Don Buchla Wants His Brand Back, Taking New Owners To Court

Don Buchla Smiles at the 2011 NAMM ShowDon Buchla, right, is taking the current owners of the Buchla Electronic Musical Instrument brand, Audio Supermarket Pty., to court.

According to a report by Fact:

Buchla alleges he was promised $440,000 for the sale of the company, but has been paid less than $110,000 so far. It also alleges that the defendants breached the Asset Purchase Agreement of Buchla & Associates by “failing to use reasonable business efforts to reach sales targets.”

The lawsuit is attempting to regain the original company’s assets, intellectual property and confirmed purchase orders back to Buchla, as well as seeking compensation for damages.

Don Buchla originally formed his electronic music instrument company in 1962, and worked with composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender, of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, to create an electronic instrument for live performance.

In 2013, Buchla’s company was acquired by a group of investors, who announced a new company, Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments, with Buchla as the Chief Technology Officer.

Court filing details are available at the JUSTIA site:

  • Plaintiff: Donald Buchla
  • Defendant: Buchla Electronic Musical Instrument, LLC, Audio Supermarket Pty. LTD., Danny Olesh, Michael Marans, Lewis Chiodo and John Fuller
  • Case Number: 3:2015cv00921
  • Filed: February 27, 2015
  • Court: California Northern District Court
  • Office: San Francisco Office
  • County: Alameda
  • Presiding Judge: Elizabeth D. Laporte
  • Nature of Suit: Contract: Other
  • Cause of Action: 28:1332 Diversity-Breach of Contract
  • Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff

via Tom Whitwell

22 thoughts on “Don Buchla Wants His Brand Back, Taking New Owners To Court

    1. The $440k was for the brand, not for his contributions to the state of the art, and it’s what he agreed to. Only paying him $100k is breach of contract, as well as an insult.

      1. Meh. The knobs on the brand new Buchla 200E at the college I went to were wobbly as f#$%.

        I worked in the synth department and was one of the first to play with it, so it wasn’t treated badly. It just wasn’t well put together.

  1. BEMI is a lot more price-conscious than Buchla and Associates ever was, but they’re leaving money on the table by not having a presence in the Eurorack market. Everybody and their mother is making modules ‘inspired by’ Buchla modules and that’s money their leaving on the table.

    That said – Don Buchla is famously iconoclastic and has never been interested in chasing the mainstream market. So, I imagine that he and the new owners have very different ideas of where the company should go.

    1. Aah welll, is the Eurorack standard really electrically compatible with Buchla?

      It’s not just an issue of millimeters to fit modules, not even about the wall socket,
      it’s about the impedance of signal cables.
      The greatness of Buchla system is that control signals can be stacked freely, so you can multisend/receive from the same socket. (Audio signals use 2.5 mm single connectors)

      This is even surpassed by Serge, which has same signal type for control and audio signals.
      His modules are not as rounded and creative as the Buchla modules though.

      I’m waiting for someone to solve this for regular Eurorack/Moog systems.
      That could be a cable brand that might do really well (if it’s possible, I don’t know anything about electricity, obviously 🙁 but how hard can it be?)

      1. Buchla isn’t 100% compatible. He used 1.2 volts/octave, for example.

        But there’s no reason you couldn’t adapt his modules to euro as far as I know. It seems like several companies have done this already with “clone” modules.

  2. Seems like this would be a matter of simply reviewing his contract with BMI and assessing if there was a breach or not.

      1. Having lawyers come into things is like appearing on Judge Judy: its a clear sign that people can’t manage their idiot business on a personal level. Otherwise, everyone would simply keep their word and there would be no story. Its hard to fully grasp where the lines might be in this, since it revolves around a very esoteric synthesizer, but an asset is an asset. Too bad so much of the money will go to three-piece vultures. Can you say “entropy?”

  3. Whatever happens, I hope that after the dust settles, I’ll be able to order some wands for the Buchla Lightning I found at a thrift-store last year. Seems like the current incarnation of BEMI wasn’t interested in either trying to find some old stock, or manufacturing new ones. Which would be fine if they just would clearly state that, but instead they kept saying to call back later.

  4. I have no clue how this news or the outcome will affect musicians. Wonder if anyone could tell me…

    What I do know is this: if the new owners have screwed over Don, musicians with’ buchla money’ should boycott the brand until the situation is made right. A lot of people don’t care enough about who makes the gear, so long as it sounds good. This isn’t a very ethical or enlightened way of looking at the world, and (imho) consumers have lots of power by simply speaking with their wallets.

    Hope all is made right. I want my bongos and fart noises to be righteous.

    1. I would suggest that Buchla has seen the revival of analogue, Moog remaking their $20k plus modules, and I’m sure everyone is complaining to him about trying to get their hands on one of the new BEMIs. I’d say that, as long as this wraps up quickly, which it won’t we will see Buchla flourish, until then it will disappear from the markets.

  5. I wonder what the “acquired” means? (Meaning I have not taken the trouble to look it up. Maybe later.) Shows the importance of licensing one’s own name rather than attaching it legally to something that can be bought and sold. A license can be revoked. A buy-back must be negotiated. I wonder if anyone since Daniel Webster has successfully sued the Devil to get back a soul?

  6. $440,000!!! is a serious insult …. not paying even half of that is even more of a insult .
    i think Deadmau and Richard Devine combined have spent more than $400k on their setups

  7. i have seen a few new Buchla products lately. id say they have sunk a lot of money into research.

    its interesting the timing of this, just after NAMM. sounds to me like he thought “analog is dead” and sold it for a song, and then went to NAMM and saw the analog explosion and saw the excitement thought “bloody hell ive made a mistake, theres actually money in this!” and is trying to get it back

    1. No. Doesn’t it say 2013? He’s integrated enough to have foreseen this. It actually started many many years ago (on the muff wiggler forum especially).

  8. Buchlas MAIN problem to create a large positive cash flow and back ordered stock
    is product PRICING! It’s way to EXPENCIVE. Even cut in half it’s still premium.

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