LIVV Headphones: How Did Ex NFL Star Mark Clayton Get Involved in A Biz Like This?

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Written by Brant David

Former NFL star Mark Clayton is soon to release headphones targeting athletes, ones that won’t fly off their heads or produce audio glitches during practice. What’s an NFL guy doing in a business like this? Here’s our music editor Brant David’s interview with Clayton …

aNewDomainbrant-david-anewdomain — Mark Clayton, the former wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, says he has developed a uniquely athletic piece of music gear. He’s calling them LIVV Headphones. They’re big, beefy headphones intended for athletes and made with audiophile-quality components.

I talked to Clayton earlier this week to find out how he came up with the idea for the LIVV Headphones brand — and to find out what sorts of features these new sets will have.

Clayton told me the idea for the headsets began forming during one of the Ravens’ team practices in 2008, after the expensive headphones he was wearing while on the field snapped and fell off his head. Not long after, Clayton watched his teammate become flustered while trying to untangle and secure his headphones’ wires. Clearly, he thought, a better athletic audio solution was needed.

LIVV HeadphonesListening to music, after all, is a cherished way for athletes to get fired up and focused while still staying mentally relaxed to practice for a competition. But headphone malfunctions interfere with flow and focus. 

Clayton told me he set out to change that. And that’s how he got the ball rolling for the LIVV headphones, which will be available for pre-order as soon as this December.

The design process started back in 2011, he told me, when he began to sense that his time in the NFL was ebbing. In our interview, Clayton told me:

It’s one of those moments when you see an opportunity to fix a few common problems within a crowded industry and either take the risk or not. For me, it was a no-brainer. I took risks on the field and as my time was winding down with the NFL I knew this was the off the field risk I had to take.”

Video: LIVV Headphones Kickstarter – September 1, 2015

Clayton’s new risk so far looks promising. The LIVV Headphones Kickstarter campaign had no trouble bringing in the dough,

LIVV Headphones true freedomI asked Clayton a question that I thought would be relevant to many of our readers: Why would a presumably rich former NFL star turn to Kickstarter for funding? Couldn’t he just finance the project himself?

He replied that Kickstarter is a wonderful way to get a new product or project financed because it builds community interest and involvement in that new thing. And by building up community awareness, people become aware of the brand. Branding is crucial to the success of any product in business, Clayton realized.

How did an NFL player get to sounding like an MBA? It was in large part, he told me, due to an NFL-sponsored program called The Trustwhich helps players find a fulfilling life after football. 

Precious few people outside of the profession are aware of what NFL players have to endure emotionally and mentally, he told me. The money and glory of playing the game are all that most people see.

But pro players, on exiting the league, need to understand that “it’s alright not to feel alright.” Clayton’s comprehension of that reality helped him focus on his post-football entrepreneurial dreams, rather than just let his fame and reputation fade as he lived on the fumes of past glories. A business was born.

Still in the NFL, but pursuing his business education, Clayton joined a few other business-minded NFL players in a group called Pros for Africa. In addition to himself, the group comprised players Adrian Peterson, Roy Williams and Tommie Harris. The group was assembled by star player Reggie Witten.

Through some contacts within the Pros for Africa group, Clayton told me he got hooked up with Dale Lott. A rock vocalist in the 1980s, Lott eventually became a professional music mastering engineer. By 2001 Lott began working with the U.S. Military on special products that needed noise reduction. This work introduced Lott to the developing technology of communication systems, headphones, helmet systems and in-ear communications devices that are used by NASA and the U.S. Military today.

LIVV headphones designFrom this work, Lott became the perfect engineer to develop the headphone technology Mark Clayton had in mind.

Lott was the one who actually developed the streamlined, attractive-looking LIVV Headphones that are going to be put on the market. As Clayton put it, the first LIVV prototypes “worked great, but they were ugly!” Working with Lott, Mark was able to make his headphones design as attractive on the outside as on the inside.

Dale Lott also helped Mark patent his headphones’ unique headband design. Lott’s now working to get the LIVV Headphones’ sound system patented, too.

With first shipments expected in early spring 2016, the LIVV Headphones will only be available to purchasers who buy online, says Clayton. It’s an arrangement intended to keep costs down. When enough revenue is generated, then and only then will his firm sell LIVV Headphones through brick and mortar retail channels.

To me, one of the the most impressive features of Mark Clayton’s LIVV Headphones is the fact that they can have music downloaded directly into them. No need for wires, a wireless signals or any external device (although they have Bluetooth built in, if you want to use an external device). The goal, he said, was efficiency and convenience.

The headphones also are resilient and safe in water. These things are waterproof to IP67 water pressure, according to the specs. You can confidently go for a swimming workout while wearing your LIVV Headphones.

Here are the complete list of features:

  • Wireless
  • Lightweight
  • Sweat and water proof
  • Onboard 8GB MP3 storage
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Removable/washable memory foam ear cups
  • Premium studio sound quality
  • 12-hour rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • Onboard controls
  • Built-in mic
  • Patented SureFit band

If you’re interested in nabbing your set of LIVV Headphones, either check out the Kickstarter campaign (two days left) or pre-order a pair when Clayton makes them available in December. 

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All images: Courtesy of Mark Clayton, All Rights Reserved.