The most expensive music album ever sold is not by the Beatles as one could expect (in fact they are second in the list), nor Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra. The credit goes out to the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
Work of art
In the current era of streaming, the core value of music has declined rapidly. The remaining Wu-Tang Clan members wanted to issue a statement, a work of art with everlasting impact. So they decided to launch a new double album with original Wu-Tang Clan tracks recorded between 2006 and 2013. Now here is the catch: only one copy was made. Consequently the owner would have a unique masterpiece in his hands, kinda like having the single-copy painting of a renaissance master on your wall. A clear f*ck you at the disposability of contemporary music and its distribution.
The album was sold at auction by Paddle8 in 2015 to the highest bidder, followed by months of legal discussions. It was agreed upon by the buyer and the group that the album could not be commercialized until 2103, 88 years after the sale. The purchaser still has the right to distribute the contents for free and to hold free listening parties. Although the price and the buyer were not disclosed at sale, this information was revealed later on.
It was Bloomberg Businessweek that unveiled the infamous Turing pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli as the buyer of this one-off album for $2 million. .This was later confirmed by Martin Shkreli himself. The sale was officially certified by The Guiness Book Of Record as the most expensive music album in existence. Wu-Tang Clan member RZA later stated that at the time of the sale Martin Shkreli was regarded just a young entrepeneur who loved rap music by the band. When he became one of the most hated men in the USA the band made it clear they donated a significant portion of the earnings to charity.
More about the album
- Allegedly there is a clause in the contract stating that the Wu-Tang Clan or Bill Murray (?!) could legitimately retrieve the album from Shkreli if they managed to steal it from him. Just an unconfirmed rumor
- 88 years is an arbitrary number, but has symbolic value
- originally Wu-Tang Clan consisted of 8 members
- 2015 adds up to 8
- The auction house that sold the album is Paddle8
- 8 on it’s side is the symbol for infinity
- Wu-Tang’s self-described “adviser” Cyrus Bozorgmehr wrote a book about the whole album sale called Once Upon a Time in Shaolin: The Untold Story of Wu-Tang Clan’s Million-Dollar Secret Album, the Devaluation of Music, and America’s New Public Enemy No. 1
- Owner Martin Shkreli shared the intro and part of two tracks after Donald Trump was elected president, after threatening to destroy the album. In 2017 Shkreli allegedly livestreamed the album to YouTube after a verdict was reached in a criminal case against him.
- On September 6 2017 Martin Shkreli listed the album for sale on eBay
Image of the album By Wutangcashew – I photographed it.Previously published: scluzay.com, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53861416