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PSNEurope’s review of 2015 – part one: Operation consolidation

Was 2015 more than just another chapter in the unstoppable rise of Ulrich Bernhard Behringer? Jon Chapple thinks so

It’s somehow December once more, and almost time for another round of half-hearted resolutions which will – with depressing inevitability – be in tatters by the start of February.

However, the end of the year isn’t just a time to consider eating/drinking/smoking less – it’s also a time to reflect on the year that was; to take stock of the industry, assess its health and ask burning questions like: “Should I be investing in smaller speaker cabinets?”, “Which trade shows should I be attending next year?”, “Should I launch a Kickstarter campaign?” and “How much would Music Group give meconso for my business?”

Read on for answers to all these queries and more (kind of) as we round up the biggest stories of a transitional year in pro audio…

Operation consolidation
While we’re doing our best to avoid writing ‘review of 2014: part two’ (even if that’s how many in the industry would surely describe the year that was), it’s stories about smaller pro-audio companies being swallowed up by larger ones – and, more significantly, big companies becoming part of even bigger ones – that have once again generated the most discussion and the largest number of column inches in 2015.

Chief among them, of course, is Music Group’s April acquisition of TC Group, which united the latter’s Tannoy, Lab.gruppen, Lake, TC Electronic and TC Helicon brands (White Acoustics is still MIA) with Midas, Klark Teknik, Turbosound and Behringer in Uli Behringer’s ever-expanding pro-audio empire.

“The addition of Tannoy, Lab.gruppen and Lake allows Music Group to round out their professional install and touring sound offerings alongside Midas, Klark Teknik and Turbosound, while TC Electronic and TC-Helicon represent the industry’s leading brands in the guitar effects and voice processing sector and perfectly complement Music Group’s Bugera guitar tube amplifier brand and highly successful Behringer prosumer division,” said a statement at the time.

While it’s been mostly business as usual so far at the new, larger Music Group (employees’ sensible ‘[email protected]’ email addresses being replaced with ones that look uncannily like Kryptonese notwithstanding), the industry still “collectively [threw] its arms up in horror” on hearing of the deal, wrote PSNEurope columnist David Wiggins in June, with many understandably wary considering Behringer’s ‘fire-and-move-to-China’ approach towards some of his other acquisitions. However, unlike the pre-Music Group Turbosound, for example, the TC brands are profitable, meaning the two situations aren’t directly comparable… One to watch for 2016, then.

Elsewhere, Electra Partners’ DiGiCo–Allen & Heath–Calrec group was finally given a name this year – ‘Audiotonix’ – to coincide with the launch of the DiGiCo S21 in Frankfurt . In Audiotonix, the London-based private-equity firm has a major chunk of digital-mixer marketshare in the broadcast, installation, DJ and live/touring sectors. (In only tangentially related news, former DiGiCo majority stakeholder ISIS Equity Partners changed its name late last year to ‘Livingbridge’. Can’t think why.)

Also snapped up in 2015 were Community, by Apart Audio owner Audioprof Group; effects brand Aphex (of Aural Exciter fame), by Røde Microphones; and Minnetonka Audio Software, by the Telos Alliance/Linear Acoustic.