With Gibson Struggling, Is Cakewalk Officially Dead?
You may have heard Gibson is struggling a little. The Nashville Post first reported it last week. Bankruptcy rumours immediately went bananas as people couldn’t decide whether to offload or double down on Gibson stock. Until they realised guitars are, you know, not shares.
Amidst the ‘semi-quashed’ rumours of Gibson’s demise, there was one casualty. Cakewalk. Remember the company’s Sonar DAW? You might if you’re still one of the desperate few holdouts waiting for someone to take up development again. Well, guess what? The company just changed hands again. ‘To who?’ You might ask. BandLab. ‘Who?’ You might still ask. We’ll get to that.
See, Gibson has a lot more under its arm than a Les Paul. Over the years the company has acquired a number of subsidiaries like Epiphone, Kramer and Garrison Guitars. All good on the guitar front. It branched out and snagged Baldwin Piano Company. then there’s been Teac Corporation, Onkyo hi-fi, the HarmonyCentral website, and of course, Cakewalk.
The issue is, Gibson doesn’t always know what to do with these brands. Case in point, Cakewalk. Gibson purchased the music software company from Roland in 2013, which probably looked great on some 2020 head office plan, “we need to get into this computer game!” Unfortunately, it didn’t get much further than that. Nothing made this more clear than last November’s announcement that Gibson was “ceasing all active development and production of Cakewalk-branded products. The decision was made to better align with the company’s acquisition strategy that is heavily focused on growth in the global consumer electronics audio business under the Philips brand.” Harsh!
Gibson’s lack of vision invited a wave of loathsome response from the Cakewalk faithful and the headlines predicted an early death for the software company and its music production platform, Sonar. If only Gibson stuck to guitars! But there lies what is perhaps the root of the problem — it’d seem Gibson’s obsession with acquiring brands and diversifying its market is the result of not fully leveraging the iconic guitars in its own house. If Les Pauls and SGs were still selling like hotcakes, Gibson would hardly need to rethink how to grow its bottom line. Apparently (and unfortunately), that’s not the case. Gibson Brands Inc. CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, says the problem is with the guitar retail industry. Blame shifting, anyone?
As it turns out, while some were lamenting Gibson’s incompetence and Cakewalk’s demise, others were strategising a solution. Enter BandLab.
Who? The Singaporean start-up kicked off in 2013 as a social music creation and sharing platform. Meng Ru Kuok, BandLab CEO and son of an Agribusiness tycoon, co-founded the website with the creator of JamHub, Steve Skillings, as a cloud-based sharing service for JamHub products. BandLab’s pitch was to democratise music production and give the music world a touchpoint of connection for collaboration and music production services. With over a million users worldwide, it’s a decent success story. So far, BandLab has feasted off the carcass of established brands. It bought a 49% share of the famous, now bankrupt music publication Rolling Stone in 2016. Now Kuok wants to buy the rest. What this company lacks in age, it makes up for in ambition.
First, BandLab purchased Composr — an iOS app for recording audio and making music on the go — which brought DAW-like music production capability to the online platform. Next was musical instrument accessory designer MONO. In 2016, BandLab won the Microsoft Start-Up Partner of the Year award.
On to 2018 and BandLab’s most recent acquisition is snatching Cakewalk out of Gibson’s ownership. To be more precise, BandLab now owns “certain assets and the complete intellectual property of Cakewalk Inc.”
Meng Ru Kuok says, “The teams at both Gibson and BandLab felt that Cakewalk’s products deserved a new home where development could continue.” Nice to know the feeling was mutual.
Kuok continues, “We are pleased to be supporting Cakewalk’s passionate community of creators to ensure they have access to the best possible features and music products under the BandLab Technologies banner.”
Why did BandLab have Cakewalk on its radar? Because unlike Gibson’s portfolio, it kind of fits with what BandLab is doing. Will it alleviate the concerns of rusted-on Cakewalk devotees? It’s anyone’s guess. No doubt BandLab has plans to integrate Cakewalk’s offerings into its own online platform in some way, shape or form. The Sonar wellspring of information could be the next step of what the Composr acquisition kickstarted in BandLab’s DAW realm. But for now, Cakewalk followers can be assured their beloved software is in good hands — at the very least, better hands than before.