullifies the entire concept.”
Forbes.com conducted an exclusive interview with the group and explains the process in which the album will be marketed and then sold.
"...the plan is to first take Once Upon A Time In Shaolin on a “tour” through museums, galleries, festivals and the like. Just like a high-profile exhibit at a major institution, there will be a cost to attend, likely in the $30-$50 range.
Visitors will go through heavy security to ensure that recording devices aren’t smuggled in; as an extra precaution, they’ll likely have to listen to the 128-minute album’s 31 songs on headphones provided by the venue."
This theory of advanced and exclusive payment (commission) is not something totally out of the ordinary. In fact it might just be the very strategy that is needed to kick start a new way of thinking about music and its inherent worth.
Wu-Tang’s aim is to use the album as a springboard for the reconsideration of music as art, hoping the approach will help restore it to a place alongside great visual works–and create a shift in the music business, not to mention earn some cash, in the process.
The key word here, is shift.
Even if this entire thing is a complete flop, and Wu-Tang ends up being ridiculed for this experiment, the truly brilliant hidden factor is that radical thinking such as this is what gets everyone to reconsider the norm, consider fighting convention, and defy the standards we think we should just accept.
The most interesting part in all is that this entire operation has the ENTIRE music community talking. Not just those in the rap community, or those in the underground community. Rock, metal, country, pop, hip hop; artists of all backgrounds and styles have taken note and are already raving about this.
We all know that the time has come for change in the music industry, could this be the change we have been seeking? If nothing else, this might just be very springboard the game needs to begin the process of true change.
RZA says it best:
“The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years,” says RZA. “And yet its 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.”
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Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/wutangclan