Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wu-Tang's Secret Album To Be Sold By Paddle8 Auction House

The Saga Continues: Wu-Tang will sell its secret album through upstart auction house Paddle8
(Photo: Rashad Patterson).
Wu-Tang Taps Paddle8 Auction House To Sell Secret Album

Nearly a year ago, the Wu-Tang Clan shocked the music world with an announcement too bizarre for fiction: the hip-hop collective had recorded a secret double album dubbed The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, and was planning to sell just one copy.

The album’s producer, Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, invited me to hear a snippet of the lone LP in Marrakech last spring. He explained that Wu-Tang wanted to reverse the devaluation of music and help it regain the fine art status it enjoyed during the Renaissance; RZA later said the group received a $5 million offer for the record. Then Wu-Tang went silent and focused on releasing A Better Tomorrow.

Today, it appears the group is ready to turn its attention back to Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, confirming for the first time the manner in which—and the unusual outlet by which—the album will eventually be sold.

“We will announce Paddle8 as [the] official auction house,” said RZA in an electronic message to FORBES.

Founded in 2011 by Harvard Business School grad Aditya Julka and LVMH veteran Alexander Gilkes, Paddle8 is backed by angel investors from Damien Hirst to the Mellon family. It has also received funding from respected firms including Founder Collective (Uber, Makerbot) and Mousse Partners (Warby Parker, Paperless Post).

The company, which boasts a team of 75, conducts online-only auctions (and for charitable auctions can partner with non-profits to secure a floor for bids before a live event), typically with lower fees than the grand old auctioneers. The aforementioned Hirst, Julian Schnabel, Jeff Koons and other big name artists have sold their works through Paddle8.

RZA, Cilvaringz, the rest of Wu-Tang and Paddle8 won’t reveal much else about the sale process for now, only that more information will be released through a micro-site later this month. The site will contain interviews with RZA, Wu-Tang-related essays and a sneak peek at Once Upon A Time In Shaolin‘s tracklist. And the transaction will be treated as a private sale, not an auction.

“That’s something that auction houses–Christie’s, Sotheby’s, all the way down to Paddle8–do quite frequently,” says Paddle8′s Sarah Goulet. “It’s price upon request.”

As such, Paddle8 will filter legitimate offers and Wu-Tang will try to settle on one that seems to be the best fit, a bit different from a traditional auction. Regardless of the format, it seemed clear from the outset that involving an auction house would be logical, given the need for an entity that could sort serious buyers from jokers.

“Anyone can send an email saying, ‘I got $55 million,’” Cilvaringz told me in Morocco. “I got one like that before. But it’s like, ‘Yeah, right.’”

Given that established auction houses like Sotheby’s seem to have been sniffing around the album, the choice of Paddle8 is perhaps just as outrageous and/or forward thinking as the one-album concept itself.

What remains to be seen is when the sale will occur—and how much Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will fetch on the (relatively) open market.

“This is being positioned both by the Wu-Tang Clan and by Paddle8 as a work of art,” says Goulet. “It’s truly treating this album, which very well may be the last album that the Wu-Tang Clan makes together, as a one-of-a kind, special property that is worth the price.”

Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Paddle8 has a team of over 50 people, and has been updated to reflect the latest headcount of 75; this version also includes language clarifying Paddle8′s involvement in live auctions.

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