Celebrities — actors, musicians, athletes — make as much if not more moolah endorsing stuff than from their day jobs. But does that mean we ought to buy a product just because a famous person says we should? Given the recent star-studded unveiling of a new flotilla of Dr. Dre's Beats headphone line, the question has renewed relevance.
Danica Patrick would probably have a negative effect on my choice of domain name companies, but I'd listen to any car recommendations she might have, with or without cleavage-filled R-rated ads.
Then there's Monster's suddenly ubiquitous Beats headphones. The big unveiling, hosted by Sirius satellite radio personality Mario Armstrong brought us several new Beats. The New York event featured Dr. Dre and Interscope founder Jimmy Iovine, with LeBron James and Justin Beiber making "wish we were there" filmed Beats-boosting appearances.
Beats's distinctive lowercase "b" logo is becoming a symbol of cool. There's even a Web page dedicated to celebrities who "wear" Beats headphones, including the cast of "Entourage," Will.i.am (featured in some of the epress event's video), Lady Gaga - even Dr. Drew.
Unlike other celebrity-endorsed products, though, the whole Beats line was Dre's and Iovine's idea, bringing a bit more gravitas (if not profit motive) to their endorsement. And their star power allowed them to recruit James and Bieber, to help kids understand what good sound should sound like, to help design and market the new headphones.
Iovine and Dre's overarching message was "digitally compressed music sucks, cheap headphones make it suck worse," which is correct. They wanted headphones to reproduce what they heard in the studio, and wanted people to not settle for the freebie headphones that come with music players. That's a message audio geeks have been screaming for years, but who listens to us about good listening? Maybe respected musicians can better promote that message.
That doesn't mean Beats are actually worth the extra money; V-Moda, for instance, makes over-the-head headphones, the Crossfades, every bit as kick-as as the Beats, but for $100 less — and not a celebrity in sight.
Which may explain why you've likely never heard of them.