The Medium.com-issued Bolts blog made a lot of smart people feel stupid recently, as they broke down a $199 pair of Beats by Dre headphones to reveal that they are most likely a combination of $16.89 worth of parts. In a word, they’re pretty much crap.
As the article details, roughly 30 percent of the total weight comes from four pieces of metal that as the writer, Avery Louie, postulates: do nothing but add weight. Commenters on the Gizmodo think differently — they say that the metal is key for headband flex stability.
I’m sure if Louie were interested in nitpicking with Gizmodo commenters, he’d point out that the metal components probably are more scrap metal heavy than they need to be to provide that adequate stability. But that is beside the point … because we’re here to support Beats by Dre.
What EVERYBODY who has read this article seemingly forgets is that luxury is seldom about quality. It doesn’t matter what an item costs to make, it’s about conspicuous consumption. It’s about grasping the brass ring that others cannot. It’s about saying I am better than you because I can spend money in ways that you cannot/will not.
With Beats, as with most things, we buy in because there is some perception involved. Dr. Dre is cool; if we want to be cool, we buy stuff that he endorses. It’s the same thing with drinking Lebron James’ Sprite or Air Jordan’s or anything else endorsed by cool people. If you argue about cost versus quality, you are missing the point entirely. This conversation was never about you. In fact — you’re too logical. Logical people are not cool to the Lowest Common Denominator, cool people are cool. It’s as simple as that.
When has name brand cologne ever been actually worth the cost as opposed to a generic one? When have $125 t-shirts ever done more for someone than one fired out of a cannon at a 49ers game? As a society, financial differences are all we have left. It isn’t whether a Lamborghini drives better than a Ford Focus — who is actually performance driving these exotic cars in a manner in which they are meant to be used? At best, the guy in the Lamborghini waits until he has a clear length of street and then mashes down on the gas to make that high-pitched whine for about two seconds before he has to slow down again. That is the extent of his “high performance.” But you know what? That two seconds, done correctly, achieves his goal.
See it used to be that expensive purchases were made for exactly two reasons: for guys, it was to get girls. And for girls, it was to make other girls jealous. But while the girl aim has remained true, there has been a paradigm shift with men: now they are also buying things to make other men jealous. And so Beats by Dre … and making high-pitched noises with your Lamborghini while going fast for two seconds — these are the realm of man jealousy.
Women aren’t the ones impressed by the “tech stuff,” other guys are. This is getting very general, which I apologize for — the soapbox speech about how we are not so different from our stereotypes can come at a different time. Besides, if you are logical, I already told you this conversation isn’t for you. Yes, there are women who will date you for wearing Beats, as well as women who will date you because you make the loud noise in the Lambo, but the women are more apt to date you just for having a Lambo, they don’t need it to go fast or be loud — it just has to be expensive and allow for other women to see them in it. See the fundamental difference? That it has flashing lights and loud noises is for the guys. Christ, I feel like I have to apologize again because this is such old-world thinking, but here, in the domain of conspicuous consumption, it happens to be mostly true.
Back in the Middle Ages, obesity was a mark of opulence. If you were fat, it was because you could afford to eat. Modern times call for more drastic measures. And so Beats by Dre. We need things that say I have so much money I can afford to buy stupid things. Because stupid things are considered better by a section of the populace. It’s the same reason we give flowers — flowers are a horribly overpriced luxury item if bought from a florist, but man do they have an effect (both if you do or do not get them).
For the conspicuous consumption crowd, you have to wear money to be cool. But it’s not so simple — see, you can’t just wear money around in money form — for some reason that would be tacky. It isn’t cool (until someone cool pulls it off first). You also can’t hand most illogical girls a stack of money on Valentine’s Day, they would be offended. And so you have to disguise your money in other shapes — and so, Beats by Dre. When it comes to looking cool, getting dates and making members of the same sex jealous, everything logical is not in play.
Now there comes a small thorn in the form of Beats by Dre making claims that they got that good bass — that deep bass that you need to really appreciate and *feel* certain types of music. True audiophiles have logic to their thinking (more logic than the conspicuous consumption crowd at least). Naturally, the Bolts blog shot that one down by pointing out the generic speakers don’t have some sort of magical quality that other speakers lack. Which is a bit of deceptive advertising. But depending on the phrasing, it isn’t illegal advertising. Also, if you do your research on them like logical people, instead of impulse buy, you won’t run into the problem of deceptive advertising. You’ll know that advertisements exaggerate. That’s also a different article.
So what’s the takeaway? Until Lebron James comes out and says, “Beats by Dre are a damn ripoff and if you pay for them, you’re a fool,” illogical people will continue to buy them, despite what your logical blog points out. Because illogical people march to a cooler beat than you comprehend.