It’s an interesting thought and effort… very interesting
But is it a true comparison of art by mediums?


“The intrinsic value of music has been reduced to zero [whereas] contemporary art is worth millions by virtue of its exclusivity. This album is a piece of contemporary art. The debate starts here.”

Take a few moments to read this article. It covers a new effort from Wu-Tang Clan -- The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

Welcome back…

Overall I find this to be an amazing and fascinating effort. And, I will predict right now, the band will realize a million-dollar-plus sale. (Probably more than $5 million, but less than $10 million.)

But as I think about it, one of my immediate reactions is that there’s a problem in the concept as expressed in this quote. And that problem is found in the master recordings of this album.

Go online right now and pull up your favorite search engine of choice. And then look for any of the following…

Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica

Michelangelo’s David

To my knowledge, the originals of these three works of art are currently housed in museum collections. And, in the cases of Starry Night and David, I believe they have been insured for over $100 million.

So… the originals… quite valuable.

And there is another thing to consider. A quick expansion of the search will reveal that you can own each of them. Right now. No auction involved. While it might cost you a pretty penny depending on getting the frame or the size you want, or in arranging the display, the price of ownership for you would be far less than the millions of dollars involved in getting the original.

Yes… ownership of copies or posters or limited runs… sure. But you can frame a print of Starry Night to look at every day, and then go visit it in New York from time to time.

I honestly believe that the Wu-Tang Clan will release this one edition of the album. I don’t expect many of us will ever hear a note from The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, nor will some limited edition of the album be released down the road someday.

(Perhaps… for example… somewhere down the road the Wu-Tang Clan members will be approached about contributing to an extremely worthy cause. Or… the person that purchases it will be approached. And some sort of fundraising special edition might result. But what I am simply noting here are special circumstances. I truly believe that the Wu-Tang Clan are trying something different and fully stand behind the promises of one-and-done-exclusivity.)

The thing is… is it really the only one? …is it THE one?

Abbey RoadLed Zeppelin IV… go ahead and select what you believe to be the greatest albums of all time. In short, a Starry Night of music. If the original recordings were ever authenticated and sold, chances are we could quickly come up with a list of musical masterpieces where the master recordings would be worth millions upon millions (upon many more millions) of dollars.

My point is… even with all of the detailed and incredible packaging involved, and even with the there’s-only-one involved, the edition of The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin being made available is not the original recordings.

When you look at that quote attributed to the band, I am being completely honest when I say that I agree with the sentiment. This album does qualify as art. Many pieces of art are worth simply breathtaking amounts of money. And the value of The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin will be settled by a portion of the “debate” created by this process.

I celebrate and applaud this effort as unique, creative, and… honestly… genius. I think it’s incredible.

My contribution to the “debate” though isn’t the value of the album that will be sold… or the value of the music and content and art involved. Instead, I’m just wondering about a separate portion of the quote I noted as one of those that stood out initially to me.

The packaging sounds beautiful.

And yet I could quite legally go out and find an extraordinary da Vinci reproduction and package it beautifully. It could be worth significant money when I finish. But does that value reflect the exclusivity of the object?

Perhaps. Perhaps it actually does. But perhaps not.

And perhaps the single edition of The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and the work that went into it is of equal respect in the concept of original edition and exclusive availability.

Is the piece that ultimately will be toured for secure listening parties and then awarded to the highest bidder the masterpiece?

Yes… let the debate begin.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As I was getting ready to post this article, I began thinking of some other ideas, and honestly… I wasn’t sure where to place them. So, an appendix… an epilogue… a second act…

In many ways, and to continue the sentiment of the debate, the production of this album is much like any artist working on commission. The trick here is that the benefactor isn’t known up front. But for years and decades and centuries and longer, artists have produced paintings and poems and songs and more for private individuals or investors.

What we’re dealing with on the most basic of levels is supply and demand. I can make the argument that the album being delivered to the highest bidder may not be an original in the same definition as an original painting or the master recordings… a concept I still believe is interesting and valid to the conversation… but that idea doesn’t have to make the item any more or less valuable. The Wu-Tang Clan has produced The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin… and subject to certain conditions and understandings such as the packaging and listening events, are selling one copy of that album… and will be taking offers on that item. That is the art they are placing in the marketplace for sale.

Many statues have frames and molds and samples from developing work… many artistic pieces have sketches and drafts… many songs have demos and rough recordings. In some cases, those pieces of the process have tremendous value. For example -- How about a few sheets of hand-written Harry Potter from J. K. Rowling? …a cassette of John Lennon playing some home-recorded samples of songs for the first time? …a mold for a work by Picasso?

The more depth and consideration you give the subject, The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and its sale are a truly intriguing effort.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at