MakeMusic joins Peaksware; HQ to move to Colorado

News

MakeMusicLogo640MakeMusic, Inc. announced today that they will join the umbrella company Peaksware, Inc., effective immediately. Peaksware is owned by LaunchEquity Partners, the same investment company who took MakeMusic private in April 2013.

MakeMusic makes the interactive music software SmartMusic, the Finale desktop music publishing software, the Garritan suite of software instruments and the open standard MusicXML music interchange format.

From the official press release:

MakeMusic joins TrainingPeaks, another brand already under the leadership of the Peaksware team. Each brand will remain focused solely on their respective markets of music technology and endurance training, continuing their long histories as industry leading brands.

Through a unique approach to deliberate practice, each brand within Peaksware develops software solutions and provides services to help guide people along their own journey of improvement and skill development. Whether completing a triathlon, learning a musical instrument or composing a symphony, the same strategy applies: set a specific goal, get expert instruction, perform focused practice and receive immediate feedback. This shared approach is the common thread connecting the brands.

Peaksware’s CEO Gear Fisher and his executive team will assume the leadership of MakeMusic immediately. Current MakeMusic CEO, Karen VanDerBosch and the rest of her executive team will assist with the transition. By joining Peaksware, MakeMusic will share best practices and gain operational efficiencies with the other brands within a larger umbrella corporation. The increased scale of the combined organization will enable additional investment and innovation.

Gear Fisher
Gear Fisher, CEO of Peaksware

I spoke by phone with Gear shortly before the announcement was made public, and wanted to learn how it was that LaunchEquity first became interested in MakeMusic. “My personal background is in the product development side,” Gear said. In his career so far, he said, “I’ve been involved in four different companies. In 1999 I developed a product that became TrainingPeaks, which is where I’ve spent all my time for the last 14 years. So I’m a pretty stable guy,” he said, adding that he’s married with a family. “TrainingPeaks is a software company for coaches and athletes to communicate with each other and to help endurance athletes train for an event.

“After 6 years of doing the coding myself, I knew that we were going to have to do something different,” Gear said. “That’s when I became involved with Andy Stephens, who was a customer and was interested in becoming an equity partner. We grew the company over the last 7 years, particularly over the last 3 or 4 years as high-growth period.”

Andy Stephens is now chairman of both MakeMusic and Peaksware. In addition to those ventures, Stephens is a managing director of Milwaukee-based Artisan Partners and a portfolio manager on its Growth team, according to his official bio.

Gear said that “Andy made me aware of his investment in MakeMusic. His vision is to build a broader company with a common goal around developing platforms for deliberate practice. Andy asked me to re-imagine MakeMusic in the way we had built TrainingPeaks. That broader vision is where Peaksware, as the broader corporate entity, will acquire companies in multiple domains — all with a shared strategy of deliberate practice. Our goal is to be absolutely authentic to each domain, whether it’s music, endurance training, or strength and conditioning.”

MakeMusic and TrainingPeaks will continue to run independently, Gear said, but with an ability to “share best practices, resources, and scale. MakeMusic is the brand; that’s what has the brand equity. In the near-term our plans are for as little disruption as possible. In the long-term, our plan is to position the company for the next decade. That is purely our goal: how can we service this industry with the absolute best products possible. We are committed for the long-term,” he said.

Gear said that eventually the MakeMusic offices will move from Eden Prarie, Minnesota, to TrainingPeaks’s home base in Boulder, Colorado. “Right now we’re focused on the back-to-school season and continuing our plans as-is, but we do have plans to move MakeMusic to the same building as TrainingPeaks over the next, say, twelve months,” Gear said.

The web site of TrainingPeaks, the new corporate bedfellow of MakeMusic, today

“We’ll be offering positions to many people existing at MakeMusic already, but by virtue of the transition, we’ll have to hire new staff to re-build and re-imagine the company in Boulder,” Gear said when asked what the move meant for the current staff of MakeMusic. “It’s my goal for the sake of the customers to maintain continuity and the relationships, but we’re very early in this,” he added.

Michael Good [inventor of the MusicXML music interchange format and MakeMusic vice president of research and development] will definitely be continuing along past the transition; he’s committed for the long-term,” Gear said about MakeMusic’s current executive team, “and we’re working with others — it’s in motion.”

On the MusicXML blog, Michael Good wrote today that “for MusicXML, nothing will be changing,” and he verified that he “will be staying with MakeMusic and continuing to guide MusicXML development and developer support. Both MusicXML and Finale are essential to creating our SmartMusic repertoire and fit with the Peaksware strategic vision.”

I was curious if there was anyone currently at TrainingPeaks with a musical background. “We have a former MakeMusic employee that runs all of our servers,” Gear said. “People that do endurance sports have quite a connection with musicians, as it turns out. The skill and expertise just morphs from the music side to the sports side. We don’t have any professional musicians on staff, but there are a couple of customer support employees that play in bands, and we certainly share a passion and interest for it.”

About the four core products, Gear said that “Finale is something we’re deeply committed to. SmartMusic is obviously another major product for us; we see a lot of opportunity with SmartMusic and the role it plays in education. So they are the two major products, and then Garritan and MusicXML are key components for us as well.”

