A DAO Paid $4m For A Wu-Tang Clan CD; What The Heck Is A DAO?

A DAO Paid $4m For A Wu-Tang Clan CD; What The Heck Is A DAO?

The one-of-a-kind album titled Once Upon a Time in Shaolin from New York hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan has already had an interesting journey since the sole copy was pressed in 2014.

It was sold for a reported $2m to the infamously disgraced “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, but when he was later convicted of securities fraud, Shkreli was forced to hand the album over to the US federal government.

In July the feds announced that the album had been sold-off to an undisclosed buyer and on Wednesday the collective known as PleasrDAO revealed itself as the new owner of the CD, which comes with a prohibition that it not be released commercially until 2103.

PleasrDAO describes itself as “a collective of DeFi leaders, early NFT collectors and digital artists,” on its website, adding “the DAO has evolved and elevated its mission to collect digital art that represents and funds important ideas, movements and causes that have been memorialized on-chain as NFTs.”

While the release of Upon a Time in Shaolin predates the rise of NFTs, PleasrDAO Chief Pleasing Officer Jamis Johnson calls the exclusive album, which comes with strict restrictions on duplication, distribution or public exhibition, the “OG NFT.”

“The single copy concept’s primary intention was to incentivize a debate about the perception of music as an art form and how its monetary and experiential values were being smothered by digitization,” explains Cilvaringz, the album’s producer and conceptualizer, in a statement. “Seven years later, the NFT suddenly achieved to secure these values. At the very least, this album has encouraged the journey towards this solution for digitizable art forms.”

Pleasr-what?

So a collective of digital art collectors collected a piece of art with a philosophical connection to the NFTs that have lit the world on fire in the last year. But this doesn’t answer the other question floating right on the surface of this story: Why isn’t it called Pleasr Collective? What the heck is a DAO?

DAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization, which was defined in 2017 as “an organization that is run through rules encoded as computer programs called smart contracts.”

If that doesn’t clear things up, think of a DAO as an organization that puts portions of its governance or operating rules on a blockchain, allowing for transparency of financial transactions and decision making, all theoretically operating outside the bounds of conventional geographies and governments.

“Think of them like an internet-native business that's collectively owned and managed by its members,” reads the Ethereum Foundation’s explanation. “They have built-in treasuries that no one has the authority to access without the approval of the group. Decisions are governed by proposals and voting to ensure everyone in the organization has a voice.”

Some consider Bitcoin itself to be a DAO, but famously, the first self-acknowledged DAO - simply known as The DAO - was spun up on the Ethereum blockchain and then promptly hacked and drained of its funds.

A bit of a DAO winter ensued, but DAOs continued to emerge in the crypto world to create some of the more successful projects in the DeFi universe, including Uniswap and the DAI stablecoin.

Now, over the past year or so, DAOs seem to be popping up everywhere and they aren’t just about crypto-specific concerns. Most operate via online chat clients like Discord and many have issued their own crypto tokens.

PleasrDAO is one among several using the framework to pool funds and invest in all sorts of assets. One DAO called The Krause House has one simple but audacious objective: to buy an NBA basketball team.

A so-called social DAO named Friends With Benefits that bills itself as “the ultimate cultural membership” is seeing investment interest from the likes of A16Z; CityDAO is working to put physical real estate assets on the blockchain.

There are now even DAOs, like DAOists, with the mission of turning as many organizations as possible into DAOs. Metaverse, indeed.

The Saga Continues

All of these DAOs, and the many others springing up every day, are still in their relative infancy. I’ve yet to mention the acronym to any friends outside the DAO universe and get even the slightest glimmer of recognition.

But the same could be said about NFTs around a year ago. I have to wonder if PleasrDAO’s new acquisition of a famous cultural artifact with no real attachment to the crypto world could constitute a breakthrough moment for DAOs.

We’ll soon see, but the only Chief Pleasing Officer I know of seems to think that Wu-Tang could be the perfect ambassadors for DAOs.

“Philosophically, Wu-Tang Clan is the OG DAO: a collective formed to reach beyond the limits of any single individual; collaborative in nature to fulfill a higher purpose, yet allowing each individual member sovereign freedom to act on their own accord.”

(Disclosure: In my quest to understand DAOs, I joined several DAO Discord servers over the last few months and have since become an active member of DAOists.)

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