One way to increase the appetite for a new musical album release is to get people talking about it. Artists have used various forms to achieve this, whether by courting publicity or use of social media marketing. However a growing trend is developing in exclusive marketing.
In December 2013, after reports of delays and hold ups in production, Beyonce released her self-entitled album Beyonce exclusively on iTunes Stores for 7 days to great acclaim before general physical release to other retailers. Other artists have gone further. In September 2014, U2 released their Songs of Innocence album, produced by Danger Mouse (he of the Jay Z and Beatles Grey Album mashup fame), to every iTunes Store customer for free.
Now it appears that the US rap group, The Wu-Tang Clan, are taking the concept of exclusivity to another level. Their new album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which was 6 years in the making and consists of 31 tracks, skits and stories lasting 128 minutes, will be released as a single solitary edition for the ownership of one individual.
The online auction house, Paddle 8, instructed in the private sale of the album say:
"….[it will be presented] in a hand-carved nickel-silver box…accompanied by a 174 page manuscript containing lyrics, credits, and anecdotes on the production of each song, printed on gilded Fedrigoni Marina parchment and encased in leather by a master book binder."
The conditions of sale are to ensure that the buyer can not release any content of the artwork to the public for a period of 88 years, and only after that term will the right to release the album for commercialisation be transferred to the buyer.
In a time where music is widely available and easily shared over a multitude of digital platforms, RZA, the leader of the clan admits:
"Yes, the album in itself will only be owned by someone who can afford it."
"Once Upon a Time in Shaolin aims to reverse the devaluation of music, to celebrate the album as a work of art that encompasses the creative energies of an ecosystem of artists, and to help return music to a fine art status."
One thing that is certain is that the media interest in this album launch will only serve to increase the appetite and cost of the album.in: Copyright, News