This week brings news of the latest album from hip hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan, but this is no ordinary release.
Bringing a whole new meaning to the word "exclusive", they have made the 31-track Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, with the purpose of being sold to a single bidder at auction.
And yesterday a mystery collector bought the record for an undisclosed sum, said to be in the millions. They received the only copy of the record in existence (the Wu-Tang have promised to erase any other copies) as well as a sound system on which to listen to it - a pair of PMC speakers that were used to mix the album.
The band hope this will "inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music, both economically and in how our generation experiences it". They believe music has become a victim of an overconsumption of sorts and has become devalued because of it.
Recorded and mixed exclusively on the Emmy® award-winning British loudspeaker company PMC’s MB2-XBD monitors on Staten Island, New York, the Clan’s producers, Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh and Robert “The RZA” Diggs, insisted that a pair of the speakers should be included within the sale, so that the new owner could hear the piece exactly as it was intended.
Talking about the speakers, RZA said: "In order to curate the experience of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for the collector, we decided to have two PMC MB2-XBD speakers included with the album. These speakers were used during production and mastering and distil this work into its purest form, and in sculpting each beat, each frequency and each flash of feeling, they are themselves a work of artistry."
Miles Roberts, PMC’s head of sales & marketing, added: "It is a real privilege to be included within the project and is the ultimate ‘from studio to the home’ message we aim to convey. The speakers created to accompany the album are an absolute one-off, the likes of which we will never create again. We’re sure the lucky owner will be delighted with the performance."
So what are we to make of the whole idea? Are the Wu-Tang truly doing a service for music? Or is it simply an interesting piece of marketing?
It is admirable that they are seeking to keep the issue of musician reward in the public eye, as well as trying something new and twisting the consumer dynamic, but doesn't it feel a little hollow when such big sums of money are involved and one multi-millionaire gets to benefit?
Let's imagine one possible scenario: while the creators look forward to exhibiting the album at museums, what if the winner of the auction has a nihilist streak and destroyed the whole thing? Now that would be a statement: pay millions for a single master copy and then burn it all.
For more information on the album see here.
For more information on PMC see here.