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Is Karangahape Road set to become the Silicon Valley of music?

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland's Karangahape Road has become a global music technology hub with the announcement that inMusic Brands, the home of the world's premier music industry brands, is moving its DJ software development to New Zealand.

A new team will create software for inMusic's four DJ product lines - Rane, Denon DJ, Akai and Numark - from a base in K Road's Ironbank building. The facility joins inMusic's existing development centres in Bremen, Germany and Cambridge, UK.

inMusic's New Zealand managing director Morgan Donoghue, an experienced and respected figure in the New Zealand music industry, has been in the role for a year and the company has already committed $10 million to investment in the country.

Donoghue says the company is moving quickly: the decision to set up the new DJ software development centre was only made by inMusic's American owner, Jack O'Donnell just before Christmas. "And 10 days later he was here interviewing people for roles."

O'Donnell is flying into New Zealand again this week, to celebrate the launch - and catch up with Eminem’s team to show them some new hardware.

He'll also be interviewing applicants for 10 newly created positions currently open at the centre. inMusic already employs 22 people in New Zealand and Donoghue expects that number to grow quickly: "It's not just one software developer we're looking for, it's multiples. We'll just keep expanding."

Although K Road has its own rich history of club culture, Donoghue says the primary reason for choosing it as a location for the new centre was the opportunity to create an industry ecosystem.

"K Road had to be the place. Across the road from us is Melodics, the company founded by the former head of Serato, Sam Gribben, who are going great guns. Just down the road there's Algonaut. Then Serato's down in Myers Park. They're a big partner as well. We already work with them on around 50 pieces of hardware."

Melodics makes a popular teaching app for MIDI instruments and Algonaut has created an AI-driven drum sampler.

"We're working with all those people. Melodics is bundled in with all our Akai products, for example. It makes a huge difference, because suddenly people are learning about them when they unpack their $200 first pad controller, and they go to Melodics and sign up for a subscription."

Melodics founder Sam Gribben says inMusic has been a reliable partner for Kiwi companies for nearly 15 years.

"I was at Serato before Melodics and I worked with them for a long time there - they were our major partner for a long time. Now, at Melodics we have a partner that we work with, based in Rhode Island, that has an office literally across the road from us.

"There are now several global players in music tech on or around K Road. The bigger picture is that if we can help more students who are studying computer science or engineering think that there's a career in music technology locally, then there'll be more people coming out of university with the skills we need. It helps grow the talent pool for us."

inMusic's commitment to New Zealand has already paid off handsomely for another New Zealand firm. The Tauranga-based SoundSwitch, which makes lighting software, sold to inMusic last year. It now sits alongside a fleet of music tech brands that reaches from entry-level consumer speakers to the most sophisticated nightclub and music production equipment.

The launch will be celebrated with - what else? - some proper musical goodness at inMusic's new office in the Ironbank building on Karangahape Road, from 5.30pm on Friday, March 1. There will be performances from DJ Sir-Vere and Fat Freddy's Drop mastermind DJ Mu - who has described inMusic's iconic Akai MPC controller as "everything" to him in a creative sense.

It's more than a launch party. It's the beginning.

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