Question Of The Week: The $5 Million Album
Hello MetalSucks reader! Happy Friday! Are you partying this wknd? Let’s barf!
But first: Say, have you heard that members of the Wu-Tang Clan (huge rap group from China) claim the existence of a secret double album? And, weirder, that they’d bring the only physical copy on “tour” for paying audiences to listen to it once uninterrupted? And that after that “tour,” they’d sell that one copy? And that they’ve already received bids as high as $5 million? Whoa!
As The Dude says, that’s fucking interesting. Could there be a singular, unshareable super-album in metal? Would it be authored by Ted Nugent, Jonathan Davis, and Dave Mustaine? Let’s talk it out for today’s awesome MetalSucks Question Of The Week!
Under what circumstances could you imagine a single-copy, $5 million dollar metal album? What artist(s)? Who buys? Only one copy??
It’s like The Samizdat but less destructive? Join in the discussion below! Have an awesome wknd!
It would have to be special and impossible to replicate, ie. its creators would have to be dead. So in my mind, $5 million would buy some National Treasure-style shit, where you find out that Cliff Burton, Randy Rhoads, Jeff Hanneman, Oderus Urungus, and Vitek had all been working on parts of a legendary metal song that would absolutely blow the mind of everyone who listens to it. If those demo-ed parts were gathered and put together, and made one copy of that song in a record sleeve actually made of Dio’s flesh, then yeah, it’d be worth $5 million.
First, jest-ful editorial suggestions aside, I’d pay $5 million to prevent a Nugent/Mustaine/Jonathan Davis supergroup from ever happening. Don’t even joke on that shit. On a serious note: $5 million is a lot of money. For that kind of coinage, I expect miracles. I expect time warps and raising the dead. I expect a new Led Zeppelin album. With John Bonham (alive. Somehow). A Robert Plant who remembers how to wail. A pre-1980 Jimmy Page, who never did a Death Wish soundtrack or whatever was Coverdale/Page. (Guilty pleasure alert: I dug The Firm). A John Paul Jones who … the other members remember is still alive. I buy miracles.
This would work with beloved bands that aren’t known for stable output. Or original line-up bands that exist no longer. It would work for private shows, too. Like a Bloodbath performance by all the original members. That will never happen but one show in a largish venue with tickets up for bids? They’d make a killing.
I’d dispense $5 million for only one purpose: Me. With that budget, I could assemble a supercrew of sunny songwriter studs Adrian Smith (guitars, Iron Maiden), Adam Tanbouz (guitars, He Is Legend), and Marco Ziti Gelato (bass, Lacuna Coil). Enlisted to produce would be Bob Rock of 1989, and drums by phenom/fox Didi Negron. Locked in a studio in Jamaica, we’d collaborate on a killer double album of original songs. Or I’d pay Steel Panther to back me for 70 minutes of BulletBoys karaoke.
I don’t think there’s a metal band going that could pull off what the Wu attempts here. In fact, the one who might have already missed their chance: Carcass. Surgical Steel arguably represented a big milestone in metal reunion records. Carcass was the reformed lineup that left us most wary, as their catalog was still so vital. (Not to mention that Swansong, their then-final album, was their worst). But their new stuff turned out really fucking good. But imagine that Surgical Steel‘s revived Heartwork sheen and slice was a closely-guarded secret, that the reunion album over which we all had wrung our hands was only an abstract concept and not a year-end list favorite, that museums full of longhairs heard it and marveled at its excellence? And how many of Steel‘s naysayers could call it “overrated” without the breathless reviews and easy access to it? It would be metal’s great legend: How good was that new Carcass album? Except that it would get bought for a few million bucks by Digby Pearson, who’d just leak it anyway.
This thing is an awesome comment on the state of the record industry and music piracy. It’s similar to record labels printing a thousand copies of a record in that it generates exclusivity — just at a far more extreme scale. The “what if?” scenario it generates — a world where an artist releases just one copy of each album — makes you think about the dissemination of and value of recorded music and physical products, infinite vs. limited. This is the kind of thing that could end up pushing album sales if the material is truly kept from leaking onto the internet. More artists could start doing this kind of thing also for the reason that it’s a great way to generate hype. As for metal, bands with cult followings like Meshuggah would likely be able pull off a multi-million dollar release, though I know at least one MS staffer who would consider dropping $5 million on a gold-plated Emmure record ;)
Even with metal now being written up in “respectable” mainstream publications like The New Yorker, it still doesn’t have the cultural cache of hip-hop, which ostensibly supplanted rock n’ roll as the populist expression of adolescent rebellion in the ’90s. So it’s hard to imagine that even metal’s biggest acts (e.g. Sabbath, Maiden, Metallica) would fetch such a huge fee for anything, let alone a single record. Even a mega-supergroup of artists respected (or semi-respected) by the mainstream — say, Bruce Dickinson on vocals, Eddie Van Halen on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass, and (God help us) Lars Ulrich on drums — would have difficulty unloading their project at that price. Instead, it would have to be something never heard before, but something that truly can never be recreated — say, unreleased material from a big band at least one prominent member of which is now deceased (Metallica with Burton, Sabbath with Dio, etc.). Even then, $5 million is so much, and, again, metal just isn’t that popular. An unearthed Biggie recording would be worth far more on the open market than an unearthed Hanneman recording, period. No major Hollywood studio is in a rush to make a movie about Dime.