From the VJ M&A file: ArKaos, the pioneering developer of live audiovisual tools, has been snapped up by InMusic. That puts this VJ name alongside brands like Akai, Numark, and M-Audio.

ArKaos is one of a handful of figures in live visuals who helped to establish the whole category. And that history parallels some of the other developers in this relatively small domain. It’s the usual M.O. Founded in the 90s – 1996, in Belgium. Started doing live shows and live video – Jean Michelle Jarre was a client. And then products that grew out of that live experience, growing into tools aimed at individual artists and VJs at one end, and high-end media servers at the other. GrandVJ is their VJ tools aimed at artists; MediaMaster is at the heart of their higher-end installation / broadcast / live show media server offering. As usual, there is some overlap between those applications.

GrandVJ XT interface, today.

Watching the VJ scene evolve in the early part of this century, ArKaos’ software was one of the easiest to spot. As opposed to tools like Modul8 and Resolume that focused on a grid of thumbnails, ArKaos cleverly designed their UI around an onscreen keyboard. That UI remains in GrandVJ today, and it seems a good match for a company that makes controllers. (See Alesis, M-Audio, and Akai.)

GrandVJ’s UI now can still look like that, but it can also look uniquely friendly as a broadcast tool – which is also an edge. (Its competitors now tend to look more like advanced motion graphics tools, which appeals to artists but may turn off the broadcast crowd.)

VJing and live visuals do seem to be at an inflection point. What once meant mixing videos together – drawing on the “DJ” paradigm and indirectly referencing MTV hosts – live visuals today are just as likely to involve advanced lighting, LED walls, projection mapping, and show connectivity.

ArKaos’ software already packs a lot of that punch and performs reliably, but so do a lot of its competitors. Probably more to the point, they’ve added other connectivity. Kling-Net wraps around other networks of LED gadgets from a mix of makers with plug-and-play ease. So, sure, DMX and Art-Net and NDI all do elements of this, too, but Kling-Net has the advantage of playing with a mixed environment of different tools. It’s got support from a lot of major live lighting and stage providers. And it all plays together – like so:

The other big edge for ArKaos is its integration with Pioneer’s ProDJ bridge. Pioneer’s own Rekordbox now boasts DMX tools, but that requires you use their mainly music-focused software. ArKaos is to my knowledge the only real VJ tool that has out-of-the-box integration with Pioneer’s ecosystem. Do you actually need that to run a show? No, not necessarily, but it is definitely a value-add for InMusic.

And oh, by the way – they also did integrate NDI this year:

GrandVJ with NDI implemented

So, Jack O’Donnell (InMusic CEO) is shopping again, obviously – true to his reputation. InMusic has three hooks into which ArKaos might make some sense: music controllers (as mentioned), DJ products, and pro/show offerings. There’s Denon, Rane, Numark, and Stanton on the DJ side. And you’ve got lighting product maker MARQ.

What will happen at ArKaos: An InMusic spokeperson tells CDM that they intend to retain ArKaos’ current team, but shif tleadership. Richard Seymour, currently CEO Europe for InMusic, will add CEO ArKaos to that role, and “the development team will become part of our global team.” That could also see ArKaos development resources moved elsewhere. Correction: An earlier version of this article suggested Mr. Seymour was moving from CEO Europe to CEO ArKaos; he is continuing in the CEO Europe role and adding the ArKaos position.

InMusic confirms they are acquiring all ArKaos’ assets:

The ArKaos development team will have access to all of inMusic’s IP and specialized resources to guarantee the delivery of innovative software features. Furthermore the different products will be closely [integrated] to provide our users and current ArKaos users with an even better experience.

And yes, ArKaos is interesting because they have this foothold in larger events. InMusic tells CDM:

We have a couple of strong brands in the install market like Denon Pro, Rane Commercial.  The products you are referring to will be a great addition to that portfolio but we are also very committed to protect ArKaos’ strong position in the larger event sector.  The inMusic knowhow around hardware and servers will be of great benefit here to provide the right products for this market.

I do suspect this could benefit ArKaos in giving them some further development resources and a larger brand for marketing and distribution.

It’s an interesting moment, in that I can’t think of this kind of worldwide music and media brand getting into this sector in a big way for a long time. We’ve seen Pioneer CDJs for video, KORG tried its KAOSS formula on the Entrancer, and Roland remains a big player, even if their foray into VJ software partnering with Japans’ Motion Dive is long-since forgotten. InMusic + ArKaos is the first new partnership in years.

But oddly, the COVID-19 era may be a good time to make a play. On one hand, well, live shows are gone. And visual tools don’t have the kind of ‘bedroom’ following that music does. On the other hand, live video production is suddenly up, from live streaming to augmented reality shows. And don’t forget – those live shows are likely to come back with a vengeance, partly because people will miss them. That might not be true with movie theaters in the same way, but big events are all about interaction in ways that can’t be as easily replaced.

So, InMusic, we’ll be watching to see what you do.