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Doppler Labs’ DUBS to Become Official Earplug of Bonnaroo, Outside Lands

DUBS Acoustic filters, an enhanced take on a concert staple, will be the official earplug at both Bonnaroo and Outside Lands for the next two years.

DUBS Acoustic filters — an enhanced take on the concert staple, the earplug, introduced last September by startup Doppler Labs — faced an all-too-common marketing challenge for any young startup. “We didn’t have the capital to pay for sponsorships, so we knew we had to identify partners who understood what we’re trying to do with this product,” says Noah Kraft, CEO and co-founder of DUBS.

But Kraft knew there was a need for more prevalent hearing protection, and as he began to approach early partners like SoulCycle and nightclub promoters Tao Group, the stats were in his favor. Newly released figures from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimate that roughly 15 percent of Americans between 20 and 69 (26 million people) have experienced high-frequency hearing loss resulting from noise exposure at work or during leisure activities like live events. Doppler Labs also estimated the earplug category to be worth $600 million in consumer spending, a sign that the market was growing but far from mature.


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There was still the issue of marketing, however. Sponsorships at a top-tier festival can cost brands upwards of six figures for on-site tents and logo placement — and even more for multi-year deals, which more and more requiring. But AEG Live’s Goldenvoice was the first festival partner to sign on for a barter-based marketing partnership at this month’s Coachella, which offered DUBS a VIP tent in exchange for earplug giveaways to invited attendees.

“Our whole slogan is ‘Go louder longer,’ and you should be going to festivals like Coachella without any fear of losing your hearing,” Kraft says. “The team at Coachella tried the product, absolutely loved it, and said, ‘This is exactly the kind of product we’ve been looking to get behind.’ I’m sure if we went to someone where it wasn’t as conducive, they’d say, ‘Hey write us a check.’”

Next up: Superfly’s Bonnaroo (June 11-14, Manchester, Tenn.) and Outside Lands (August 7-9, San Francisco) festivals, where DUBS filters will be the official earplug of both festivals in 2015 and ’16. Kraft hopes to match or beat the brand’s presence at Coachella, where DUBS’ custom audio filters sold out in Day 1 and were experienced by tens of thousands of attendees — including a certain Oscar-winning multi-hyphenate.

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“We were driving to our campground and this car pulled up to our truck,” Kraft recalls. “This older man comes out and starts talking, and we realize it’s Clint Eastwood. He pulled over the DUBS truck and basically got out and said, ‘Hey, I was at AC/DC Friday night and everyone was wearing these and I said, ‘Where do I get a pair?’”

And as awareness of noise-related hearing damage increases in the music sector, expect more DUBS-like deals to proliferate in the 2015 festival season and beyond. One knowledge executive says SFX is currently in talks with several earplug manufacturers for potential partnerships, while brands like Earpeace, Etymotic, Earasers and V-Moda have recently rolled out designer-style earplugs of their own in recent months.

Still, with backers that include Tiesto, Quincy Jones and Hans Zimmer, Kraft hopes that DUBS can help spread the word on the importance of any hearing protection device. At Coachella, for example, attendees could test what their hearing might sound like 10 to 25 years down the road without any safeguarding. “Ten years ago, people who went to festivals didn’t have this kind of education,” he says.