There hasn’t been a shortage of coverage when it comes to inMusic’s acquisition of the historically significant synth manufacturer Moog Music. As far as synth news goes, it’s a relatively controversial topic. Now that we’ve had a full day to digest the “partnership”, what are some of the takeaways for the future of Moog and the semi-modular space as a whole?
First, let’s check out a statement from the Bob Moog Foundation:
As you can see, Bob’s memory is in good hands… his daughters. Regardless of inMusic’s stewardship of Moog hardware, Bob’s love for education, synthesis, and science will continue to be spread via his foundation. If you have the ability, this would be a great time to give a small donation to the foundation.
Now that we know Bob’s mission lives on, let’s take a look at the future of his hardware. The general sentiment can be summed up in two words: cautious optimism.
Cautious because of inMusic’s history and the general foundations of capitalism. Optimistic because of the potential for better pricing and “cross pollination” with other major brands within the inMusic brand catalogue.
Look, running a profitable hardware electronics company is extremely difficult.
We’re in this challenging time where mid-sized manufacturers who try to execute fully independent production operations aren’t realizing the profits in relation to the effort and cost of building a finished instrument (or module). Using our Eurorack niche as an example, WMD’s production sell-off and semi-demise spoke to the challenges of doing everything in-house. Luckily, the demise was short lived and WMD returned with AMMT Synthesis in tow.
Although the circumstances are vastly different, Moog’s situation most likely has some overlap: domestic cost of living increases, soaring production costs, parts shortages, high R&D costs, high distributer margins, etc. Any business would be challenged by these circumstances, and the biggest tool to fight them is scale.
- Got scale? Parts are cheaper and you receive them faster.
- Got scale? Distributers and retailers will reduce margins.
- Got scale? You can offer the end product cheaper to consumers.
While Moog has a history of innovation and iconic product design, with the way the industry currently sits, they don’t have the scale to maintain profitable operations. Their products are relatively niche and they have high price points.
Queue inMusic and CEO Jack O’Donnell.
What is inMusic?
inMusic is a conglomerate specializing in music hardware. This means they own multiple independent companies, all through acquisition, and take over their business operations. In other words, these are the “business suits”.
The people who look at spreadsheets and cut costs, salaries, overhead, royalties, and whatever else they can to tighten the ship and move towards profitability. Frequently using their own manufacturing and distribution networks, their own marketing/PR team, and focusing on processes that specialize in making things cheaply and quickly. Not quite Behringer level economies of scale, but the concept is similar.
Most of the time those types of cost-cutting decisions aren’t popular. Heck, they could even result in seriously pissing off a famous instrument designer. The decisions might not be pleasant, but they are frequently necessary for the business to continue to exist.
The root question from the community is, “Will inMusic be a good steward of the Moog brand, hardware, and legacy?“
If history has anything to say then cautious pessimism might be better than cautious optimism. There’s a mixed bag of opinions on other inMusic brands such as Akai, M-Audio, Alesis, and Numark. Hardcore enthusiasts point out a pattern of reduction in quality and innovation, general consumers see more accessible and affordable hardware that “plays nice” with other brands.
Moog’s Modular Lineage
Our major concern is Moog’s modular and semi-modular lineage and how modular will play a part in their product roadmap moving forward. If you’re into uneducated predictions, we’re expecting a reduction in product complexity, cross-pollination of Akai controller tech and other digital elements into the Moog ecosystem, and an expansion of software offerings such as Moog VSTs.
If the PR is to be believed, it sounds like inMusic’s CEO has experience with modular and is especially passionate about Moog.
The recent conversations that I’ve had with inMusic CEO Jack O’Donnell have been inspiring, to say the least. Jack shared with me the stories of his first synthesizer, a Moog modular system, and the impact this instrument and Bob’s vision have had on his career.Joe Richardson
President, Moog Music
What are you expecting to see from Moog in the future, any guesses?
From the originality of the Subharmonicon / DFAM / Mother-32 family to the richness of the Grandmother / Matriarch line, there are some exquisite instruments being made in Asheville, North Carolina. We are cautiously opti-pessimistic that Moog’s line of semi-modular synths get the attention they deserve.