Ludacris Debuts Headphone Line at CES, Faces Stiff Competition

In 2008 Dr. Dre launched his Beats by Dre headphone line, a joint venture with Interscope Records’ Jimmy Iovine — and started the latest craze in hip-hop moneymaking. Within months, Snoop Dogg, Diddy and Jay-Z followed suit. And earlier today, Ludacris became the latest rapper to — wait for it — roll out a set of headphones.

Showcased in New York’s CES tech-fest, “Soul by Ludacris” is the product of a partnership between the self-proclaimed Mouth of the South and Signeo. All five models in the line promise to “deliver deep bass without sacrificing clarity” (full press release available at Engadget).

Industry insiders are a bit skeptical thus far, citing tough competition in a crowded marketplace.

“Going up against the new Beats by Dr. Dre headphones will be tough,” says Jonathan Geller, Founder of the Boy Genius Report. “They are some of the best, accurately producing headphones on the market and merit their high price point.”

Regardless, Ludacris becomes the fifth of hip-hop’s top seven Cash Kings to launch his own headphone line. The pact is the latest in a slew of nontraditional revenue streams for Luda, who inked endorsement deals with Tag body spray and Trojan Magnum condoms in addition partnering with spirits producer Birkedal Hartmann to create a cognac called Conjure last year on his way to a $16 million annual payday.

Expect the cash to keep flowing for Ludacris in 2011. Though the terms of his deal with Signeo weren’t disclosed, a source told me Diddy makes at least $1 million per year for his line of headphones, so Luda’s earnings could well be in the same ballpark.

Perhaps his next step will be partnering with a computer company to create a laptop, as Dr. Dre did with Hewlett-Packard. Ludabook, anyone?

By ZACK O’MALLEY GREENBURG (Forbes)

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