Hip Hop Stars as Designers: Headphones turn into cool fashion items


The brands are called Beats by Dr. Dre or Skullcandy, they stand out with their shrill colors and fresh shapes, and they have little in common with their boring black relatives, who for decades have been part of every hifi enthusiast's basic equipment.

American hip-hop stars have made high quality headphones into a fashion item. Rapper 50 Cent appeared in person at the IFA in Berlin this year to promote his brand SMS Audio. No, they're meant for all sorts of music, not just rap and hip-hop, he explained patiently. In Germany, soul singer Xavier Naidoo was already offered to launch earphones with his name on the market, but he did not participate.

"Consumers are increasingly using mobile devices, " said Ben Arnold of US market research firm NPD. "High quality headphones are the logical complement." The sales of premium headphones almost doubled within twelve months. For the colleagues of the German market research company GfK headphones belong to the consumer electronics articles, which sell well in the debt crisis-ridden Western Europe. In Germany, nearly five million headphones and stereo headsets were sold in the first half of the year, a good 14 percent more than a year earlier. As consumers increasingly resorted to more expensive accessories, sales even increased by more than 30 percent to 130 million euros.


"Headphones today are as much an expression of their own fashion taste as they are an audio accessory, " says NPD analyst Arnold. In the metropolises from Berlin to New York, the models of Beats by dr. Dre. For example, there are at least three young people per wagon in the New York subway who wear the straight-lined, often colorful headphones with a characteristic red cable. It already costs the entry level "solo" about 150 euros. The top model "Pro", which completely surrounds the ears, is around 400 euros.

American hip-hop star Andre "Dr. Dre" Young teamed up with music producer Jimmy Iovine in 2006 to release his own cool headphones. The idea made him rich. Dr. Dre leads by far this year's list of hip-hop top earners of the US magazine "Forbes". He slumped $ 110 million before taxes - more than twice as much as runner-up Sean "Diddy" Combs (45 million) and almost three times as much as Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter (38 million).

For the musicians, additional income becomes more and more important in times of declining revenues from CD sales. "You also have to be a businessman these days, " notes 50 Cent soberly. "And I'd much rather sell earphones than give my name for any sneakers." More audio accessories could follow, he had also already thought to bundle his music with it, says the 37-year-old, who really is Curtis James Jackson III.

Among those who benefit from the desire for stylish headphones, also includes the US manufacturer Skullcandy. The listed company with the skull as a trademark is showing a rapid pace of growth. First-half sales increased 42 percent to $ 126 million, with earnings up 49 percent at the bottom line of nearly $ 8 million. In Europe, Skullcandy has recently gained many new fans.

Meanwhile, even the world's largest computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard tries to make money with special Beats notebooks. The flat computer should have a very good sound card. The Taiwanese electronics company HTC peps up some smartphones with Beats by Dr. Ing. Dre auf, and the sedan Chrysler 300 S can be ordered with a music system of the headphone specialist. A large-scale entry of HTC at Beats but was largely zurückgeschraubt. (Dpa / tc)