Headphones are no longer just for functionality. They express users’ individual styles and personalities. The best part is, they’re not just better looking now, they’re built for superior sound quality as well. With the global headphone market expected to increase by 20% in 2012 to hit a hefty $6 billion payday, up from $5 billion in 2011, everyone from corporations to artists are getting in on the design, marketing, and endorsements, reaping the benefits while smiling from ear to ear (no pun intended).
The catalyst for the growth in the headphones market is largely due to an increase in AV media devices like tablets and smartphones, which everyone from students to the elderly seem to have these days. In fact, not having one is almost considered abnormal. Don’t believe me? Just try getting on a plane or any mode of public transportation and pull out a laptop. It’s almost embarrassing, and is pretty much the equivalent of breaking out a cassette tape in today’s much improved digital world.
Futurecast is predicting “sales in excess of 260 million units in 2012, up from 228 million units in 2011. Positive growth is predicted throughout the forecast period, with the market expected to top 330 million units in 2016. Soaring portable device ownership, including smartphones and tablets, as well as a proliferation of digital content for these devices, and multiple ownership of headphones are the key drivers in the market and will remain so moving forwards.”
With so much revenue at stake, manufacturers are taking every opportunity to distinguish their products from the rest of the pack. While Sony, Phillips, Sennheiser, and JVC are dominant in the market in terms of unit sales, revenue isn’t necessarily divided that way when you factor in creative designs, big celebrity endorsements, and high end acoustics. The brands dominating on this end of the playing field are Bose, Monster/Beats by Dr. Dre, Skullcandy, and AKG. Even the Olympic Games were utilized as an opportunity to beef up customer bases, though it was officially against the rules. Oh c’mon, where there’s a will…
SOL Republic recently presented their deadmau5 Tracks HD headphones, which will get a lot of market attention because they’re branded in collaboration with the popular artists Joel Zimmerman and Joshua Davis. Quarkie launched seven new brands this month with the theme, “Quarkie Looks, Serious Sounds.” The new designs include: yellow viper snakeheads, green viper snakeheads, snake eyes, cat eyes, chameleon eyes, purple gemstones, and rusty bolts. And if none of those get your cat’s meow, just hang on until the end of the year when the company is expected to push out even more new and “Quarkie” brands.
Even DJs are getting in on the action with the legendary Bob Sinclair becoming the first global endorser for Sennheiser’s new Amperior headphones. They are touted as bringing the DJ club sound quality to the street.
The bottom line is that the market is in demand for high quality, personalized headphones, and when that’s the case, suppliers will supply. And “heads” will roll to ensure the success of each company’s sales and as big a slice of the proverbial headphone pie revenue as possible. I can just “hear” the sound of cash being plunked down on counters now.