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.

  • Someone

    I wonder what this means for ProTools users. Most of the internal plugs were A.I.R. coded if I am not mistaken, I hope further versions of ProTools (64 bit anyone?) will still support these plugs…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I expect we’ll find that out soon enough. Pro Tools is a sizable market, and these guys have spent years coding for that format. I don’t see why they wouldn’t continue to support that host. On the other hand, we could see them support other formats, as well. (see… various earlier laments about the absence of a genuine, cross-platform, open format.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/graham.spice Graham Spice

      Agreed. The suite of 20 plug-ins from Digidesign’s Advanced Instrument Research group were developed as built-in effects for instrument plug-ins such as Velvet and Strike, but were included as free with Pro Tools 8 as RTAS plug-ins. The list is quite long of those included in PT 9 that I believe all came from AIR:
      Boom drum machine and sequencer
      DB-33 tonewheel organ emulator with rotating speaker simulation
      Mini Grand acoustic grand piano
      Structure Free sample player (based on Structure)
      Vacuum monophonic vacuum tube synthesizer
      Xpand!2 multitimbral synth and sample workstationAIR ChorusAIR DistortionAIR Dynamic DelayAIR EnhancerAIR EnsembleAIR Filter GateAIR FlangerAIR Frequency ShifterAIR FuzzWahAIR KillEQAIR Lo-FiAIR MultiChorusAIR Multi-DelayAIR Nonlinear ReverbAIR PhaserAIR ReverbAIR Spring ReverbAIR StereoWidthAIR TalkboxAIR Vintage Filter

  • Glectez

    2062: Someone say: i need pads…M-audio: Air Pads????

  • Justin Zero

    Soooo…when is Midiman branded gear going to fetch a vintage premium? I’ll sell you this 2×2, bidding starts at $500…

    • InfoWarfare

      I’ve got the rarest vintage Midiman piece of kit; a Midiman SurfaceOne working prototype! One of only 3 in existence! Maybe I should take offers on it?

    • Justin Zero

      Holy shit! I’ll mow your lawn for a month!

  • Ex-Customer

    I’ve owned a few of their cards in the past but have decided not to buy any of their future offerings. Although I don’t expect companies to provide Linux drivers, I do expect them to release datasheets so that the community can help itself.

  • InfoWarfare

    What’s missing from the timeline is:
    2009 Avid slowly begins to lay-off M-Audio Employees.
    2011 The last of the M-Audio Employees are officially gone and Avid closes the doors on the M-Audio offices in Irwindale.

    I know of only two ex-M-Audio employees that actually still work at Avid proper, one (who I won’t name) was a product tester for M-Audio for many years and he officially quit M-Audio in 2007 to officially work at Avid as a product tester for DigiDesign. The other is Taiho Yamada who came from Alesis (he created the Micron and Ion synths for them) to M-Audio in 2006 as a product manager; creating the Venom synth for M-Audio. He, I believe, is the one and only M-Audio employee who was absorbed by and is still at Avid (besides the unnamed one who quit M-Audio and was rehired as an Avid employee.) All other actual M-Audio employees (product managers, engineers, designers, sales, marketing, support, testers, etc.) were gone from M-Audio/Avid by 2011 and have moved on to other companies. The M-Audio most people knew for years was no more by 2011. This can be verified by numerous sources… just saying.

    • http://www.FirstDayEntertainment.com/ MusicMeister

      Actually, the Irwindale office wasn’t completely closed until 2012 and they have employees working from home offices in California.  I know because I’m friends with one that was working from a home office until a few weeks ago. ;)  That’s when he left M-Audio/Avid to work for another company.

    • InfoWarfare

      Well that doesn’t line up with what I witnessed, and I know because I am friends with almost everyone that worked there, because I worked there… ;-) Just saying… 

      There was a big official closing of the Irwindale offices party last year with the last 10 employees (when I started there in the early 2000s, there were hundreds of employees between the two Arcadia buildings and another few or so more in the other world-wide offices; then they consolidated the two Arcadia buildings into one massive warehouse building in Irwindale) but maybe there was a lucky two or three that got to work from home up until this year, it’s certainly possible.

      Still, over all, as I was trying to say, the M-Audio that most people know was no more certainly by 2011, but even by 2009-2010 as there was no new products being developed except for the Venom synth, and that designer/product manager is still at Avid.

    • InfoWarfare

      And, as of last week, Avid, in their infinite wisdom, laid off the brilliant synth engineer/designer Taiho Yamada, creator of the Ion and Micron synths for Alesis and the Venom Synth for M-Audio. What are those idiots at Avid doing!?

  • Dean

    Good read but jeez I creased myself at the last paragraph, bravo on humour!

  • http://shopfreshlook.com/ Roberto Monrch

    Thanks for this information. Meladerm

  • http://www.hicox.com/ plurgid

    it blows my mind that Avid could be losing money because of the “creative enthusiast” crowd. I remember a time when you pretty much had to special order MIDI controllers and audio interfaces … *at music stores* … and there weren’t even that many music stores around.

    These days Guitar Centers are sprouting up like Starbucks and their shelves and what M-Audio makes is pretty much what they’re sellin’. ‘Course … that’s definitely even more true for inMusic … but still “losing money?” … like how?!

  • mo0kid

    It”s likely that Avid are struggling with a flagship product such as Protools or Media Composer, and have to decided to sell off a product that has actual value. 
    I’m pretty sure almost everyone with a digital music studio has an M-Audio product lying around somewhere.

  • Apoclypse_2001

    This can finally give Numark their own DVS system (M-Audio owns Torq if I’m not mistaken). That may mean that torq will finally get some decent hardware to go with a pretty decent piece of software. 

  • Secretkillerofnames

    So I should’ve guessed that was why the M-Audio Venom synths were so cheap.  Since I got mine earlier this year there has been zero support, the forums have been full of people complaining.  Shame, for what it is worth, it’s a great synth.  Much better than the Blofeld I sold.

  • cooptrol

    There hasn’t been a single M-Audio product that hasn’t driven me crazy with hw and sf issues of all kinds. Owned Ozone (serious driver problems back in the day), ProFire 410 (glitches, drops, never a full functioning driver, burnt FW port of my desktop and my PowerBook), ProFire 610 (had to keep buying M-Audio cos of Pro Tools M-Powered, after 1 year of use the Mic Preamp 2 started emitting a hiss, customer support’s only answer was “ask the dealer to replace the unit” which was impossible cos the guarantee was void). The only other M-Audio product I have and works OK is the simplest USB-MIDI interface, which ironically is the first thing Midiman produced. I also stopped using Pro Tools some years ago. The unbelievable lack of feature updates and the general clumsiness of the system just wore me out after 10 years of being an exclusive user. AVID is a product destroyer corporation.