TrainingPeaks is heavily involved in the web and mobile spaces, and I asked Gear about its implications for MakeMusic’s products. “It’s all on the table,” he said. “I’m a big advocate for being on the right screen, for the right person, at the right time, having the right functionality available. My background [is as a developer] across an entire ecosystem, where we have desktop, web, and mobile products; certainly we’re going to assess those opportunities for Finale and SmartMusic.”

MakeMusic’s products, like those of Avid and other companies that make music software, are used by a wide range of customers: from top publishers and commercial music preparers, to educators and students, to the casual amateur. Feature suggestions often come from the mid/pro user, but in terms of sheer numbers, the vast majority of the customers in the market are generally hobbyists. I wondered if MakeMusic would continue to serve such a wide array of users. “I believe there is a right way to fit a product to a customer, and that’s having the right features for the right person,” Gear said. “If you try to please everybody, you end up with something that doesn’t absolutely nail it for anybody. Right now we’re very committed to Finale as-is, and I look forward to diving in with the team and better understanding who the user base is and how they use the product and other products.”

Today’s announcement comes less than three weeks after an update to SmartMusic that provides compatibility with files created in the new file format used in Finale 2014 and planned for future versions. SmartMusic is the company’s subscription-based interactive music learning software for iPad, PC and Mac.

In November 2013, MakeMusic reorganized, its first significant organizational change after the LaunchEquity acquisition. That reorganization happened less than three weeks after the release of Finale 2014.

Updated August 10, 2014 with additional information about Andy Stephens, chairman of MakeMusic and Peaksware.

Comments

  1. Bob Zawalich

    Wow. I wish all the best for the Finale guys. I can see how they can make a case for SmartMusic in TrainingPeaks, and Finale is what they need to make SmartMusic work, but that seems to me to be a bit like being the wagged tail.

    I hope they can get it all worked out, and I’m glad that Michael Good will still be going along. Good luck, guys!

  2. Justin Tokke

    Well…. that’s interesting….. I guess…..I have no words. I’m not even sure what to think here. Will it dramatically change MakeMusic’s current and future projects is the real question.

  3. Brad H

    How bizarre. An athletic software company acquires a music software company. What does one have anything to do with the other? Aside from SmartMusic, I suppose, what does “deliberate practice” have anything to do with Finale? And no pro musicians in the TrainingPeaks camp. This is nuts.

  4. Bob

    Props to Philip for at least asking how they got interested in Make Music. Fisher’s response ranks right up there with the best of long-winded, evasive non-answers. My corporate bs translator came up with several possible interpretations, including: ‘I don’t know why we bought Make Music – but we have the money, so deal with it’ or ‘I’m not going to tell you the real reason.’

    When you remove the ‘deliberate practice’ fluff, their ‘vision’ statement consists of nothing more than acquiring companies – a shallow vision, IMO.

    His attempt to draw a connection between endurance athletes and musicians would be laughable if it weren’t disturbingly clueless. Apparently Peaksware and Launch Equity have no connection whatsoever to serious, established, full-time music professionals.

    When Avid acquired Sibelius, my gut reaction was ‘this can’t be good’, and unfortunately that turned out to be the case. I have a similar sense here and, as before, I hope I’m wrong.

  5. teach jones

    It is hard for me as a teacher and a participant in school board meetings to endorse MakeMusic’s move to the state that has focused on legalizing drugs. Out of one side we pose say no to drugs, but please use this software from the ganja state.

    It is over for me and MakeMusic.

  6. Brad H

    @teach jones

    I’m not sure of your reasoning. I, as an adult, would never have made the association of MakeMusic and marijuana-legal Colorado as you did. I doubt very much that the students would, either, and as a teacher of 20 years, I would be willing to make a serious bet that they wouldn’t. I’ll even bet that they wouldn’t even know where Finale’s corp HQ are right now and where they eventually will be. I do not see why anyone would punish either MakeMusic or TrainingPeaks for legislation that they had had absolutely nothing to do with. Believe me, I am totally disgusted with the legalization of that drug in what was my home state, but your line of reasoning troubles me.

  7. teach jones

    MakeMusic made the choir to move to Colorado after the legislation passed.

    Students are discussing legalization and regularly confront the Janus of say no except…

    Students might not know about HQ, but a click on any web page “About” will tell you where a company is located.

    While my line of reasoning troubles you… I found out about this from two different parents not just about the move but there concern that money will be spent on a company choosing Colorado. That is the discussion that I am having to deal with, on top of just trying to get funds for music.

  8. Brad H

    I’m not following you–what choir?

    And I do not understand your parents–MakeMusic did not “choose” Colorado. Their new parent company was already there, even before the legislation passed. MakeMusic does not have a choice as their new boss is making them go there. The parents saying that MakeMusic should be boycotted because they “made the choice” to go to CO makes no sense. I can see how you would have a difficult task working with that kind of thinking. Best wishes, really.

  9. Asked Jeeves

    I think Teach Jones might be writing this babble from Colorado… ;)

    1. Bob

      @Jeeves – I was thinking along similar lines: that TJ might be a troll, because those comments are so ridiculous.

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