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Keeping with the theme of modern music industry case studies and less with metal, for this edition anyway, news is that the Wu-Tang Clan is set to release their new album, The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin soon. What’s so fascinating about this album release is that Wu-Tang are only going to make a solitary copy of the album.
The idea behind it – which is part fascinating, part genius, and part I can’t believe no one has thought of this before – is for the album to follow the same path as a painting or sculpture. It’ll be released and then exhibited, where punters can go and listen to the album in an exhibition-type setting. Now, I know you’re thinking surely someone will just record it as it plays in some art gallery then chuck it up on The Pirate Bay. Measures are currently being considered to reduce this particular risk. So, once the album has completed its tour it’ll be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Numbers from one million to five million have been thrown around as the final auction figure and at the moment legalities surrounding copy rights and ownership rights are being worked through in preparation for the purchaser.
In an age where music is consumed without the appreciation it once was, where for the masses music is no more than a filler of time between trains and attention spans that can’t handle one whole album, Wu-Tang are single-handedly flipping music consumption on its head.
The serious question for the serious music listener, who might enjoy a drink with their album or the TV on mute as they try to sync the album with a movie, is how will an exhibition-type setting go down? I don’t want to generalise, but don’t all rap fans smoke blunts? Can you smoke blunts in an art exhibition? Where will people sit for the duration of the 31-track double album? Will there be bean bags and couches? I like to they’d try to make the art space, or the club, into a giant lounge room where you can feel like you’re listening to an album for the first time in the comfort of your home with your buddies; and they’d want to, too, because there’s a cover charge to even get into the exhibition space.
Wu-Tang have said this whole idea isn’t about money but about integrity and bringing their music closer to fine art, but if they do this right and pull it off, they might just change music consumption forever. While the similarities between fine art or high culture, if you will, and some genres of music has been discussed on academic papers for decades, Wu-Tang might attract a whole new curious audience based solely on their album release. Heck, the announcement even grabbed the attention of Forbes Magazine editors.
In other news…
Story of the Year will be at 170 Russell on Sunday, June 29.
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Written by Paul S Taylor