How Beats Conquered the World
Way back when high end stereo systems came as expensive components you could walk into that friend’s house who had the incredible stereo only to find the “bass boost” button depressed, the equalizer on curve that punched your ears out with midrange, and the expensive tweeters in the speakers thoroughly unused. Listening to music that way at a club or during a party made sense if you were there a short time, but all day long that way was really all F’ed up. My years as a DJ taught me one thing well - how to adjust sound so people danced all freaking night long and not just wildly for a set or two. Hint: it wasn’t at the BEATS setting, but it wasn’t flat… you need those highs and lows to keep the flow.
The answer is a combination of branding and big sound that comes directly from the founders’ experience crafting records — and shaping artists — for a mainstream audience. Essentially, they went about building headphones like producers making an album, not businessmen trying to break into an established market. “I think where that trick comes from, it’s because we’re born more from a right-brain approach to the problem,” says Grewal. “Product wasn’t cultural before, it was functional.” Beats changed all that by focusing not just on having great sound, but on making “sound” cool again.
“They added a brand to the space that consumer really wanted to identify with,” says Benjamin Arnold, an analyst with the NPD Group. “Headphones that are equal parts functional device and fashion accessory, almost like Air Jordans.” Beats’ bold colors and more modern industrial design set them apart from incumbents like Sony, Bose, or Bowers & Wilkins. The look was endorsed by celebrity “co-creators” like LeBron James and Lady Gaga. Suddenly $100 headphones were something every kid needed to own.