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Wu-Tang Clan To Sell Just ONE Copy Of Their “Secret Album”

by John Oszajca on March 27, 2014

Wu-Tang Clan's Secret Album

One of the things we discuss a lot around here are “triggers”; Psychological buttons that motivate people to get off the fence and take action. There are many different triggers one can employ in their marketing but without a doubt the most powerful trigger there is, is scarcity. When we can’t have something we want it even more. It’s the human condition.

Well, (Insert maniacal laugh here)…. Wu-Tang Clan has taken the concept of scarcity to a new level by announcing that they will be releasing just a SINGLE COPY of an upcoming “secret album”.

As the band told Forbes “We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music. We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”

The album will be presented in a “hand-carved nickel-silver box designed by the British Moroccan artist Yahya,” and will then travel to galleries and museums where it’s estimated fans will pay between $30 – $50 to listen with headphones (to help prevent piracy). The album will then be sold to a single buyer for what is expected to be several million dollars.

In her recent Ted Talk, singer Amanda Palmer said, “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question; ‘how do we MAKE people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘how do we let people pay for music’? This move by Wu-Tang Clan (and the buzz that it has generated) really supports that sentiment, at least to my mind.

By simply positioning their music as art, rather than just another disposable download, they have changed perspective, gotten the world’s attention, and most importantly, those who do eventually get to consume the album will experience and appreciate it in a way unlike any other music has been appreciated in history.

So what do you think? Is this just another marketing gimmick or a brilliant move by the Wu-Tang Clan?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

SirJo March 31, 2014 at 1:44 pm

I like that! ;-)

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scott March 29, 2014 at 9:58 pm

What about a lottery where somebody wins it?

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 7:50 pm

That could me the next promo stunt that we find ourselves discussing here on the blog :-) Any takers on this concept?

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Joe Solo March 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Hi John!
Potentially brilliant move – Gotta see the results before I determine the actual brilliance.

Hope you are doing well!

Joe Solo

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Hey Joe,

Yes, this will definitely be an interesting release. Curious to see how it unfolds.

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Michael Casali March 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I think it’s a great idea. Think of all the interest this is creating for the band. It’s an excelent example of thinking outside the box

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Definitely outside of the box. It’ll be fun to see what happens.

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Hungry March 28, 2014 at 12:11 am

Wu Tang !!!! Wu Tang !!! They was revolutionary when they was sampling karate chops on Tracks. Now they roundhouse’n us with only 1 albulm available. #Salute

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Hi Hungry,

Yeah, this is definitely unique, as most of their career has been.

Thanks for checking out the post.

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Chris Standring March 28, 2014 at 12:10 am

An interesting money making experiment for the band, but if music is about communicating with your fans, then this is exactly NOT that.

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Hi Chris,

Interesting perspective. Not sure I agree in that I think this is most likely causing the majority to have a renewed perspective of the value of their music. And pulled even more new fans into the discussion. But then again, that could just be me. It will certainly be interesting to see how it unfolds. I appreciate you chiming in.

Thanks for checking out the post.

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Andrew J Titcombe March 27, 2014 at 9:54 pm

French musician Jean-Michel Jarre did this with MUSIC FOR SUPERMARKETS – Not sure how much it eventually sold for but bootlegs abound. All collectibles attract counterfeiters sadly I admit that this kind of marketing is great for initial effect but is of no help to groups struggling to make it. Will it be sold on Amazon, eBay or CDBaby? I will be interested to hear results but for most musicians it is back to relying on the Spotify and iTunes payments that take awhile to add up to anything!

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John Oszajca March 27, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Hey Andrew,

Thanks for the comment. I think the important takeaway here is that they are forcing people to appreciate and discuss their music in a different way and, while it may just be a marketing stunt in large part, it’s still making the statement that music is art and it’s forcing people to discuss that idea in a way similar to what Warhol did back when he first started painting soup cans.

While we can’t all go out and offer just single copies of our music and expect to get anywhere, we can be inspired by the way THEY are defining how their music is being sold and consumed. And if nothing else, it’s a ridiculously entertaining example of the power of scarcity :-)

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Andrew J Titcombe March 27, 2014 at 11:45 pm

Thanks John both for the article and a quick response. I am glad you posted it! My day job is selling collectible music online I bought a record store in London in the 70s cos I wanted to be rock star and needed to know how the charts worked! so I am absorbed by the whole SELLING aspect of music (as well as collectibility) People are discussing this like mad (especially here!) so the marketing aspect has worked) Am looking for the genius who can adapt a similar ploy to help an UNKNOWN band! I live collectible music & watched the record companies milk the market with numbered edition, coloured vinyl, picture discs and general chart hyping through the 70s and 80s. Today’s savvy artists have some brilliant internet ways to promote their music (with guys like you to help them!) Think I prefer YOUR marketing methods to Wu-Tang Clan’s (but don’t tell them they might get mad)

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Hi Andrew,

Thanks. Needless to say, this exact approach would never work for an unknown band, but it illustrates the power of scarcity in a fun way.

That said, I have seen some “unkown” artists do some similar things that have worked well, such as recording dedicated songs to fans for thousands of dollars, etc. Heck, even the average Kickstarter campaign uses the same basic principles of big dollar amounts for exclusivity. And many average-Joe artists are doing well with this kind of approach. It only takes a small but dedicated fan base. But point taken.

All the best.

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lo March 27, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I can see it selling for that; as long as the album doesn’t get leaked first.

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Hi Lo,

Yeah, a leak wouldn’t certainly do a lot of damage to intended outcome.

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Jeffrey March 27, 2014 at 8:45 pm

They sure have been smoking a bit too long. But i’ve seen people do dumber things, like waiting in line at a “Beats” store for the new headphones so they can feel cool while spending way too much on a pair of headphones. But the idea that someone is actually going to pay a million for this is beyond me.

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Bow Thayer March 28, 2014 at 4:54 pm

What if Walmart bought the record and just manufactured it themselves and sold it for 2 bucks a cd…. that would kind of suck.

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John Oszajca March 30, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Yeah, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I personally dig the idea of playing with the perception of what music is and how it fins in to the broader art world. I see this as akin to a lot of what Warhol was doing.

But re: Bob’s point… I would love to think one private buyer would buy this and keep it in his own private museum, but sadly my hunch is that it will just be purchased by a giant corporation and monetized by them, immensely watering down the spirit of this idea. But we shall see.

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