According to media reports, Apple (AAPL) is in talks to buy Beats Electronics -- the company founded by rap icon Dr. Dre that makes premium Beats headphones -- for $3.2 billion. A video featuring Dr. Dre seems to confirm the rumor. It would be Apple's biggest acquisition ever, and the deal would include Beats' new streaming music service, according to The New York Times.
We spoke to Black Eyed Peas frontman and Beats early consultant and equity shareholder Will.i.am on the sidelines of the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles last week, about why he's so bullish on the product.
"Beats is an answer to a void growing in our industry," he tells us in the video above. "CEOs and musicians forgot that music has always been about hardware and technology."
At a time when the music industry has been disrupted by the Internet, Will.i.am argues the answer to making money is found in the industry's roots. He argues that the music has always been the means to sell the hardware -- whether it was the music of Miles Davis helping to sell more trumpets, or RCA's play in both radio and gramophones (hardware).
He takes it one step further. "Maybe it's a bold statement," he says. "I believe music should be free, and you monetize your tours and products [as a recording artist]."
As for Beats, he considers it the only success in the "tech" wearable category.
"People actually choose to wear [Beats] ... it's fashion," he says. "Everything else is...some tech company's perspective on what they think people are going to wear, but it hasn't really caught on."
He believes to make wearables work, "you have to speak 'pop culture' -- that has to be your native tongue."
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