March 19, 2021

SXSW Launch: The Story Behind EARPEACE

SXSW Launch: The Story Behind EARPEACE

by Jay Clark, CEO & Founder

Nearly thirteen years ago, EARPEACE earplugs launched at SXSW. If you're an entrepreneur or startup in the music festival or art space, SXSW is the perfect place to launch your product, even more so all those years ago. We were back in 2019 and it reminded me of the journey we took to bring EARPEACE to that point. I didn't start out thinking I'd be running a small business.

It Started at Carnival

In February of 2008 I was sitting on the beach in Tobago with the unsettling realization that the ringing in my ears was louder than the waves. Yes, the water at Pigeon Point can basically be like glass but we were sitting in beach chairs halfway in the water. 

I had just finished playing Mas in Port of Spain. It was a full-day, full-costume carnival dancing through the streets. We were in the Hart’s band, which was about 3000 people strung along in between dozens of 18 wheelers that had been converted to rolling speaker stacks. It was deafening. Literally.

I asked for earplugs, but was too vain to wear the orange foamies they handed me. Besides, the three seconds I tried them, they just weren't comfortable. It felt like my hearing was deadened. These were not music festival earplugs.

After a day (and night) of nonstop noise, I paid the price for not wearing any sort of hearing protection. I knew the ringing in my ears I was experiencing that day. I had also experienced it from past partying and live music and I knew this was a primary symptom of tinnitus. That was frightening. 

Speaker stacks on trucks at Tobago Carnival

From Pain Point to Idea

Even after I got back to the states, I couldn't stop thinking about finding an alternative to foam ear plugs. I wanted to find something that lowered the volume without distorting the sound. I needed something that I would actually wear. After a few months, I had done enough research to know that kind of hearing protection didn't exist. I'm a music fan. I wanted to be in and stay in the party. It seemed all earplugs did was take you out of the experience.

In 2008 high-fidelity hearing protection was something targeted at musicians only. There was nothing of that quality available to someone like me. I knew that the only way I would be able to get musician quality hearing protection, I would need to make it myself. 

So I got started. 


By the beginning of 2009, I was through the R&D process. By summer, I was into manufacturing and by fall I was planning to launch musician quality, high-fidelity ear plugs that was available to music lovers and fans everywhere in early 2010.

I started asking myself--where were the most innovative and thoughtful people when it came to music? Where would people be open to a new technology that made their music experience better and safer? I painted a bullseye on Austin, Texas. SXSW was the perfect combination of innovative, tech and creatives. We geared up to launch EARPEACE and kickstart our goal of changing the way people consider hearing protection. 

South by Southwest 2010 logo

As a new CEO, I just hit the streets the only way I knew how. I gave away over 10K units of EarPeace at over 100 shows and events during South by Southwest 2010. Even then, I understood the risks of noise-induced hearing loss from live shows and believed (and still do!) so much in this solution, so I spoke to anyone that would take a breath to talk about hearing protection. I met with ticketing companies, merchandise companies and pitched every venue that they should be carrying EARPEACE.  

Looking back, 13 years after launching EarPeace at SXSW, I’m proud that we’ve changed the landscape of hearing health. In the time since then we have obtained three patents on our product and continue to deliver innovations in comfort and technology to hearing protection.

SXSW has always been ahead of the curve, making them the perfect partner to try out something new. The following year, we introduced our first ever custom-branded product with SXSW. Since then, we’ve collaborated with hundreds of forward thinking artists, venues, events and festivals on custom products.

Limited Edition SXSW x EarPeace cusom-branded product

So thank you to SXSW for marking the beginning of our EARPEACE journey.  

Jay Clark

EarPeace Founder

Crowd at music festival from South by Southwest 2018

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