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

49 thoughts on “Ableton Acquires Cycling ’74, Creators of Max

  1. It basicly means Cycling’74 ran out of money and Ableton couldn’t take a risk their product would crash and burn.

    This is why you shouldn’t depend too much on other company.

      1. It’s all the sillier “advice” because this decision by the both is because they realize that they may be depending too much on Windows, Apple, and Linux general-purpose computing devices and will need to hedge into more vendor-neutral mobile solutions for the longevity of both products.

    1. You seem to have a less than basic skim of the article.

      “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.”

      They see the future shift to tablet computing devices, and futureproofing their revenue stream involves working together to develop more mobile software offerings.

      I imagine that Link was the beginning of their work.

    1. Yeah this is sorely missing for a long long time

      I have used a bit of a semi work around using Max and Soundflower but it’s far from ideal

  2. dude this is awesome news!!!!!!!!!!!!

    lets get some even tighter integration max and ableton can now be 1

  3. I’ma catch some hate for this.

    Standalone sampler/sequencer.

    Make the MPC live. Except with your vastly superior daw at the heart. Maybe add 2 extra outputs.

    1. I’ve been hoping for this for a long time. A standalone Push type device. I love the idea of creating my live sets with Ableton on my mac and playing live without the laptop.

    2. MPC standalone wont run VST although couldve if they put out that top secret win 10 mpc leaked like 2 years ago.

      I wonder why MPC renaissance sold less than maschine and push, but had more knobs, audio interface, etc…

      Is “idea mode” viewable from maschin studio screen ? If so, a small diy pc or mac mini and maschin studio = Nableton Live.

    3. Hahahahaha on the 2 extra outputs. Really need that 8 out huh? Alls I’m waiting for is Native instruments to go standalone now. We all know its coming. Akai wont be the only one getting into that market.

    4. I have wanted something like this but rather than an MPC styled box I would rather have a large multi touch screen with customizable UI (so that you can either use witha daw workflow or create your own interface for loop triggering/mixing/etc), lots of ports/IO (usb, pulse, 5 pin, bt), swappable SSD storage and the ability to load 32 and 64 bit vsts so that you essentially have an optimized multi touch version of live without the rest of the OS that takes up resources – I would be reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeealy interested in something like that

  4. Wow. But it is understandable.

    I’m intrigued that my friend David didn’t mention this deal when we ate together recently. He’s clearly got more poker face than I thought. Good job, mate.

    Only time will tell what this really means. Until then no one knows.

        1. I’m intrigued that my friend Francis Preve didn’t mention this deal when I tweeted him recently. He’s clearly got more poker face than I thought. Good job, mate.


  5. We don’t know Cycling ’74’s financial status, but on the surface this feels like a strategic move by Ableton. I bet Ableton 10 will have Max built in and be very tightly integrated into it’s core. This will be their answer to BitWig’s modular modulation environment and more. But this will also give Ableton a 20 year head start (Cycling ’74 started in 1997), tons of preexisting devices, and users will have more access ‘under the hood’ to do things. If properly implemented this could be killer. Seems like a great deal!

    This sounds like it could be exciting, and is evidence that Ableton isn’t just going to roll over with BitWig in the picture now. Can’t wait to see where this goes. Live 9 is already pretty nice.

    1. Inter-clip editing and rearrangement would be the killer addition (for me) that Ableton could add to Live 10. Max probably wouldn’t play a part in that but I’d consider it a major omission considering the capabilities of Bitwig in that department. Native modular modulation routing within Live seems like it would be the biggest gain from this merger and I certainly welcome that as well.

  6. Standalone Push would dominate the market in a serious way… and if they could get it to run some 3rd party VSTs on the device alone, with a generic wrapper or something, that would be the total package… it would destroy the competition

    make it happen Ableton

    1. actually if you brought sets from the computer version of live for performance over to it you should call it pull.

  7. Ableton might be able to subsidize the price of Max/MSP a bit and bring down the price. That would be a cool result.

  8. Not sure where the leap from “We acquired a software company” to a stand-alone Push came from that a few are talking about. As the article states, we will probably see an IOS/Android version of Live first. Abe’s getting good at hardware controllers, that’s a fact. Push 2 proves they can do it themselves. But the gap between a controller and a stand-alone Push is bigger than most think. And buying Cycling ’74 won’t help with that. A stand-alone Push would probably be an x86 or ARM chip running Windows anyway, and not much better than a laptop or tablet experience for most. I think the new Electribes with their Ableton project export are as close as we’re going to see for a while for real hardware. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see a stand-alone Push too, but I’m not holding my breath yet. I hope they’re working hard to make Live 10 killer so we can start enjoying it!

    1. That’s where it gets exciting….. Android based Ableton App running on a nice spec tablet…. connected to a push controller…. with a few audio outs.

      But put all that together in one machine. It’s a natural progression.

    2. Agreed. As it is, Push 2 barely scratches most of the stuff you can do with Live from your laptop. I love it but it is just a glorified clip launcher / midi controller. The real magic of Live is editing audio in the Arranger view. Resampling it and then editing again.. and again.. and again.

      Standalone Push is not the direction I see them going with all this.

    1. You guys say this but have you actually tried using a daw on an iPad? They’re out there, and it’s a pain to use. Almost always I kick back to the laptop.

