Music

Inside Ableton, the Music Software Company Everyone Wants to Buy – Billboard

Summary

Gerhard Behles, a founder of the music-production software company Ableton, had a polite answer to the venture capital power players on the Zoom: No.

It was July 2020, and Behles and another Ableton executive were on the call with an unlikely group of potential investors: Diplo, the DJ-producer; Scooter Braun, the entrepreneur who manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, among others; and Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared, husband of model Karlie Kloss and head of Thrive Capital.

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Gerhard Behles, a founder of the music-production software company Ableton, had a polite answer to the venture capital power players on the Zoom: No.

It was July 2020, and Behles and another Ableton executive were on the call with an unlikely group of potential investors: Diplo, the DJ-producer; Scooter Braun, the entrepreneur who manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, among others; and Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared, husband of model Karlie Kloss and head of Thrive Capital.

At one point, as Diplo recalls, one of the investors asked the two men from Ableton, “What do you guys think about us being part of you?” They proposed an investment that Diplo said would have been a “significant payday” for Ableton, which sells software that changed the way recordings are produced, then how DJs performed, and finally the sound of pop.

Behles didn’t budge. “We don’t have any investments in our company,” he replied.

“These tech investors never heard anything like that,” Diplo remembers. “Everybody was like, ‘What?’ It was very anarchic and punk.”

Ableton’s Berlin headquarters is in Prenzlauer Berg, a gentrified neighborhood in what was once East Berlin, and sitting in a ground-floor conference room today — across an outdoor courtyard from an entry area and a coffee bar — Behles, 52, looks anything but anarchic and punk. His straight hair is perfectly combed into a new wave curl, he’s wearing a suit — which he does every day to avoid thinking about how to dress — and he says his life is “probably very boring.” But he is the driving force behind Ableton’s refusal to sell at a time when the growth of the digital music business would make it a tempting, and very valuable, acquisition.

“We’re not into it,” he says. “It has popped up on the radar of Wall Street — huge valuations tossed around. We get a lot of inquiries, and we turn them all down.”

The company certainly has financial potential: “If Ableton was to put itself into the market, there would be a feeding frenzy,” says music industry analyst Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Research. Investors see possible synergies, but Ableton’s founders are happy where they are. Behles is an electronic musician — he still uses their company’s marquee product, Ableton Live — and his co-founder Bernd Roggendorf left the executive team years ago to “devote his whole life to altruism,” according to Behles. They want to give away Ableton Live to schools so students can learn to make music.

Yet even when discussing something he feels passionately about, Behles barely raises his voice above a cordial German monotone. Ableton’s future? “We have this oath that we will never talk about what we will do next.” Software? “Beautiful properties. Scales well,” he says. “You could do a lot of positive work without putting things in the world — without worrying about the environmental impact.” His 11-year-old son? “Drummer,” he says. “A heavy metal …….

Source: https://www.billboard.com/business/business-news/ableton-founder-gerhard-behles-2021-interview-1234998440/