The most expensive album in the world?

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The Wu Tang Clan recently shocked music fans worldwide with their revelation that their new album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin will be a limited edition, single copy LP.

Unlike normal albums which are mass produced and widely available for download on services such as iTunes, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin will only be accessible to the public through museum tours. The album is expected to be put in heavily guarded galleries, where the public can pay to listen to it for between $30-$50.

After the museum tour, the album will be sold to one wealthy collector who will have free reign over what to do with the album. Many fans are angry that they may never be able to hear the album, and in reaction a project to purchase the album has started on crowdfunding website Kickstarter. This project has the aim of buying the album from the hip-hop collective, and then releasing the music for free online.

According to producer Tarik ‘Cilvaringz’ Azzougarh, security around the album is very tight, due to the fact that “One leak…nullifies the entire concept”. The Wu Tang Clan are also intensifying public intrigue by refusing interviews with many major media outlets. When the Boar got in contact with Tarik Azzougarh, he confirmed this and stated that the Wu Tang “are doing as few interviews as possible at the moment”.

In the future, will it be regarded as a revolutionary piece of contemporary art, or remembered solely for its successful marketing strategy? Only time will tell…

The Wu Tang expects the album to be worth a fortune through its exclusive status and label as a piece of contemporary art. According to RZA, offers have come through already for as much as $5 million. Labelling an item as “limited edition” has in the past successfully increased prices of items to far beyond what they are worth, arguably by convincing the consumer that they are buying a collectible investment rather than a generic product. Notable examples in the past have included Kanye West’s ‘Yeezy Red October’ shoes, which although sold with a “modest” retail price $250 now fetch thousands on Ebay.

This enigmatic move by the group is reportedly a reaction to the “crisis” of the music industry. This is seen as a result of mass production and content saturation, which have “devalued both our experience of music and our ability to establish its value”, according to www.scluzay.com, an official website made exclusively for the album.

The distribution of the album is also designed to ignite debate throughout the music industry. The website states “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… we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music.”

It will be very interesting to see how this project turns out for the Wu Tang. In the future, will it be regarded as a revolutionary piece of contemporary art, or remembered solely for its successful marketing strategy? Only time will tell which one of these two options will turn out to be the case.

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