Perusing the New York Times last weekend, I came across an article entitled “Wu-Tang Clan Plans to Sell Just One Copy of a New Album.” Oh, so they are going to offer one download and watch it permeate the world virally?
Wrong, they literally mean one single copy. One beautifully boxed album. A holy grail of rap music from a venerable crew. One.
Wu Tang plans to “exhibit” the album, playing the album (not even performing live themselves) in museums and other similar venues for about as much as a ticket to see Aziz Ansari do stand up live. And don’t even think about going and recording the album with your smartphone or another device.
The intention appears to be to push the boundaries of how society values art in all forms. The Wu Tang Clan said in a statement:
Is exclusivity versus mass replication really the 50 million dollar difference between a microphone and a paintbrush? Is contemporary art overvalued in an exclusive market, or are musicians undervalued in a profoundly saturated market? 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, as any other contemporary art piece, we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music. We hope to steer those debates toward more radical solutions and provoke questions about the value and perception of music as a work of art in today’s world.
It’s an intriguing concept based on theories of supply and demand. But in order to make this work, it seems reserved to those acts that have developed a cult following. It seems like something Prince would have considered at one point or another. Rare, sought after albums are often a band’s first album – before they got the record deal and got major airplay. Valuation of art pieces, however, tend to be based on the work itself, the time period of the work relative to the artist’s body of work and the number of copies or similar works available from the artist.
Do people feel an “ownership” connection about their music the same way that they do about a Warhol or a Banksy, especially those of us who were teenagers listening to Wu Tang around the Napster era?
So DuetsBlog readers, what do you think about the valuation of contemporary art versus music? Do you think others will follow the Wu Tang distribution approach?