#304: The Most Expensive Album Ever is on Sale for $1

🤝 How does The Album's release inspire mechanics around coordination

Earlier today as part of Base’s Onchain Summer campaign, PleasrDAO announced that they were bringing Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin onchain.

Before we get into the details, a recap of events that transpired over the past decade that led to this event:

  • The album was recorded in secret over 6 years, with only one physical copy made in 2014. The album was a statement about the declining value of music and against the music industry’s practices.

  • The physical copy was auctioned off in 2015, and came with a legal agreement that the album cannot be commercially exploited (distributed for profit, streamed online, used in advertising, etc.) until 2103. The music could be played at listening parties.

  • Martin Shkreli (the infamous ex-pharma CEO) won the auction, with a winning bid of $2 million. In 2018, Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud, and the album was seized.

  • The US DOJ sold the album to PleasrDAO (a collective of folks that buy and fund significant digital artwork and NFTs in the space) in July 2021 for $4 million

  • Pleasr conducted their first public listening event this past weekend, to the delight of many fans

And that leads us to today, with the digital ‘release’ of the album.

The Album

With the album brought online and onchain, the 2103 ‘release' date still stands, along with some notable twists.

The album is encrypted and sold as $1 NFTs. Each purchase moves the decryption date up by 88 seconds. ~28 million (aka $28 million) NFTs would need to be sold for the album to be decrypted immediately. Proceeds from the sale are shared with the artists, which likely encouraged the artists to modify the original legal stipulation around commercial exploitation.

The mechanics are interesting for multiple reasons:

Token-gated access

Purchasers/holders of the NFT get more than just a fun NFT to show that they contributed to the effort. They immediately get access to a 5-minute sampler exclusively created by one of the album producers.

Pleasr will also progressively release more songs from the album, which I assume is at certain time-based or mint-based milestones. This turns the NFT into a subscription and the website into a record player.


Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned leaderboard? This leaderboard adds some fun twists, focusing on time removed from the countdown (based on the number of albums minted) and creating clubs around time reduced.

Other interesting observations

  • The leaderboard incorporates nicknames as a nod to the Wu-Tang members’ nickname style

  • Website CTAs have fun sound effects as a nod to the kung fu movies the group has sampled from

  • NFTs will be tradable as a DN-404, $ALBUM. TBD on what this may become, but there will likely be more details on this later

  • There will be additional “airdrops to verified GME holders, holders of the commemorative Zora mint, and additional communities”. The GME holders bit is particularly interesting, and I’m assuming that’s related to the memestock that has been the talk of town the past few weeks thanks to Roaring Kitty’s reappearance. Mass distribution incoming?

Have you listened to music before? If so, share or subscribe!


Onchain music aligns incentives and works!

Onchain music platforms like sound.xyz have unlocked distribution and monetization methods that weren’t possible before, and now we’re seeing this at the highest levels (at least in terms of cost 🤑). Pleasr’s approach took the same principles and aligned incentives in a situation that involved multiple parties elegantly:

  • The consumer/fan via access to listening to the music and album ownership

  • The artist via a unique and compelling monetization model, which is validated because Wu-Tang Clan was willing to move forward with this dynamic release date mechanic

  • The owner (Pleasr) as a way to receive a portion of the proceeds for their release efforts (I’m assuming they get a portion or at least recoup costs)

Dynamic release mechanic

Although I’m sure this has been done before, I haven’t seen this type of release mechanic.

Countdown timers? Sure

Surprise album releases? Sure

Hitting a fundraising milestone for a pizza party? Sure

Remember these?

The dynamic countdown brings the album’s original auction from 2015 full circle. This ‘auction’ results in ownership and involves a countdown. But instead of PvP (player vs player) bidding against each other, it’s PvE (player vs environment) with the ‘E’ being time. The higher the collective bids up the album via $1 sales, the sooner the album gets released.

The release date becomes co-deterministic.

I think this is a great case study around creating more unique engagement mechanics for a common goal while helping creators get paid. Extrapolating this concept to other mediums: What if I published a piece that was gated until enough NFTs were minted or funds were raised, similar to Kickstarter but the product has already been created. This becomes an alternative or addition to the premium subscription model 🤔

Anyway, I got too excited about this and minted too many albums. If you want one, reply to this email or comment on this post with your wallet address and I’ll send a copy over.

Other Interesting Things

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The Solana intern shares a Consensus 2024 recap, artfully blending in the culture and updates through the way it was written. Entertaining and engaging.

See you next week!

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