Culture is future » Financing and economic models


The Wu-Tang Clan : Could hip-hop become a museum object?

The project of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan is unprecedented. Considering that « Creativity has become disposable and value has been stripped out », it launches for the 20th anniversary of its career a new album, released in only one copy and presented as a contemporary work of art.

This is a committed project that was undertaken by the nine members of the group Wu-Tang Clan for many years now: to release and sell one copy of their coming album The We – Once Upon a time in Shaolin. Made up of thirty-one songs and embedded in a silver case made by the British Moroccan artist Yahya, it is destined to be exhibited in museums, galleries and exhibition spaces during a world tour, before being sold exclusively to one purchaser. The aim is to turn this album into a museum performance in the manner of all contemporary artworks, which are, according to them, more enhanced than music. The exhibition will allow visitors to listen to the entire album, but once only: “The public will know that what they will hear will be a once in a life time experience”, exactly like the experience of  a museum piece of art or sculpture.

With this initiative, Wu-Tang Clan hopes to initiate the debate on music value. “Is exclusivity versus mass replication really the 50 million dollar difference between a microphone and a paintbrush?” the group asks in its manifesto published on the website dedicated to this project. By coming back to the original creative process, that of a unique work of art, the group questions the value chain of music industry: the industrial music production, mass distribution, sometimes for free, the digital reproduction and economic models which resulted in turning music into a minor art, which value was “reduced to zero”. Faced with this assessment, the group chooses exclusivity, rarity and handicraft, while admitting that “the pride and joy of sharing music with the masses is sacrificed for the benefit of reviving music as a valuable art”. “By taking this step, we hope to re-enforce the weight that music once carried alongside a painting or a sculpture”.

The bittersweet choice of private music. The one-shot album proposed by Wu-Tang Clan is not designed to be broadcasted but to assume greater value. Unless, of course, its owner decides to share generously what he would have paid an astronomical amount: a potential buyer already proposed $5 million to purchase the music work, while some 550 fans have decided to get together and to create a communal fund on the website Kickstarter in order to buy the album in common and to put it in the hands of the Internet users, for free. “It’s welcoming people to an old world“ the Wu-Tang Clan’s manifesto concludes.

Camille Gauthier.

Photo credit : NRK-P3