Quincy Jones endorses headphones, hopes to change how you hear music


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More than 25 years after producing “Thriller,” Quincy Jones is still looking for ways to reinvent the music experience.

The legendary producer has teamed with professional audio company AKG to launch a line of headphones.


Dubbed the Quincy Jones Signature Line, the collection of headphones will be a mix of in-ear, over-ears and on-ear minis set for release in October. Jones said the partnership isn’t something new, as he’s been using AKG headphones exclusively for years now.

“It fit like a glove. It feels like home,” Jones said in a phone call from his Paris home. “I didn’t have to sit there and talk about quality. They just blow everybody away.”

Jones said he is more than aware of the current trend of musicians hawking personalized headphones.

Monster teamed with Dr. Dre to roll out a line of sleek – and pricey – headphones. Dre has Beats by Dr. Dre, Sean Combs is the face of Diddy Beats and Lady Gaga put her over-the-top style on her Heart Beats line. Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z even got in on the action with both rappers endorsing their own brand of Skullcandy headphones.

But Jones said he’s isn’t just jumping on the celebrity endoresement bandwagon.

Artists ‘do this all the time. But, I’m very discriminate about that,” he clarified. “I’ve been with them my whole career. It wasn’t a hard decision. I go with the heart first.”

Christopher Dragon, spokesman for AKG’s parent company Harman, further stressed Jones’ point.


“One of the important factors here is this is not a new partnership. It’s one we took to the next step,” Dragon said. “It was far more than, ‘Hey, do you want to endorse these headphones?’”

With prices ranging from $150 to nearly $500, the sticker shock might be difficult for some consumers to overcome. But Dragon argues (of course) that consumers get what they pay for.

‘The average consumer ends up re-buying headphones every 14 to 16 months,” Dragon pointed out. “The reality is these products are very reliable. I am the typical frustrated musician [like Jones]. There are a lot of headphones at this price point. There is a robust headphone line above $100. To me, that’s a bargain.”

Jones isn’t hoping to just revitalize the way we listen to music, he also wants to change the way we consume it too.

“I’m dealing with a parallel path to reinvent the record business. My next record [‘Q Soul Bossa Nostra,’ Jones’ first original album since 1995’s ‘Q’s Jook Joint’] is coming out on 700 million cellphones in Beijing,” Jones said. “A hit record over there -- with the way piracy is -- is 1 million [copies sold] and it’s pathetic. It really hurts me. It’s sad. We had the biggest album and single [‘Thriller’ and ‘We Are The World,’ respectively -– both of which Jones produced] here.”

The 77-year-old doesn’t mince words when it comes to the state of piracy, and he places the blame on the same digital technology that has allowed home studios and small artists to thrive.


“The record company business is over. It’s 95 to 99% piracy everywhere. I look at sales of Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Black Eyed Peas -– the biggest artists of today and the sales are hurt [by piracy]. It’s wrong and it’s immoral. A lot of people are going to get hurt. The passion for music is the highest it’s ever been, but we have to change [piracy]. We didn’t have problems until we had digital,” Jones said.

While Jones has his work cut out for him in terms of saving the industry, he does plan on putting a share of the proceeds from each set of headphones sold in his line toward the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium, a foundation dedicated to furthering music education for youth.

“It’s interesting that music is something that’s been on this planet for all these years,” Jones said. “I think water and music will be the last thing to leave the planet.’

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photos, from top: Quincy Jones works on ‘We Are the World 2010’ wearing a pair of his signature line headphones; the Q460 featured in the line of headphones ranging in prices from $149.99 to $479.99. Credit: courtesy AKG.