      1. Tablets will never be any good as DAWs for the simple fact that you cannot see through your own hands

  9. This also means it will probably be a while before we see Live 10. Probably a ton of integration work ahead and even more testing. Those rumors of seeing 9.8 and 9.9 are probably true. Not that I’m complaining, I’m impressed with them supporting it for so long. But the wheels are turning and this news is exciting.

  10. F#$&*! In the first colaboration we lost the ability to make our own vst plugins, lets hope this doesn’t mean the end of max..

  11. Great news maxforlive has opened up ableton for me so much, and live has made max so much more asseable for me, very exciting news

    1. I was thinking the opposite–Live 10 already has Max baked in. This is the prelude to that announcement, since Max users might be wondering; hey, why isn’t Cyc74 not as on -the-ball with updates, etc.?

  12. Woohoo! – Full featured MAX built into Live please! Anyone else will have to buy the standalone full version of MAX for the other DAWs around…

    …Or, to be totally radical, why don’t Ableton license the full blown MAX to other DAW manufacturers and ensure that they are all compatible with each other. MAX would rule the roost and it would help out the music community enormously! Or have I been drinking too many energy drinks…

  13. New iPad Pros are faster than the Microsoft surface pro, so power management and app ecosystem seem like the biggest barriers to having Live or other full-on DAWs on iOS.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the new iPads, with the changes to iOS to make it better at multitasking and improving the file management.

  14. Ever since I learned about Max I have wanted to run my live show off of it, but it doesn’t run on PC. I use Bitwig, but there’s no way to efficiently load up your entire live setlist and quickly switch to the VSTs you use. I am hoping that Bitwig either tackles this issue, or that Max will become available for PC. This would change everything!

  15. Not sure how many people use Max/MSP/Jitter here, but it is probably one of the most useful tools for doing experimental work and prototyping in commercial and academic areas. Many Max power users still do not use MaxForLive as Max is not just an audio tool. Many still use Max/MSP 6. There is a pretty strong community of Max users already and I don’t think this will harm that hopefully. I think Ableton have positioned their brand to stretch a bit farther than just the standard music production end of things. Education, creativity and collaboration seem very important to both Ableton and Cycling ’74. When they introduced M4L it opened a world of possibilities for going beyond the traditional DAW model. Algorithmic composition and performance has become much easier to do thanks to these tools. Applause from me as it helped me with my thesis. From what I understand though, Ableton have purposely limited access to certain features of the Live API in order to maintain quality control. Things such as preset swapping, adjusting groove settings, send~ and receive~, altering MIDI automation data in clips etc. are still missing in M4L. Perhaps this acquisition will beef that up and let it happen over networked machines of all kinds. What’s also been missing from both camps is tablet versions, Linux versions and the ability to run things off of small ARM-based machines like the RaspberryPi or a future beefed up Pi. Cycling ’74 have moved a bit in the mobile direction with Mira, but it’s limited. Many are using PureData for small projects just running on RPi. It makes sense that not everyone would want to dish out a bit of cash for a MacMini & Live Suite just to run a MaxForLive patch in an installation or collaborative project. Live Link is also a sign things are moving more in the direction of mutli-platform collaboration. Although one could still argue wireless networks are a bit sketchy for reliable synchronization. Perhaps as we see the power of embedded computer systems increases we will see a standalone version of Push with Live and integrated MaxForLive. Not just a sequencer/loop/sampler player like Toraiz and MPC Live, but a hackable standalone performance instrument, beyond just modulating parameters. Perhaps also multi-platform, iOS, ARM/Linux versions of Live, M4L, and Max. The technology exists now, it just needs to be implemented… Interesting times indeed and sometimes working together can make things happen faster. In this case, hopefully so.

  16. Yes the new iPad pro is so much more powerful. I think the money is over there. Personally I don’t use Max. It’s a real pain and my Waves vsts are way better. Push as a Windows computer or an Android is hilarious. I’m pushing for iPad!

  17. I’m hoping for the most basic thing to finally become available in Ableton; SYSEX! It’s annoying to have to route through MIDI Yoke into standalone software, If you’re lucky enough that a standalone software exist for your hardware.

  18. From the early 90’s well into the 00’s, MAX was the de facto standard development environment among media artists, experimental composers, interaction designers et cetera. It was taught at universities and art schools, and the software was a defining factor for the emergence and the aesthetic development of the IDM and glitch genres.

    But today’s abundance of powerful, free and open source alternatives no longer justifies a commercial product. Certainly not from the point of view of a ‘poor struggling artist’ user base.

    I knew quite a few artists and composers/musicians who used MAX/msp religiously, but most of them have since moved on to Pure Data. (Ironically, PD was developed by Miller Puckette: the creator of the original MAX who never received a dime for his work. Or so I heard)

    PD is open source, free and comparable in many ways (and different in many others). It’s supported by a sizeable and active international community of devoted geeks.
    A personal MAX/msp license will set you back $99/year.

    It’s nice that MAX/msp lives on (for now…), even if it’s as an extension IDE for Ableton power users. Users are creating cool, fun and often really useful Live devices. But this covers just the tiniest part of everything MAX/msp was once capable of.
    MAX/msp is history, I guess.

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