Celebrity endorsements are behind increases in headphone sales, says a new report by market-research company the NPD Group. That's good news for artists with headphone lines such as Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Ludacris and Diddy.
Last year, headphones that cost $100 or more accounted for 3.5% of the market, up from 2% in 2009. Overall headphone sales increased 17% in units and 30% in dollars in 2010. This sales uptick is unusual for such a mature product category, says Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at the NPD Group. While TVs, notebooks, MP3 players and digital cameras have seen unit sales declines, while headphone sales are strong. "It's one of the few that's growing," he told Billboard.
Endorsements by well known artists are helping drive that growth. Like mobile devices, Rubin said, headphones have become a fashion accessory to many Americans. He said NPD has found that 11% of consumers say headphones endorsed by music artists they know and like was either extremely or very important in their purchase decisions. For headphones that cost over $100, that figure rose to 18.
Mobile devices are also playing a role here. Rubin told Billboard that smartphones are emerging as a leading device used by headphone buyers. These connected devices lower the barriers to entry for adopting digital music. "That has the potential to multiply the installed base the iPod created."