How Beats Electronics Became So Big

Ten years ago, there was no such thing as Beats headphones.  Jimmy Iovine was working as an executive in the Universal empire and Dr. Dre was busy producing hip-hop records. So how did this company go from zero to a $3 billion acquisition by Apple in such lightning-quick fashion?  The Verge takes a look.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, before he helped found Beats Electronics, Jimmy Iovine was a record producer working on albums like Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes. To help him craft hits, Iovine had a radio tower built into the A&M studio on the Charlie Chaplin lot. At the end of each session, he would take the day’s mix and broadcast it over the airwaves. Then he would get in his car and drive around so he could hear the music the same way most fans would experience it for the first time, a form of field testing that helped him perfect the final sound.

Fast-forward a few decades and the headphone company created by Iovine and fellow record producer Dr. Dre has conquered the market and beenacquired by Apple for a whopping $3 billion. How did they do it? There were plenty of high-end headphones on the market before Beats showed up, but they were mostly aimed at a niche audience of audiophiles. According to data from the NPD Group, prior to 2012 premium units made up less than a third of the revenue generated from headphone sales. For the average consumer, a $20 pair of Apple’s earbuds would do just fine. “I get this question all the time. Okay, headphones. But headphones have been around for so long,” TJ Grewal, Beats’ head of product, told The Verge. “Why now? Why did it happen? Why Beats?”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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