The music and sound industry is increasingly about big-league consolidation. InMusic – the company behind Akai and M-Audio – is growing. Long-standing Japanese titan Yamaha has snapped up Line6. Gibson now includes everything from Tascam to the website Harmony Central to consumer gear branded Philips. (And yes, throw out whatever you think you know about Gibson from the 90s – this has nothing to do with that.)
Now, count the giant MUSIC Group – the parent of Behringer, with Uli Behringer as its chief – among the big sharks on the acquisition market.
MUSIC Group announced today it has acquired TC Group. You probably know them as the makers of vocal effects and guitar effects and sound processing and mastering, under brands like TC Electronics and TC Helicon, or for their Tannoy label. And that’s clearly a big part of this deal, with MUSIC Group’s presence in that market with Behringer as well as Midas and Bugera tube amps (among others).
It’s more than that, though. TC Applied Technologies are in semiconductor designs, networking, and interface tech too, which gives Behringer a big boost in terms of intellectual property and the electronics market beyond musical instruments. And closer to home, MUSIC Group call out their interest in A/V and broadcast.
For their part, Danish-based TC say that they had other big suitors, but chose the Behringer folk – I wonder who those other players may have been.
Regardless, this is very big news, combining two powerful international companies. And any of us who think of Behringer as the “cheap mixer people,” we may do well to take them seriously – MUSIC Group now have their own factory complex in China and a 300-person engineering team.
The strange thing to me about musical instruments is this play with giant transnationals with their own manufacturing and engineering capabilities, and integrating marketing networks. So much of the interesting stuff, the culturally impactful designs, still somehow happens in tiny one-person and several-person boutique operations.
It was single-engineer shops that launched the modular renaissance. It was the monome that wound up in the Museum of Modern Art and re-popularized grid-based interfaces. These are products that ship a tiny handful of units and earn very little money, if they break even at all. The cultural capital is far outweighing the actual sales. At some point, it seems that will create real tension. And, on the other hand, all we do with chips and software – from DSP to microcontrollers to your laptop – rely on bigger-scale operations. Not one boutique maker of software or hardware can claim independence from the larger electronics manufacturing community.
But whatever deeper questions, keep an eye out for MUSIC and TC. A new giant is born.