50 Cent‘s SMS Audio headphone company is one of the leaders in the growing premium headphone industry. The G-Unit mogul sit down with CNBC to talk about founding of SMS Audio headphones, Beats, headphone market and more.
Celebrity clothing lines, one of the first areas in which musicians branched out into retail, came with a sense of friendly competition. 50 said that he made the mistake of thinking that it might be the same with headphones, but he learned competition is much more aggressive in the headphone space.
“When Russell Simmons went into Phat Farm clothing, you saw Rocawear from Jay-Z, you saw Sean John from Puffy, you saw G-Unit from myself, and then numerous other companies,” he said. “It showed us that you could successfully utilize the influence generated from music to market things other than music.”
50 Cent on leaving Interscope and competition with Beats:
“I would have had communications with Jimmy [Iovine],” Jackson said. “The owner of Beats owned the record company I was on, and I had to get off the record company in order to make music again. He was looking at me as a direct competitor.”
“Whenever a company makes a deal, there’s a different house on the other side of the street, ya know? So I went over to that house,” Jackson said. Or put another way: “Beats is Nike. We’re Adidas.”
On founding SMS Audio:
“They had already worked through the kinks with the early products they created,” he said. “It made it a lot easier to make my vision for SMS come to life.”
“When you say Sony, I see an image of Asian people in suits. When you pick a person to connect to a company and that person has a cool factor around them, people will look at it and appreciate it.”
One of the keys to its continued success, Jackson said, is that SMS Audio doesn’t pay celebrities to promote its brands. It convinces them to pay the company by offering them the chance at small ownership stakes, which makes them more invested in the company’s success, and now SMS Audio has investors like: Carmelo Anthony, Timbaland and more.
“When you have a licensing agreement, you just do what you agreed to. You may spend an hour or so at a booth. For me, I’ll spend three to four days at CES [the Consumer Electronics Show] because it’s my company and I’m invested in it. … I don’t mind partners. When I started [SMS], I had it all, but you can [add] partners who are strong enough to go to the end game.” said SMS Audio CEO Curtis Jackson.