Behringer replies to Arturia’s statement on the new Swing MIDI controller & sequencer with the principles of competition
Music Tech forums, press, social media have been discussing the stepgate/keystepgate since Sunday. Some with a lot of objectivity, some with emotions, and unfortunately others with words that I don’t want to hear here. Since not only one party counts for a good discussion, I also give Behringer the freedom to explain himself on this topic.
Behringer explains the release of the Swing controller & sequencer with the term competition. They also clearly state that product cloning or inspiring is common across the industry. They say: “How many Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul clones are out there in the guitar world and how many SM58 clones are available?” I personally agree with this. However, cloning vintage devices without active patents, copyrights, etc. is a different topic. It’s not a product that is still in production and protected.
Behringer & MusicTribe Community Post About Competition
Since various magazines and Arturia have publicly called us out over the launch of our Swing MIDI Controller, we would like to respond and share some facts around the principles of competition and clear up some misconceptions.
Competition is a highly effective tool to drive innovation by empowering Customers to make their best choices and force manufacturers to constantly reinvent themselves. Innovation means progress and this happens on many levels, whether it relates to customer experience, functionality or cost efficiencies etc.
There are 4 established marketing strategies: market leader, market challenger, market follower and market nichers. Here is a great article: https://aytm.com/blog/brand-positioning-for-a-competitive-edge-part-3/
The competition law was designed to avoid companies creating a market monopoly and stifle innovation, which would be detrimental to the rights of the Customers to expect better offerings. The law was specifically designed to encourage everyone to fiercely compete, even when it means over the same functionality and design, provided intellectual property such as utility (functional) and design patents as well as trademarks etc. are respected.
How many Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul clones are out there in the guitar world and how many SM58 clones are available? How many cars or mobile phones look alike? It is not surprising that Gibson recently lost a substantial legal case trying to prevent others from making V-shape guitars or Fender, who lost all trademark cases related to their Stratocaster design.
The reason is simple: the law encourages competition and provides maximum freedom for companies to engage head-on, all for the benefit of the Customer.
We are spending large amounts of resources on innovation, which is reflected in products such as X32, XR18, Flow, DDM4000, etc. This made us the global market leader for analog and digital mixers and over the years we have built an extensive patent portfolio:
However, we also clearly choose to follow successful brands and products, while adding more features and/or competing on price. Much of our innovation is invisible to the Customer as it relates to our highly advanced and automated design and manufacturing processes and for that we are spending hundreds of millions of US$.
For this reason, we have become strategic partners with Microsoft, Siemens, Adobe and many other Tier 1 companies as we are pushing for extreme digitization and automation.
The follower marketing strategy is a very common business model in any industry, which is enabled by law to encourage competition. With our new Swing MIDI Controller, we followed an established concept, but of course wrote our own firmware with added functionality. However, these unique features will only come to life when we launch our free DAW.
The free Music Tribe DAW will form the heart of an incredible eco-system, where all our controllers, synthesizers and drum machines etc. will integrate seamlessly, thus dramatically improve connectivity and workflow. This will make it incredibly easy for our Customers to create, edit and share their music.
Only our upcoming controllers will feature total integration with our synthesizers, drum machines, digital mixers and other Music Tribe equipment, while also offering standard functionality with all 3rd party products.
For anyone familiar with the industry landscape, Arturia has been cloned for years (Worlde MiniMidi, etc.), while the company has also been “borrowing” from others with their VST replicas of legendary hardware synths, open-source code from Mutable Instruments, the “Expressive Touche” controller or the registration of known “DX7” and “Synthi” marks. Equally, our own analog Xenyx mixers and many other products have been widely cloned.
¬We will absolutely continue to deliver innovative products but also follow our competitors as we expect our products to be cloned – fair play.
We are very cautious when it comes to our follower approach and employ expert intellectual property firms to ensure our products stay within the boundaries of the law; we are committed to never intentionally infringe on other companies’ intellectual property.
Many years ago, we were entangled in bitter lawsuits with Mackie and Pioneer, which we all won. But we also recently lost a case against Yamaha in China related to a simple fader knob design that involved a design patent we were unfortunately not aware of. We changed the design, we will pay the fees and move on. Notably, Yamaha themselves were sued by Dr. Dre over their headphone designs (https://www.cnet.com/news/dr-dre-sues-yamaha-over-headphones/) or entangled in other legal matters (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/musical-instrument-firms-to-pay-millions-after-breaking-competition-law), which clearly shows how competitive business is. The heated Apple versus Samsung disputes are a prime example.
It is our Purpose and Mission to empower Customers who don’t have deep pockets and provide them with the best possible equipment at fair prices. We do understand that we are a fierce competitor and at times controversial as we’re relentlessly push the envelope.
