By Dries Heerkens
Whilst the initial disruptiveeffects of the radical new digital technologies may have induced a certain ‘‘crisis’’ for the prevailing models and practices of the recorded music industry, these digital technologies have also prompted and been accompanied by new opportunities for restructuring and reshaping of the scope and operations of the music industry. (Preston and Rodgers, 2011)
In the music industry the internet and digital music platforms have completely changed the way music is packaged, distributed and consumed . Current media developments – such as the introduction of spotify and the pirate bay – requires creativity from musicians, in order to gain the same incomes as in the old days. This creativity can be showed off in two ways; use the media or fight the media.
Hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan choose the last option; fight the media. The group will release a new album this summer called; A Better Tomorrow. But next to that, also a double LP will be launched; Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
This double LP is recorded secretly past two years, but even more interesting is how the LP is going to be launched. More and more artist are using the media by putting game elements in videoclips, using social platforms for promotion and sharing it online for free, but Wu-Tang Clan will do the exact opposite; only one unique copy of the album will be sold.
“We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music,” says Wu-Tang Clan member Robert “RZA” Diggs. “We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.
Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will be encased in a silver and nickel box crafted by British-Moroccan artist Yahya and will probably sell for millions of dollars. However, before it is sold, the one-of-a-kind album will tour the world as many other famous pieces of art do, with stops at museums, galleries, and potentially music festivals. Fans will be charged a cost to attend a “listening event,” where they’ll get a chance to hear the album on headphones after being carefully screened for recording materials. Once that exhibition tour is complete, Wu-Tang Clan will sell the album for an unspecified price in the millions of dollars — from there, its owner will be free to do what it wants with it
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. As Cilvaringz puts it: “One leak of this thing nullifies the entire concept.”
It is interesting to see how artists have completely different views on how music should be distributed. Skrillex released new music via a mobile game, The Black Keys via a social media campaign and now Wu-Tang Clan shows a completely different vision of how it also can be done; instead of using the media options, fighting it – make it unique, exclusive and unavailable for the public.