Can Wu-Tang Clan Save the Record Album with “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin”?

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When I first heard that trailblazing rap collective Wu-Tang Clan intends to release just one copy of its new album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, I stopped what I was doing and had to learn more. And therein lies the point of ¬†Wu-Tang Clan’s strategy: create intrigue for a fading art form, the record album.

The album has become practically an anachronism in the era of digital disposable content. Listening to an album all the way through requires focused attention. But consumers like to stream our music in small morsels while we’re shopping, exercising, gaming, and generally doing anything but focusing our attention on music. It’s no wonder that album sales continue to decline, decreasing by 8.4 percent in 2013, including a downturn for digital albums.

Enter Wu-Tang Clan, which made one of the most influential rap albums of all time, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), in 1993 (long before album sales started their decline).

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The strategy behind Enter the Wu-Tang — the group’s first album — was as inventive as its sound. The group wanted Enter the Wu-Tang to be a launching pad for the careers of its individual members (not just Wu-Tang Clan, per se) and the approach worked: Method Man, RZA, Raekwon, Continue reading