We would like to thank all our Customers who have supported us over the past 30 years. We are absolutely committed to continue to deliver the best possible products at the lowest possible cost.
I want to say again clearly: I basically have no problem with cloning vintage devices like a Pro-1, MonoPoly, etc. These are products that have not been produced for a long time, are rare, and often expensive. You can argue with the countless guitar clones that are available in every major music shop today. That’s true Behringer. Many YouTubers in the guitar sphere review these clones and highly recommend them.
It is no different in the Synthesizer sector, Behringer did not invent vintage cloning. Many boutique manufacturers have Minimoog etc. clones in their portfolio as desktop units (Studio Electronics…), Eurorack modules (Minimoog modules from AJH…), etc. Unlike boutique manufacturers, they produce these in huge numbers and sell them for a fraction. Clones remain clones no matter from a large or small manufacturer. If you look so closely at clones, you have to judge everyone else to the same extent. They are right. Whether this is ethical and moral fair towards the original manufacturer is another question that you have to clarify with yourself.
In this case, a company replicates an innovative product from a small company, which is neither a vintage device and nor officially discontinued at dealers. It’s a different topic for me. This clearly about getting a piece of the cake by all means. That’s something I don’t support. Behringer has the manpower and the competence to develop its own sequencer that can keep up with the Keystep.
Innovation does not lie in copying others, it lies in realizing their own ideas. Therefore, I find it a bit bizarre that Behringer equates itself with OEM manufacturers (WORLDE…) from China who has built on behalf of manufacturers such as Arturia, Novation, etc. but also built ripoffs of discontinued products. What does that mean to us? I think it’s weird. If you sell yourself so innovatively, then you should compete with the big ones in the industry (Arturia, Novation, …) and not with OEM manufacturers.
The whole subject has many different opinions, many of which are emotional. Please be objective and friendly with one another. We no longer need hostility in the world. Thanks!
More information here: Behringer
Wait, so the company that clones 40 year old instrument designs without adding anything new (aside from MIDI and/or functionality that was already available in aftermarket modifications) wants to talk to me about highly effective tools to drive innovation? Nah I’m good.
There is one very simple area where the original Keystep could be improved – ditch the micro USB connector for something more robust like good old type B. It’s easily one of the top complaints I see levelled at the original. But for whatever reason (safe to assume “driving market innovation” I suppose) they didn’t even go there.
This whole thing – from launch to reaction to response – feels contrived and gross.
C’mon Uli, you and your developers can do better than these chinese cloners!
Add something innovativ to a MIDI controller-keyboard and bingo, no one would call you copy-cat.
Tantrum. The facts.
Im not Gonna talk about ethics. Im just going to be the One that shows you the real world besides your feelings
McDonalds burguer kind
Playstation x box
Copies or just life the way it is?
That’s not even a point. Apart from Coke/Pepsi, those are all original and very dissimilar products, not copies.
Similar products in the same category. Not copies.
Let’s take a quick real world look at the 32 key MIDI controllers currently available from Sweetwater:
How many of those have the EXACT same features and layout as the Keystep?
Of course you aren’t going to talk about ethics, because that’s where your argument falls to pieces, in flames, into a pit of angry snakes.
Using your example: The PS5 is just releasing now. Imagine XBox comes along and produces their new release and it looks EXACTLY like a PS5 with all the same features and functionality?
Now I WILL say, there are only so many form factors in creating a musical keyboard, but it would have been very easy to not use the same button layout. Personally, I would have loved to see the control cluster on the right side of the keys.
If I believe I need it and it’s as good or better than the original, yet costs less, I’ll buy it.
That’s capitalism. I don’t like it at all, but that’s the system that most people seem to want, as evidenced by elections. I don’t see a reason to get sentimental about this.
Besides what the law dictates, there is also the aspect of values and ethics at play.
With the Swing Keystep, Behringer deploys an (un)ethical side of themselves I’m not prepared to follow. It just doesn’t feel right!
If they stick to the rationale that it is all legal, that is their choice. But customers that also find ethics important, might judge differently and change their buying behaviour.
makes sense to me.
I absolutely agree with you. I like your attitude, Tom (?), and I think that in the music business, a little more ethics would probably have to do with global problems right nowadays. It’s absolutely not okay to steal ideas or innovations, especially for small manufacturers, that live on bringing their products to the man. Manufacturers like Behringer who fall into a division like IKEA and have been committed to making products that would normally be higher-priced to the community people accessible. These manufacturers think they can afford everything simply because of their size and market position. It would be a sensible approach to thinking about the influence we musicians have with our purchasing behaviour. That would be up-to-date.