Hooke ‘Em While They’re Young: The Future of Cultural Listening Trends

Recently, I visited my old high school and introduced 3D Audio to what I quickly realized were the consumers of the future. Engaging with these students and hearing their thoughts on 3D Audio — showcasing professional smartphone recording to a generation that will ultimately decide how and why we engage with our electronics — has been invaluable to me. I was surprised to find certain cultural habits that teenagers exhibit when it comes to wearing headphones.


1. Putting them on

I’ve been introducing 3D Audio to many different types of people over the past year, but most of them have been over the age of 21. One thing shocked me when I asked these high school students to put on the Hooke Verse: they did it. No questions, no comments, no problems. No sooner had I put the headsets in their hands than I saw the blue glow of the Hooke “H” under the students’ ears. They seemed to know exactly how the devices worked, intuitively, immediately. This, I have found, is not normally the case with consumers over the age of 21.

Wireless headphones are still a relatively new concept. And unless you’re walking across a college lawn or down a high school hallway, you probably haven’t had much experience with them. High schoolers have, because of these guys:

Beats PowerBeats2 - wireless in-ear headphones

Beats PowerBeats2 – wireless in-ear headphones

In the classes I polled, nearly 80% of the students owned beats headphones. And about 50% of that 80% owned these PowerBeats2. You’ll notice the construction is similar to the Hooke Verse, which made putting them on a breeze for the students.

Hooke Verse

Hooke Verse

In-ear headphones dominate global shipments, accounting for 61% of volumes, and with the average retail price on the rise due to the incorporation of new features like microphones for mobile use and water proofing for use with sports. Popping the earbuds out and draping along the neck came very naturally to these students. They’ve grown just as accustomed to wearing headphones as necklaces as they have to wearing headphones as headphones. 


2. CONCERTS OMG

According to Billboard 

“32 million people attended at least one U.S. music festival in 2014. Of that number, 14.7 million are Millennials, the most attractive target demographic for advertisers (which helps explains the ubiquity of festival advertising).

Aside from people and distance, there’s another number we’d be remiss not to mention when talking about music fests in the 21st century: Tweets.

During the first weekend (April 10-12) of Coachella 2015, 3.5 million tweets were sent, according to Twitter. That’s a massive jump from the tweets sent during SXSW 2015, which saw 1 million tweets during a much longer period (March 17-23).  (Coachela weekend 2, however, saw only 600,000 tweets.)”

All of this social media engagement at festivals is less about the music than the party around the music. The decline in tweets during week two of coachella illustrates this: if the party has already happened in week one, why tweet the same party twice? People want to remember and keep memories from parties. Yesterday’s concert t-shirt or program is todays tweet or snap. So it makes sense that fans would be interested in an audio postcard of their party antics.

Social media, millennials, and music festivals are like a chocolate fudge sundae: the ingredients stand alone, but become deadly when mixed together. I asked every student what they would record if they could capture their tweets, snaps, and videos in #3Daudio. Every last one of them said: concerts. For teens, concerts and festivals are the 21st century mall. They’re more than just a place to watch music. They’re a meeting place, a community, an escape. The only difference is that teens today love to share their escape with others online. If their escape can be in 3D audio, all the better.


3. “You Can’t Even See Them”

I found this to be a huge benefit for teens, which is all the more surprising given the success of Beats headphones. It seems when it comes to in-ear headphones, the smaller and more concealed the better. One student said to me “I have my headphones I want to be seen in, and the ones I don’t want to be seen in”. 

Futursource analyst Rasika Iyer said “With prices ranging from less than $5 to more than $200 and a gamut of features, consumers have now started to purchase different sets of headphones for different applications, including commuting, sport, and in-home listening. In Europe and North America, we’re seeing headphone ownership reaching three to four pairs on average, though this includes headphones bundled with smartphones.”

With the rise in headphone consumption, most teens are owning between 2-4 pairs of headphones. And they’re treating them like sneakers, a different style for each outfit. If they’re rocking their in-ears, they want them to be secure, lightweight, and inconspicuous. I was surprised to find visibility such an important factor in the purchasing of an audio device.


Over-the-ears have dominated, but in-ears are on the rise.

Beats made the over-ear headphones popular, and continually popular for the last 5 years. But what I learned from speaking with the consumers of tomorrow is this: portability, invisibility, and create-ability are ever growing interests for today’s teens. Over-the-ear headphones will never go out of style, but more and more consumers are thinking about headphones in terms of use cases, hence owning different styles. Today’s teenager who owns a pair of over-the-ear headphones has no problem with also owning a pair of in-ears. And today’s teen definitely sees the value in a headphone that can do more than just play back. These students want to do more than consume: they want to create. Their concert tees and programs are on their phone, many companies have succeeded in providing tools for them to capture visually. It’s time for them to see the same opportunity in sound.

From One Ear To Another,

Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder