Wu-Tang Clan's 'Once Upon a Time in Shaolin' — the World's Most Expensive Album — Is Now a $1 NFT

"2103 will come faster than you think"

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Old and New Art

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jun 13, 2024

I suppose this was inevitable. Wu-Tang Clan's mythic, one-of-a-kind Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album — for which previous owner Martin Shkreli was recently sued over unauthorized copies and plays — is now available as an NFT for $1 USD.

Crypto collective PleasrDAO bought the album RZA and collaborator Cilvaringz created a decade ago — with the intention of making only one physical copy — from the US government at auction for $4.75 million in 2021, with an agreement to not release the music until 2103. Two days prior to their first scheduled public listening event in Tasmania, the digital art company has put copies of the album up for sale as NFTs.

"The world's most expensive album is available for $1," PleasrDAO wrote on Twitter. "Enter the chamber and secure a copy — 2103 will come faster than you think." 

The post also included a three-minute trailer detailing the album's backstory, as well as a link to thealbum.com, where copies of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin can be bought in dollars or Ethereum. Apparently, the more copies you buy, the faster 2103 arrives. (A follow-up tweet explains that each purchase moves the encryption date up by 88 seconds.)

Here's a note from RZA and Cilvaringz about the whole ordeal:

"The music industry is in crisis… we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music." — Cilvaringz & RZA

[Ten] years ago Wu-Tang Clan released an album unlike any other. In a statement against piracy and the devaluation of music, they created only one copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, seeking to bring value back to music.

The plan worked. It became the most expensive album ever sold twice over. However, the cost was limiting the listening to a single owner until the year 2103.

In 2024 there is a new bold plan — Pleasr has digitized and encrypted the album, enabling anyone to become an owner for $1. Each purchase brings the original date for the album release forward by 88 seconds.

We ask a simple question: are we willing to pay artists in the digital age?

The saga continues motherfuckers.

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