Of course, the pricing of an LP is – in theory, at least – based on the usual supply & demand principles, with the scarcity of a near-obsolete/technologically marginal format being the prime factor in the equation. Number of copies in circulation, etcetera.
Which brings us to the Wu-Tang Clan’s upcoming album The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, of which there will be precisely one copy. A single copy, housed in a silver and nickle hand-carved box – presented as a unique objet d’art. The item will reportedly be sent on a tour of museums and galleries, where people will be allowed the one-off chance to bask in the glow of the album’s aura via headphones after paying an "entry fee," after which the thing’ll finally be put on an auction block to be sold to the highest bidder, the desired sum being in the seven-figure range.*
One might emphasize the word reportedly, because there’s a lot about the news item that suggests a media prank in the offing. If the enterprise seems a bit it preposterous, the accompanying proclamational text at the project's PR site hammers that impression home very squarely. At turns bombastic and apocalyptic, it makes a series of statements about the g music industry, all under the premise tap between popular music and “fine art” and the current state of the music industry, that the project in question would somehow tactically remedy or address anything connected with these situations. A bit droll, innit? Reuters finance contributor Felix Salmon argues that there’s the question of just much RZA and crew understand about how the artworld and its markets operate. Which would seem to be the case, but whether it’s a case worth arguing is another matter.
I’m not sure what subpercentage of the One-Percent might actually want to have the Wu as the “soundtrack of their life.” Strangely, the project is (once again, according to the website) the first in a series of such ventures by an entity calling itself – ugh – The Carmen Clandestine Experience, which purports to be "the world’s first private music service," about which there’s no further information to be found. By “private music,” one assumes this means: Music as luxury item sold to a sole deep-pocketed individuals or entities.
Perhaps the best comment I’ve read in relation to the Wu jawn is someone asking, “Maybe start a Kickstarter campaign to help ‘liberate’ the album?’”
Some would argue art’s ultimate value – or its greatest redeeming value -- is the role it plays in relation to the larger culture. A similar argument could be made music in relation to the social realm. In which instance, instead of debating if RZA & co. have completely misunderstood the nature of art; the better question would be if they've instead come to misunderstand the nature of popular music. Once again, providing this isn't all a joke/publicity stunt. Perhaps some barbed commentary about the inherent socio-economic contradiction of the one-time "music from the streets” getting too entangled with the exclusivist aspirations of gated community?**
* Certain details lacking in all of this. For instance: Auctioned off how, or through what venue? Does the Anglo-Moroccan artist who carved the box get a cut of the auction, or was he offered a flat fee for his services? Whatever the case, I hope all the contracts are in order, and that the involved parties sought proper legal counsel in advance.
**Either that, or it's the product of smoking too much cheeb over the span of many years. Which would make the project the other type of "high-concept." You decide.