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Sweet as Music: Top Trends in Audio 2020

The Latest Boom in Audio Products

If you’ve kept your ear to the ground in recent years, chances are you’ve heard the vibrations of a trend afoot. That’s right, audio products are taking the market by storm, and that unmistakable rumble only seems to be growing.

Thanks to recent advancements in audio — refinements in wireless technology, a golden age in podcasts, and the emergence of voice recognition, to name a few — we are experiencing a full-on renaissance. Consumers can’t seem to get enough of their sweet decibels, and developers can’t seem to increase the volume fast enough.

That’s why we’ve compiled these trends in audio products, so you can stay ahead of the sine curve and launch into the roaring ‘20s with a sonic boom.

B2B audio companies are going direct-to-consumer

Traditionally, the OEM model has dominated the audio market, with business-to-business (B2B) firms in Asia supplying wholesale speakers or headphones to consumer companies, who then in turn package the products for the end-user. That model is quickly being turned on its head as B2B companies learn how to cut out the middleman and go direct to the consumer.

Take Padmate, a company originally founded in 2010 to supply audio products to larger corporations. Despite a successful B2B operation, the Padmate team grew disillusioned with corporate buyers who only wanted cheap, low quality products in high numbers. Padmate decided to build a B2C sub-brand and sell high quality products directly to end users. Using crowdfunding as a foothold, Padmate has launched three products since 2018 to resounding success, raising a total of nearly $10 million on Indiegogo.

Expect to see more audio companies breaking out of the OEM paradigm with streamlined, consumer-oriented businesses in the near and medium term.

“True wireless stereo” is hot, hot, hot

Everybody’s been there: jonesing for your favorite song only to find a tangled mess of wired earbuds in your pocket. Well, the market has had enough of it, and people are tossing out their wired earbuds en masse, replacing them with Bluetooth-enabled “true wireless” headphones of all types. Compared to “simple wireless” headphones, whose left and right channels are connected to each other with a cord, true wireless headphones ditch wires outright.

The segment of “smart personal audio devices” — the technical term for wireless products — saw growth of 183% quarter over quarter, and has overtaken wired headphones for the first time in the process. And it’s not just headphones themselves that are going wireless. Wireless charging of earbuds is quickly becoming the norm as well. Expect to see wires in headphone products all but disappear from the market in coming quarters.

Compatibility is key

It’s crucial for new products from smaller firms to be compatible with the big players to make the most of the competition, riding the waves of all the name brands, not just those that seem to be winning today.

The smart speaker category in particular, which includes products like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, has grown at an astonishing rate in recent years — by 70% last year alone. But just because Alexa and Google Home are household names today doesn’t mean this will always be the case.

In the last twelve months, Chinese firms Baidu, Alibaba, and Xiaomi have taken a huge chunk out of Amazon and Google’s market share, with the Chinese firms now claiming about 10% of market share apiece. Amazon and Google still dominate the market with 28% and 25% market share, respectively, but their continued dominance is by no means a given. This only underscores the importance of interoperability of products from smaller players, since only time will tell which platform, if any, will dominate the landscape.

Tech giants are leaving a gap in the low-cost market segment

As Google and Microsoft try to break Apple’s stranglehold on just about every front, expect an opportunity to crop up for lower-cost products. Google, Microsoft, and Apple tend to vie for dominance at higher price points — and audio products have proven no exception — which means smaller companies will find an opportunity with supplying simpler designs and with fewer features to fill in the vacuum.

It’s crowded on this end of the market, but it’s still very possible for smaller companies to make a name for themselves. We’ve seen smaller companies take on blue chip companies with strong design and good ideas. We expect to see the dominance of tech giants to cede market share to these smaller players in the next few years, so stay tuned!

Audio opportunities abound on Indiegogo

Audio is one of Indiegogo’s best-performing categories, so naturally we take note of the latest trends that define the audio marketplace. Audio-related campaigns on Indiegogo have raised nearly $40 million during the last three years, and nine of these campaigns have topped the $1 million mark. With 63% of Indiegogo backers reporting an interest in audio products, audio opportunities abound on Indiegogo.

If you plan to launch an audio product in the near term, few places beat Indiegogo. Check out what a campaign page could look like for your product!

Download the Crowdfunding Field Guide

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