July 2008 - born of infamy
The Beats by Dr. Dre headphones got everything started. Manufactured by Monster Cable, a company that already had a reputation for “premium” products that didn’t match their own hype, this set of cans didn’t inspire the warmest of critical receptions. It was priced at a shade under $350 and relied on a bombastic launch campaign and Dr. Dre’s notoriety to sell. What matters is that it did, helped in no small part by Apple itself, which sold the Beats headphones in its online and retail stores.
September 2009 - Lady Gaga's Heartbeats
"Beats by Dre and Monster have teamed up with pop music and fashion icon Lady Gaga to bring you Heart Beats." From the moment they were announced, these in-ear buds signaled a manifestly different way for promoting audio gear: they were more about fashion and aspiration than sound quality. Lady Gaga led the way in associating her brand image with that of Beats — something that many others, including luxury carmaker Ferrari and clothes designer Alexander Wang, have since done.
September 2009 - HP Envy 15 Limited Edition
Nothing sells as well as exclusivity and Beats made its first foray into embedding its technology in other devices with the limited edition Envy 15. The use of Beats Audio in HP laptops and tablets has since become widespread. Even though the benefits of the actual technology may be dubious, the partnership between HP and Beats has helped enhance the stature of both brands.
January 2011 - Jimmy Iovine on American Idol
Jimmy Iovine, the man most often credited as the business genius behind Beats' success, joined the cast of American Idol in 2011 as a mentor to aspiring music stars. Serving that role through 2013, Iovine did much to enlarge his profile and, as a result, that of Beats headphones. He was essentially a walking and talking commercial for the company he co-founded with Dr. Dre, embedded right at the heart of one of America's most popular shows. (FOX / FOX Image Collection / Getty Images)
April 2011 - cruising with Chrysler
In typically immodest fashion, Beats announced its partnership to implement Beats Audio in the Chrysler 300S as "bringing the music studio to consumers in cars." Today, Beats Audio can also be found in Fiat and Dodge models. As with HP, carmakers seem happy to have a recognized brand that can help them up-sell customers onto more expensive equipment packages.
August 2011 - HTC buys half
HTC was riding high as one of Android’s preeminent phone manufacturers and was looking to make a splashy acquisition. $300 million later, the Taiwanese company owned half of Beats, which nevertheless continued to operate autonomously and maintained its ongoing product partnerships.
January 2012 - Monster no longer
Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are the dynamic duo of Beats, but for a long time the company was just one half of the formula. Monster Cable collaborated on the design and took care of the production of Beats headphones for five years, however once its exclusive contract ran out, it was dumped unceremoniously by Beats. Monster has since sought to recreate the magic with endorsements from Swizz Beatz, Shaq, Adidas, and others, but it hasn’t been enough to match the continuing growth of the original brand.
July 2012 - Hello, MOG
The prelude to Beats Music, MOG was one of a number of small startups vying to turn music streaming into a commercial success. It was gobbled up by the growing Beats brand in the middle of 2012 , and though it was expected to feature prominently in upcoming HTC phones, the anticipated synergy never really materialized. Depending on what Apple chooses to do with its alleged acquisition of Beats, MOG may now form the core of the next big streaming service.
August 2012 - Guerilla marketing at the Olympics
Brand recognition — whether positive or negative — is at the heart of Beats' success, and it's been achieved through a series of aggressive promotional campaigns. One of the emblematic pieces of ambush marketing from the company came during the 2012 London Olympics, when Beats shipped boxes of specially decorated headphones to the hotels where Team GB athletes were staying. This prompted the British Olympic Association to ban the unsanctioned headphones after its Olympians started wearing them and tweeting their approval of the freebies.
October 2012 - The Beats Pill Bluetooth speaker
It wasn't the first Beats product outside the realm of headphones, but the Pill has been easily its most recognizable. Nicki Minaj and Pharrell Williams contributed to its promotion, once again underlining the hip and fashionable image that Beats has consistently sought to project.
September 2013 - Goodbye, HTC
The Sensation XE was the first in a series of underwhelming HTC phones bearing the Beats Audio branding and software. Any momentum brought about by this partnership quickly fizzled out and almost exactly two years after the XE’s launch, Beats bought out HTC’s share of the company. While Beats had kept growing both its brand awareness and product range, HTC was having to deal with shrinking sales and profits — the two companies were on diametrically opposite trajectories and breaking up just made sense. Paying $265 million for HTC's remaining 25 percent of the company, Beats was valuing itself at a little over $1 billion only a few months before the presently rumored $3.2 billion Apple takeover.
January 2014 - Beats Music launch
Between the release of the original Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and the present rumor of an Apple takeover, the most significant change in Beats' history has been the inauguration of its music streaming service. Beats Music is a highly ambitious, subscription-based service setting out to battle an army of free alternatives. It hasn’t yet convinced a skeptical audience, but in the hands of Apple, it could morph into something altogether more compelling. And hey, having Trent Reznor involved in the project is never a bad thing.
May 2014 - $3.2 billion Apple acquisition?
It takes a lot to attract Apple’s attention for a potential takeover, and the rumored $3.2 billion deal for Beats would be the Cupertino company’s biggest to date. That’s both in terms of the money being spent and the profile of the acquisition. Such a bold step from CEO Tim Cook would certainly signal Apple sees great value in Beats, whether as a music streaming service and ecosystem or as a pure promotional tool for its products.