A Lifetime of Musical Passion
I’ve always loved music. Live music especially. I went to my first concert when I was 10 years old – my step dad took me to see Phil Collins. It was a concert in the round in my hometown of Orlando. From that moment on, I could always be found seeing music. My tastes have certainly changed over time, going from your typical teenage angst period of punk and hardcore to the crunchier reggae and jam bands in college and now to the evolution of electronic music that’s so popular today, and everything in between. Through college in Orlando, working in a finance career, moving to Chicago, business school, and everything after, concerts have always been a part of my life. I’m 28 years old today, and I still go see at least two shows a month. When you love something, you just love it.
Adult Realization Time
I was 24 when I first realized that maybe my passion for music had some adverse health effects. I went to see the Chemical Brothers, one of my favorite DJ acts, and stood front and center and loved every second of it. Until the next day, at least. I went to work, and I could hardly hear the person sitting at the desk next to mine. I’d later learn that that was a phenomenon called Temporary Threshold Shift, or TTS, where extended exposure to loud decibel levels will cause the lowest level of sound you can hear to shift upward, such that you’re essentially partially deaf for a period of time. After some research, I tried using ear plugs at my next festival, Voodoo Fest 2010 in New Orleans.
I, like most people, associated hearing protection with old people. I was one of them now. And also like most people, what I though of as ear plugs were the foam “roll and stuff” ear plugs. You could pick them up for a few cents a pair, and you got what you paid for. They were effective in protecting the ears, but not good at preserving sound. Using foam ear plugs was putting up a wall between my ear drums and the sounds – it was like stepping into the next room to protect myself, rather than adjusting the volume.
I knew that standing out in the crowd as the person trying to be healthy, combined with poor sound quality reaching my ears, was not going to work for me. So I started looking for other options and moving up the quality scale. I didn’t love what I found, however. Custom ear plugs were way too expensive, over $100 and sometimes much more. The more affordable pairs were still close to $20, but were terribly packaged, and some like Etymotics or Hearos were bulky and uncomfortable. They were effective in sound quality, but it was a hassle to keep track of them during a festival weekend and they were very noticeable. There had to be a better way.
When it finally struck me, I literally couldn’t sleep. All of these people at festivals, just like me, experiencing sonic hangovers and not knowing there was a better way. What if I could give them a better way? And who else would be better suited to provide that solution than myself, an avid concert-goer crossed with a business mind? It was that evening over a year ago that DownBeats was born.
The story of the company itself is long, but the short version is that with a friend I set out to design the perfect audio solution for the frequent concert attendee. It had to be conveniently packaged, easily portable, comfortable, unobtrusive, and importantly, affordable. We went through fits and starts in finding the right suppliers, designing the brand, and launching the website, but ultimately through hard work and a little luck we found the right mix of all of those. And finally, in November 2012, www.downbeats.com went live with pairs available for $9.99, and DownBeats was truly born. For convenience to our customers, I’ve also made them available on Amazon and EBay if they want to purchase through more trusted sources.
I’m extremely passionate about DownBeats. My product not only protects ears from hearing damage, but actually improves the quality of sound that reaches the ears. They’re sound filters, not ear plugs – you’re filtering the sounds you want to hear while reducing the noises you don’t want to hear. It’s amazing to see people the first time they use them. They’re shocked that they hear the music so much better, and can actually hear their friends talking in the crowd! It’s like being a proud parent watching your child succeed in the world, I’m just so happy to share this with music lovers just like me.
I’ve got a lot more work to do, but I’m having a lot of fun with this new venture. It’s a departure from my background, particularly in the realm of marketing, but I’m enjoying the challenge. The best part is that I’m doing something good for the world, particularly for young people like myself. Always more to do, but I’m excited to do it.
-Derin Alemli, Founder & CEO of DownBeats