A few weeks ago we announced that the Wu Tang Clan one-of-one Once Upon A Time in Shaolin album has been sold to a private buyer. Well, the buyer has now been revealed and you may or may not like who the project was sold to.
RZA announced back in March 2014, that the Wu would create a new album and sell the one-of-one project to the highest bidder. Initially, the Clan wanted to forbid the buyer from publicly releasing the album for 88 years, but over time decided to grant the buyer total freedom as long as the album wasn’t sold commercially. That meant the owner could listen to the record in a soundproof room, drive a pickup truck over it, or release it for free on the Internet. If the owner desired, he could be the only one who ever heard it. In an era where people are happy to stream music rather than actually possess it, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin offered a chance to own something truly unique.
The album was sold to wealthy pharmaceutical company executive, 32-year old Martin Shkreli. 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. He felt by buying the album, he would have the opportunity to rub shoulders with celebrities and rappers who would want to hear it.
Someone familiar with the deal says that the Wu-Tang Clan sold Shkreli the album for $2 million. Before he closed on the acquisition, Shkreli was permitted to listen to a few more snippets to make sure it was all there. Shkreli delegated the task to an employee. The same month, news broke that Shkreli’s new company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, had purchased an anti-parasitic drug called Daraprim and raised its price from $13.50 a pill to $750. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton denounced him. “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous,” Clinton tweeted. Her Republican opponent Donald Trump also attacked Shkreli. “He looks like a spoiled brat to me,” Trump said. The BBC wrote that Shkreli “may be the most hated man in America.”
After learning that Bloomberg Businessweek was about to report that Shkreli had purchased the album, RZA e-mailed a statement: “The sale of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was agreed upon in May, well before Martin Skhreli’s [sic] business practices came to light. We decided to give a significant portion of the proceeds to charity.”
As for the Wu-Tang fans who are likely to feel queasy when they learn that he’s the owner of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, Shkreli just shrugs. “At the end of the day,” he says, “they didn’t buy the last album or the one before that, and all they had to pay was $10.”
Shkreli wants more artists to make private albums for him. He figures they could use the money, and he will let them do whatever they want. “It’s almost like the instructions to the band are, ‘Do your best work, however much time it takes, and never compromise anything for me,’?” he says. “?‘I just want to hear what you’ve got.”
He hasn’t listened to Once Upon a Time in Shaolin yet. He’s saving that for a time when he’s feeling low and needs something to lift his spirits. “I could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that,” Shkreli says. “But for now, I think I’m going to kind of save it for a rainy day.”