Consumer Electronics Show

Wu-Tang Clan's RZA's plan to sell music—and speakers

Wu-Tang Clan's RZA Partners with Boombotix

Wu-Tang Clan's RZA is frustrated with the way the music industry has changed. Music has shifted from an ownership model—people buying albums—to an access one—people paying for access to songs through the cloud.

Now he's trying to revive the idea of ownership by selling music in a physical device: A Boombotix Bluetooth speaker.

If you wanted to hear a limited edition of Wu-Tang's 20th anniversary album, "A Better Tomorrow," this past fall, you had to buy the Wu-edition Boombot Rex. It quickly sold out of its limited 3,000 run, at $80 a pop. It also can play music from any Bluetooth device, and is designed to be much more powerful for its size, than a comparable speaker.

"The idea is that the Boombotix Rex is used as another vehicle for music to be sold through," said RZA. "I grew up in a day when you go to a record store and you buy the album, you open it up and you feel happy. This is actually the most, quickest gratification you can get from music. Out of the box, you just open it, hit the button and you have music all ready, don't need your cellphone, no other device."

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Richard Shotwell | Invision | AP

RZA says one goal is to reduce consumers' dependence on their phones. The speaker has a clip to attach to clothing, and the upcoming version is waterproof, so it'll be useful at the beach, unlike a more fragile phone.

This isn't designed to be a Spotify-killer, but rather a complement, since it can also stream any digital music service. "If you want to have something of your own, private to you—I think our privacy has been jumped on a little bit," said RZA. "If you want to share and have private [music] this device comes with both roles."

It's clear based on those early speaker sales that RZA's most devoted audience will pay for early access to his music—the question is whether a larger audience is willing to invest in hardware—and be locked into it—rather than the more flexible access model.

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