Within the music and recording industry, gimmicks are essential to keeping the wheel of capital and cultural production churning. In other words, gimmicks are nothing to be ashamed about because they tend to be extremely effective: back in March of 2014, the legendary rappers of the Wu-Tang Clan announced that they’d only be selling a single copy of their forthcoming album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The album eventually sold for around $2 million to the notorious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, but the stunt had proven that novel ways of selling music were still to be discovered. Now, that new frontier has arrived: recently, the Wu-Tang Clan announced that they’d be selling 36 copies of a 400 page coffee table book about their legacy in the form of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
Additionally, the estate associated with MF DOOM, the beloved underground rapper and producer who passed away in 2020, has also decided to release limited-edition NFTs of things like the rapper’s signature mask and a mummy-style mask. 10% of the total sales of the DOOM NFTs go back to MF DOOM’s estate as a form of royalties, which provides further insight into why the non-fungible tokens could be so potentially lucrative for musicians, even after they pass away. The Wu-Tang Clan, for example, is touting their NFT coffee table book as the “rarest book in hip-hop history,” making clever use of the concept of artificial scarcity in order to make a point.
Illust Space, the company that facilitated the sale of the MF DOOM NFTs, stated that the auction was a landmark moment in the decentralized finance industry. “This collaboration represents a tipping point for augmented reality,” Illust Space CEO Rob McCarthy told OkayPlayer. “With Snap, Instagram, Niantic, Adobe, Microsoft, Alphabet and Apple fighting for augmented reality platform dominance, the least we can do is ensure an equitable system for artists to create, sell, and track their work.”