(Photo: The Come Up Show)
Since 1992, the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan has sold millions upon millions of copies of its musical albums. But the way that people access music has changed a lot since 1992, so the group is adapting. It has produced a new album titled Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Wu-Tang Clan will create only 1 copy of the album.*
That's right: just 1.
You will not be able to purchase a CD online or at a physical store. You will not be able to download it online. There's only one copy of the 128-minute, 31-song album. It's in a handmade silver and nickel box in a vault in Morocco. Eventually, the album will be put on display at art exhibitions and music festivals. Later, it'll be up for sale--at a high price. Zach O'Malley Greenburg of Forbes reports:
Wu-Tang’s aim is to use the album as a springboard for the reconsideration of music as art, hoping the approach will help restore it to a place alongside great visual works–and create a shift in the music business, not to mention earn some cash, in the process. The one-of-a-kind launch will be a separate endeavor from the group’s 20th anniversary album, A Better Tomorrow, which is set for a standard commercial release this summer.
According to RZA and the album’s main producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, a Morocco-based part of Wu-Tang’s extended family, the plan is to first take Once Upon A Time In Shaolin on a “tour” through museums, galleries, festivals and the like. Just like a high-profile exhibit at a major institution, there will be a cost to attend, likely in the $30-$50 range.
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.”
-via Marginal Revolution
*Semantic question: if there's only one physical occurence of the album, then should one say that there are no copies? Doesn't a "copy" imply duplication?
The only exception to this would be purely digital works that only ever exist as digital works. In the case of purely digital works, I would argue that there is no original, all versions are copies. This logic is based on the inherent natural usage of digital media: multiple copy processes moving data around from one place to another, reformatting and regrouping it with other media on occasion along the way. Remixing falls into this as well.
Oh, I thought of one exception to that, too: A live, composed-on-site, all digital performance of original work would not automatically be a copy, though any record of such would be. Any live performance can be considered an original, I suppose, since a recording of such could be labelled very specifically as to the Performer, Location, and Date of the performance.