Did Martin Shkreli and the US government blow a huge NFT opportunity with Wu-Tang Clan album sale?
The US government has sold a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album previously owned by the imprisoned drug-firm executive Martin Shkreli. And Gemini’s Tyler Winklevoss thinks it represents a wasted opportunity to show the world the true value of NFTs.
The Winklevoss twin, who heads up the prominent US crypto exchange and custodian Gemini with his brother Cameron, posted a tweet today after the news of the unique album sale, writing it “should have been an NFT”.
Winklevoss was making the point that if the album’s intrinsic value had been digitally secured as an NFT (non-fungible token), then its “ownership and uniqueness would still be preserved even if everyone listened to the album”.
The hip-hop album, titled Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, includes a hand-carved nickel-silver box and a leather-bound manuscript containing lyrics and a certificate of authenticity.
Apart from being a one-off, the album’s value proposition is also tied up in a legal agreement with the owner that stipulates the music can’t be commercially exploited until 2103, although the physical album can be played during listening parties.
Should have been an NFT. Ownership and uniqueness would still be preserved even if everyone listened to the album. Instead, the value lies in this being a treasure hidden from the world. This is why NFTs are so powerful. https://t.co/QSvpBAH5ic
— Tyler Winklevoss (@tyler) July 27, 2021
The cult US hip-hop band, know for hits including Tang Clan, Protect Ya Neck and Can It Be All So Simple, created the single-album concept as a two-pressed CD in 2014. The band then stored it in a secured vault at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco. It took them six years to make and includes appearances from pop artist Cher and Game of Thrones actress Carice Van Houten.
The album was auctioned in 2015, when Shkreli bought it for US$2 million, making it the most expensive album ever sold. After learning who bought the album, the Wu-Tang Clan opted to donate a large portion of their proceeds to charity.
Shkreli, in prison for securities fraud, gained notoriety for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug called Retrophin, earning him the nicknames “Pharma Bro” and “The Most Hated Man in America”.
The album’s federal government sale now means “Pharma Bro” has finally paid off a US$7.4m forfeiture deal.
It’s not known how much the US government sold it for this week. But if they’d taken the time to learn about NFTs and the power of fine-art asset tokenisation, then maybe they could’ve made significantly more, considering the numbers some tokenised assets fetched earlier this year.