Synthtopia

Ableton Acquires Cycling ’74, Creators of Max

Cycling ’74, creators of Max and Max For Live, today announced that they have been acquired by Ableton.

The companies have ‘shared DNA’, with Ableton Live originating in a Max patch and about a decade of collaboration on Max For Live.

The companies plan to maintain independent operations, but with closer collaboration.

Here’s the text of the announcement from Cycling ’74 CEO David Zicarelli:

On behalf of my co-workers at Cycling ’74, I am pleased to share the news of our acquisition by our good friends at Ableton. Above all, the primary goal with this new partnership is continuity, which is probably not what you typically think when you hear about acquisitions. But this is not a typical acquisition. Cycling ’74 and Ableton have a long relationship going back to the very first years of both companies in the late 1990s. Over the years, I have come to appreciate that we both share the same obsession: the incredibly hard problem of creative workflow, or how can you use technology to make something out of nothing?

Making a dent in this problem requires both imagination and persistence. The obvious case in point is Max for Live. It wasn’t long after I saw the first demo of Ableton Live from Robert Henke that he told me how cool it would be if you could make Live devices with Max. From that glimmer of an idea, it would be ten years before we released the first version of Max for Live in 2009. This unlikely partnership not only added extensibility to Live, but it gave Max an important new dimension as well.

While we share a long-term commitment to improving how artists can work with technology, we also recognize that each organization works a bit differently. For example, Cycling ’74 people work from home in many different places in the world, while most Ableton employees work in an office in Berlin.

Therefore, Ableton and Cycling ’74 will continue to operate independently, while we look for ways to collaborate and support each other. Perhaps most importantly, all of your friends here (including me) will be working as usual to serve the Max community, just as we have for the past 19 years. This is in no way an “exit” for me but rather an opportunity for us to continue pursuing some very challenging and exciting work that I believe will have a major impact on the world.

In an interview with Peter Kirn of CDM, Zicarelli and Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles discuss the impetus for the acquisition and their vision for working together.

They make clear that they see the rise of mobile devices and the renaissance of hardware music-making as a key challenge and opportunity:

David: We’re both seeing this incredibly difficult challenge, which is the landscape of the computing devices people use for music and media is changing radically. And we can’t just count on the entire world having a laptop.

At the same time, we also see this opportunity to have a bigger impact on the world, because of the computing devices getting easier to acquire, easier to use, easier to embed into new contexts. But it poses a fundamental challenge to how we conceive of what we’re doing. And we have to move from “sorry, if you don’t have a laptop we can’t help you,” to something else.

If our technology were to go in that direction, Ableton could be a context where people can make use of it, be exposed to it, construct it. From Ableton’s side, Max has always been a thing that’s been used to prototype stuff [at Ableton]. And our hope is that if transformation into these larger, newer contexts is a big part of what needs to happen, that prototyping and prototyping via Max and what we’re working on is very valuable.

Gerhard: What’s clear and obvious is that we both come from desktop background, and we realize that the world is much more multi-faceted now