Percussa micro super signal processor

M-Audio honored its Midiman roots with an anniversary edition of their (quite useful) MIDI interface line. Photo courtesy Avid.

So, you own M-Audio and/or AIR stuff. You want to know what this means as Avid sells those makers to a new owner, right?

M-Audio and AIR (formerly Wizoo) this week end their time as subsidiaries of Avid, and take on a new life at a parent entity now called inMusic. (That company has been known to us for some time as the home of brands like Akai, Alesis, and Numark, among others.)

There’s a business story here, of course – otherwise, the divestment wouldn’t have happened. But I’d caution readers to avoid drawing sweeping conclusions about the state of the industry; I hear regularly about growth in the same market M-Audio occupies.

The story we’ll be watching, primarily, is what these means for those tools and the people who use them. CDM talks to inMusic’s David Frederick, Head of Marketing, on behalf of inMusic. This is a broad overview, but we at least get to start the conversation between customers and the vendor.

Also, below is a recap of the timeline of the history of these two subsidiaries.

Q&A with inMusic

CDM: What does this mean for support for existing M-Audio customers?

Dave, inMusic: inMusic will support existing and new M-Audio customers going forward. We are looking forward to providing M-Audio customers with a positive and responsive support experience.

M-Audio and AIR will remain as separate brands? (That is, a bit like Alesis, Numark, and Akai are now?)

Yes. M-Audio and AIR will be treated the way inMusic handles all our premium brands. They will live and breathe as discrete brands and product lines.

inMusic will be absorbing staff from Avid, yes? You mention AIR in the press release, but does that extend to M-Audio, to sales, development, and support?

Yes. As part of the acquisition, key Avid/M-Audio/AIR staff have joined inMusic and will actively engage on, support, develop and sell for the M-Audio and AIR brands.

To the extent that you can comment on this: It seems that there’s some overlap in product offerings between M-Audio and inMusic — both have MIDI controller keyboards, for instance, both have drum pad controllers, etc. Will this require some evaluation of that M-Audio line going forward?

This is actually an exciting topic. Because our model is to treat our brands and product lines as discrete brands/products this helps us offer unique products across all market segments and price points driving greater value and solutions for all of our customers. Further, because each of our brands offer a unique value proposition and extensible IP, it offers us the ability to leverage that IP across all products when and where it makes sense. As such, we are excited about the possible opportunities to explore and leverage all our IP across all our brands.

Ed.: Hmm… that makes me think “MPC” when I hear that. We’ll see soon enough.

Jack O’Donnell of course was owner and CEO of the previous business entity. Is inMusic a new brand, primarily, or is this a new business?

InMusic is a new entity to act as the parent for all the brands. The focus is still and always on our brands, not on a branded parent.

An M-Audio and AIR Timeline

The audio ride here begins roughly with the acquisition by Avid of Digidesign in 1994.

1998: Midiman is founded by Tim Ryan.

2000: Midiman changes its name to M-Audio. Rapid growth and distribution deals make it a leader in the business.

2003: Midiman acquires UK keyboard and controller maker Evolution.

August 2004: Avid acquires M-Audio for US$174 million. (That was many times its book value, presumably because of its rapid growth — and keep that in mind when looking at the figure below.) At the time, M-Audio becomes a “business unit of Digidesign.” (At this point, Digidesign remains a separate subsidiary.)

Summer 2005: Avid acquires instrument and effect maker Wizoo, which already had distribution via M-Audio. (We’re now in the CDM era; at the time, I noted the new focus on Pro Tools as the target, and the value of the acquisitions as R&D.)

2007: The Wizoo division, renamed AIR (Advanced Instrument Research), releases its first products. Much as the Reason Rack Extensions solves cross-host issues by … only developing for one host, AIR touts that same approach as avoiding “compromises.”

April 2009: At NAB, Avid re-organizes its brand, unifying its subsidiaries under the Avid name. It introduces its current logo, a series of shapes that look like the transport buttons on audio and video equipment. But “M-Audio” continues to appear on some products.

2012: Avid announces first quarter losses and year-to-year revenue drops. Despite acquisitions, the company is smaller than it was when it acquired M-Audio. In the quarterly announcement, the company blames loss in the “creative enthusiast” market, but notes its $50 million in cash on hand and looks to profitability by focusing on the pro, post-production, and “media enterprise” markets – in other words, it foreshadows the coming divestment.

July 2012: Avid announces it is divesting most of the M-Audio product line and the AIR group, in addition to consumer video products. The company also reveals it is reducing its total workforce by 20%. (That’s partly in headcount reductions, partly in workers going to the new owners – see below.)

Late 2012: inMusic promises we’ll see new AIR products in the second half of the year. We’ll also be watching to see what happens as M-Audio products are integrated with lines like Akai. And, of course…

January 2013: …what happens at NAMM early next year.

October 21, 2015: Marty McFly travels back to the future. Get it right, people. Seriously. This also means that anyone subscribing to Back to the Future: II as a source of prophecy believes hoverboards should be available around 2013 CES, and the world will most definitely not end in 2012.

2161: The United Federation of Planets is founded. By then, we also expect that the world will have at last sorted out the Euro crisis and found a suitable replacement for MIDI.