Not all independent music gear makers last. And so we’ve learned this week that Rane, the Seattle area-based company founded way back in 1981, will see new ownership with a buyout by giant inMusic (of Numark, M-Audio, Akai, and related).
That means, if nothing else, a transformed landscape for DJ mixers. At one end, you’ve got the big conglomerates – Japan’s Pioneer DJ, America’s inMusic. At the other, boutique makers are staking out increasingly specialized, low-quantity product. This sheds still more light on the significance of the new mixer from Richie Hawtin and Xone creator Andy Rigby-Jones.
With Rane out, indeed, the other big name standing is Allen & Heath, the company distributing the Hawtin/Rigby-Jones PLAYdifferently line as well as continuing the Xone – the one mixer you might be most likely to see rivaling Pioneer’s DJM.
But with Rane caught in the middle, one has to wonder if we won’t see a rich new market for boutique DJ mixers in the same way synth lovers have turned to Eurorack.
On a cynical note, there may be a fresh source of engineers from Rane left redundant.
It seems the folks running Rane wanted out. Co-founders Linda Arink and Dennis Bohn have announced they’re retiring after the acquisition.
But DJ news blog DJWORX suggests that many Rane personnel are unlikely to survive the acquisition, writing:
The majority of the 60+ workforce will be “permanently displaced” at the end of July.
Some engineers will remain (from the HAL/install side) in Seattle.
The DJ side of Rane will be absorbed into the Numark/Denon team at inMusic HQ.
Manufacturing will be moved to inMusic’s contractors in the far east.
I can’t verify that information; DJWORX only quotes unnamed sources. But it’s a fair bet that some degree of change at Rane is inevitable. There’s simply too much overlap with existing staff and IP at Numark and Denon not to suggest some changes, apart from the already-announced changes in leadership.
That’s sad news, of course. As far as what this means for DJs, I would think — not a lot. Serato is tightly integrated with Rane offerings, it’s true, but they’ve since expanded hardware compatibility. Native Instruments, of course, even makes their own mixers – and this news demonstrates in part why that’s not a bad idea. On the hardware side, I’ve seen the Rane rotaries make some headway in the booth, but the MP series are in a funny niche – neither as specialized or beloved as boutique rotary options, nor as mass-market as more-popular Allen & Heath and Pioneer mixers.
It’s safe to say it isn’t the easiest time to be a mid-sized hardware maker, though, with titans from Japan and the USA making big quantities at tiny margins with tight control of the supply chain. I think as a result a lot of independent makers may increasingly look up-market. And then, no matter what happens, at some point founders do want to retire.
Here’s hoping inMusic and Rane deliver on the glowing promises in the press releases.