The Wu-Tang Clan's $5 Million 1-Of-A-Kind Record Won't Hit Stores For Another 88 Years
Last year, when The Wu-Tang Clan announced that it would be shipping only one solitary copy of their (alleged) masterpiece album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, the record almost immediately became shrouded in a kind of myth. Early bids came in at $1 million, then $5 million, along with confirmation that the record had been secured inside a vault in Marrakech where only a very select few were allowed to visit and listen to isolated snippets.
The Wu have held fast to the notion that, at some point, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will be brought out and put up for auction, with its eventual winner possessing the sole rights over any future distribution or sales to the masses. But today news has come that any prospective buyer will have to wait 88 years before the album's copyright runs out and new copies can be made and sold.
Producer Cilvaringz has told Forbes "After 88 years the copyright, which includes public and commercial rights, automatically transfers to the owner of the work...However, it will still be his or her choice at that [point] to release it or not release it."
Cilvaringz also told Forbes that all digital backup copies of the LP have already been destroyed, meaning that the eventual auction-winner will come to possess what is truly the only copy in the world. The Wu-Tang Clan have also set up a microsite dedicated solely to that auction process, which may indicated that the 88 year countdown might soon get underway. Along with the record itself, which comes in an ornate silver and nickel-plated box, the winner will be given a deluxe liner notes book--174 pages in all--bound in leather.
But why the excessively delayed release date, on top of what is already set to be one of the lowest-selling albums of all time? "Why you buy a painting or sculpture, you're buying that piece rather than the right to replicate it," RZA stressed on the auction microsite.
“ When you buy a painting or a sculpture, you’re buying that piece rather than the right to replicate it ,” explained RZA in a Q&A made available on the microsite. “Owning a Picasso doesn’t mean you can sell prints or reproductions, but that you’re the sole owner of a unique original. And that’s what Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is. It’s a unique original rather than a master copy of an album.” On the same site, Cilvaringz went on to add "We felt that retail commercialization and mass replication would dilute the status of the album as a one-off work of art and compromise the integrity of our statement."
All this for an album that is being marketed as the Wu-Tang's most meaningful achievement as a hip-hop collective, a high-art piece meant to bring a bit of overdue reverence back to rap. The 88 year wait was explained, somewhat, by RZA, as a representation of Shaolin's diffuse details. There are 8 original Wu-Tang Clan members, the digits of 2015 add up to 8, the number 8 is in the name of the company that's selling the 1-piece LP, and an 8, turned sideways, becomes an infinity sign. Be on the lookout for updates as this multi-decade mystery keeps unfolding.