Roland’s latest play for making digital pianos commonplace: add the popular Alexa service, and sell on Amazon.
Roland’s GO:PIANO is their consumer-focused line, touting beginner- and family-friendly features. There’s Bluetooth connectivity, and integrated iOS and Android app that promises to teach you ear training and score reading – there’s a reason that pic has an iPad on it. It’s a shame the styling is pedestrian, because otherwise this is more futuristic than some of its competition.
Add to that Alexa integration. Strangely, the press release I got suggests maybe you want to order a pizza with Alexa after finishing practicing.
I’m guessing any household that sees Alexa as a selling point already has a device to do that. Here, I’m guessing this is more about two things – one, adding voice control and music integration using Amazon’s tech, and two, selling through Amazon’s channel.
Alexa commands let you call up sounds directly, instead of paging through them with buttons. And – maybe more useful – you can also use voice control for hands-free metronome operation (start, stop, tempo change, change beat). You can also listen and play along to Amazon Music and other supported streaming services.
So, this may give a glimpse of what future business models look like – offering sheet music, karaoke versions, backing tracks, and full songs all together. Sheet music was and still is a major part of the business for many songwriters, so while this may be foreign if your last album was a violent noise record with Satanic verses recited by your cat, for other more mainstream artists …
Wait, I’ve lost my train of thought. Alexa, play karaoke version of “Hail, Satan, and stop working I’m sitting on your keyboard and want to cuddle, meow, die die die blood pain meow.” I would totally get down on that jam.
The catch to all of this isn’t really whether or not this gimmick is a good idea, but that the current Silicon Valley tech wars are likely to bleed over into the musical instrument channel.
That’s unlikely to ease controversies – some music artists have been unhappy with how Amazon streaming impacts their business, and protested labor practices and work with controversial US government programs targeting immigrants. And with any of the new voice tech, there are concerns like this:
But I don’t think any of these concerns are things the music tech industry can simply opt out of. So reasoned debate may be exactly what it needs. And it’s good at least to see companies like Roland working to make their products stand alongside other consumer goods – even if you switch off the Alexa features and stick to playing it like, you know, a piano.
Also, just saying, Roland is the only company for you when you need a piano to match your new Tesla CyberTruck:
Hey, Roland had a few years’ head start on Tesla, too: