One of the many strange things about the annual tech-a-palooza here in Las Vegas is how literally hundreds of consumers and camera-toting reporters will crowd around a company's booth to get an early glimpse of the latest tablet computer or video game. Yes, it's cool to see these products early, but all this craziness for a new phone? So it almost makes sense when crowds that are triple that size wait for a glimpse of Lady Gaga, or 50 Cent. After all, that's where the real star power is - and, after all, this is Vegas.
While Gaga's appearance at the Polaroid booth was, like last year's, quick and non-interactive (no Q & A with her fans at all), rapper 50 Cent proved to be a softer touch. After briefly announcing his new line of headphones (called "Sleek by 50 Cent"), 50 - or, Fiddy to those who follow his monstrously successful career - took plenty of time to step off the stage and talk to both fans and press members alike.
It was cool theatre .. a rap star taking his time to address questions both about his next album, his kids, and how his contributions to the Sleek designs go far beyond just putting his name and face on a product, because he's actually part owner of the company. I've been told that 50 makes much of his take home pay from endorsements - maybe even more than album sales. We talked about competition in the high-end audio market, and 50 insists that there's plenty of room for his headphones, Dr. Dre's headphones, Lady Gaga's headphones, and whatever you're using at the gym.
50 admitted that taking equity in a company is a risk, but that the rewards could pay off big, both in terms of pride, and "something extra to take care of the kids." He says it's about time high-end audio products made their way to the consumer, and, thanks partly to musicians like himself working with companies like Sleek and Hewlett Packard (which is putting Dre's "Beats" headphones into its computer lineup), the world is becoming a more musical place. More music fans, more sales for artists like 50 Cent.
As for Gaga? She kept fans waiting for two hours, before showing off a set of sunglasses (from Polaroid) that can take photos and display tiny video. Not too likely you'll see your friends rocking these anytime soon. But, really, after three days of tablets, TVs, and countless video games to dazzle us, there was something cool about someone who has sold millions of albums slowing things down to talk. For that, we credit Fiddy, and some of the other celebs here this week, who put the fans first, and the technology second.
Today, Scott goes after robots. His CES updates are on Twitter: @scottbudman