It turns out that Martin Shkreli is the owner of the only copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin…
Once Upon A Time In Shaolin… is a limited edition double album by the New York hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan made available for a single purchase in 2015. The concept to offer a musical work in a single form was conceived by long time Wu-Tang affiliate Cilvaringz and was based on music exploitation as a commissioned commodity in the Baroque, Enlightenment and Renaissance ages. The idea was further developed with Wu-Tang leader RZA into a concept presentable to the public. In April 2014, Cilvaringz revealed UAE based Wissam Khodur as Co-Executive Producer of the project.
Okay so Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is only available as a physical copy and is not made available to anybody beyond the first purchaser. The purchaser can choose to let other people listen freely if he wants.
Serious bidders got to hear the 13-minute highlights in private listening sessions arranged by Paddle8 in New York.
One of them was a pharmaceutical company executive named Martin Shkreli. He’s 32 years old but seems much younger, with a tendency to fiddle with his hair and squirm in his seat like an adolescent.
Now that Shkreli had more money, he started collecting music-related items. He once joked on Twitter about trying to buy Katy Perry’s guitar so he could get a date with her. He purchased Kurt Cobain’s Visa card in a Paddle8 auction and occasionally produces it to get a rise out of people when it’s time to pay a check.
Shkreli heard about Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and thought it would be nice to own, too.
Now since we know Martin Shkreli is a fuckboi (based on his childish behavior regarding this whole Turing debacle) I think it is safe to assume he is not going to share this music with anybody, anywhere. Based on the phrasing in the original Bloomberg article (above) he seems to just want to use it to get laid.
He hasn’t bothered to listen to it yet.
So for any Wu Tang Clan lovers out there, good luck.
Art as a Business
From a business perspective, this is all very interesting.
Wu-Tang affiliate Cilvaringz and was based on music exploitation as a commissioned commodity in the Baroque, Enlightenment and Renaissance ages.
This is literally a modern example of the past.
Only the very rich, the uber rich, in the past could afford to commission artwork.
As an artist, as a business person, the rich were your lifeblood. The artist was dependent on their commissions and patronage. You can find the vain shows of wealth in the artworks commissioned by these uber wealthy people to this day (use of gold leaf in paintings was a great way to show off how rich you were).
And while the rich got to be vain and employ their own little artists the poor, the common man, was left with more basic forms of art such as statues and mosaics. The majority of society really did not have much art to engage with (judging by our modern abundance of art). There just wasn’t much money for paintings until society began modernizing (see the many stories of French painters for examples of growing wealth and new consumers of art).
To sum up…
Society develops -> wealth increases -> art becomes more and more available
Here we are in a world where art is everywhere and is absolutely affordable to everyone… and then bam, Wu Tang Clan makes an album only the rich can afford.
And that art was consumed by the rich. It was consumed by Martin Shkreli and it doesn’t seem like that music will be shared.
This should emphasize a point for you. It should emphasize just how much artwork is available to everybody in the world and just how little we have to pay for it.
The price paid and exclusivity maintained by Shkreli should emphasize that this abundance of art is a modern privilege… one granted by wealth and development.
The Business of Art – When a Fuckboi Buys Your Music by Jordan Wunderlich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.