The Crunch: Passion drives innovation, and for Enrico Iori, Founder and CEO of IK Multimedia, that passion was music. Starting as a small commercial music studio based in Modena, Italy, IK Multimedia found its place in the music industry by innovating technology and software solutions to democratize sound creation. From its first commercial product, the GrooveMaker, in 1997, to its latest developments in mobile apps, hardware, and software for both professional and amateur musicians, IK Multimedia’s identity continues to drive its innovative solutions and make music creation easier, more affordable, and more accessible for everyone.
Many entrepreneurs pursuing their passion find themselves at a eureka moment when a simple solution to a problem turns into a marketable innovation. For Enrico Iori, that passion was Brazilian music.
As a former industrial engineer and musician who ran a studio in Modena, Italy, that mainly served the advertising needs of local businesses, Enrico befriended professional musicians who specialized in Brazilian drums and sound loops. While recording them in his studio, Enrico learned about the various instruments and how they came together, building a comprehensive loop library of traditional Brazilian rhythms and grooves.
Having the library was useful, but without training in the music style, stacking the loops together in a way that sounded good was challenging. That’s when Enrico and a few engineer friends decided to create a computerized engine that could do it for them. In the late ’90s, before the development of sophisticated digital production software, this meant doing everything from scratch.
The result was a relatively new concept: a real-time groove-making engine with sophisticated intelligence that sorted loops and guided the user to combine them into authentic rhythms. That discovery led to the founding of global music technology company IK Multimedia.
“No matter what you did, you ended up with an authentic, usable, rhythmic pattern,” said Dan Boatman, Sales Manager for IK Multimedia. “They created this program more for themselves, not as a product — they just wanted to use these loops and needed the software to do it.”
This experimental program, created for the pursuit of musical passion, became the GrooveMaker, IK Multimedia’s first commercial product.
From small Modena music studio to global music tech company two decades later, IK Multimedia’s journey to success as a business is rooted in designing products that solve problems from a musician’s point of view. Combining this mindset with technological innovation, IK Multimedia is making sound creation easier and more accessible to everyone.
Success Found in Innovations that Respond to Musicians’ Needs
The first GrooveMaker IK Multimedia introduced at the 1997 NAMM trade show was well-received, but the only sound library it featured was Axé, a Brazilian batucada style. As distributors began to request other sound packs, the company realized this was something that could stand on its own and began working to make the GrooveMaker compatible with more formats.
Still looking for something more to grow its emerging business, IK Multimedia’s team started modeling analog circuits for use in computers. Using circuit-testing software and a vintage console, they fed audio signals through a computer and succeeded in creating sound quality rivaling that of professional analog gear.
“Every musician wants to have the super expensive music gear,” Dan said. “With this technology, we were able to take that equipment and make it accessible to everybody, in a digital form. That became the nucleus that we built our amp modeling line AmpliTube around, as well as T-RackS, our studio effects line. Those two became the main pillars of the company as we grew.”
Not only was IK Multimedia one of the first to enable serious music production on Mac and Windows but it was also the earliest media company to capitalize on the release of the iPhone in 2007 by developing compatible devices and apps.
“We realized mobile devices are something everybody always has with them, so it’s another opportunity to make things easier, more affordable, and more widely available,” Dan said. “That’s what’s kept us a self-sustaining, quickly-growing company — always looking for products that musicians want but maybe can’t get, and using technology to help them have it.”
By continuing to approach musicians’ needs with innovation, IK Multimedia built itself into a music technology brand that — more than 20 years later — continues to provide practical, affordable, and accessible solutions to both amateur and professional musicians alike.
Affordable, Accessible Software & Products Put Music First
As a company that knows what musicians use and want, IK Multimedia has developed high-tech software and mobile tools, with accompanying hardware designed to meet the needs of guitarists and bass players, keyboardists, vocalists, DJs, and music producers.
IK Multimedia’s roots are in software that makes it easier to create and play back music, and its products reflect that mindset. The company has numerous models of AmpliTube and T-RackS packaged for PC and Mac. And it has added SampleTank Max, a 52-GB sound library and workstation, and Syntronik, a synthesis engine featuring 17 instruments and over 2,000 pre-set sounds. For bass players, there’s MODO BASS; for combo guitar/bass enthusiasts, there’s the Fender collection; and for those who prefer orchestra to rock, the company offers Miroslav Philharmonik 2.
Rather than require customers to purchase new software when they upgrade these systems’ features, IK Multimedia keeps its products affordable by applying the mobile ecosystem paradigm to their Mac-PC offerings, as well.
“We created what we call the AmpliTube Custom Shop and the T-RackS Custom Shop,” Dan said. “It’s more like an app, with a free download. We roll out feature updates that are an optional purchase, but it’s almost like an app store for gear.”
IK Multimedia’s products are also accessible through its development of apps for mobile devices. Its iOS and Android apps enable musicians to use its software in a more portable and affordable format. To accommodate mobile versions of its software, IK Multimedia has also developed new mobile-focused hardware, like the AmpliTube iRig guitar interface series that allows electric guitar and bass players the benefits of an entire amp and sound effects studio in a small, portable device.
“It’s something that everybody can afford, not just the people who have the luxury of a fancy home studio or a music laptop,” Dan said.
Affordability and accessibility for everyday musicians are what set IK Multimedia’s products apart in the market, and these qualities continue to direct its innovation, even in the face of rapid technology growth.
Changing Technology Means an Opportunity to Improve
In the last 20 years, IK Multimedia has seen many advancements and trends in technology which continue to change the way people create and enjoy music — in particular through the app revolution. Like any other tech company, it has gone back to the drawing board to adapt its products to meet the needs of these updates and changes.
A key example that directly affected musicians was the removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. “For listening to music, more people are using Bluetooth, but for music production, you need a low-latency physical output. We were the first in the industry to update our product line to add the headphone output to improve the compatibility with the iPhone 7. It allows anyone to plug a guitar, microphone, or keyboard into their smartphone,” Dan said.
Instead of seeing fundamental changes in base technology as an inconvenience, IK Multimedia chooses to see it as an opportunity to improve its product lines.
“From a business perspective, all our previous products were designed for an iPhone which included a headphone jack. So, it could have seemed like a lot of work to update everything. But, while our developers were at it, they looked for other things they could improve,” Dan said. “That’s the attitude we try to bring: Let’s use this an opportunity to improve our products and better anticipate the realities of users.”
Not only does this approach help IK Multimedia better meet the needs of musicians, but it also positively impacts the company’s bottom line. “Ultimately, the product is even better than it would have been,” Dan said. “When we do that, we see sales growing year after year.”
Continued Growth from a Legacy of Addressing Industry Needs
Passion is often the spark that turns a good idea into a business that meets the need of an industry. For Enrico and the team at IK Multimedia, passion for music fueled the innovation that continues to drive the company’s success.
IK Multimedia started as a small music studio looking for ways to help a community of musicians create quality sound with greater efficiency. Now, the company is celebrating its 21st anniversary and has more than 100 employees in seven countries. With milestones of 2 million sales of the iRig2, 20 million app downloads, and the transition of production to its factory in Modena, IK Multimedia is positioned for leadership and continued growth in the music technology industry.
From hardware to software to mobile apps and accessories, IK Multimedia thinks from a musician’s perspective and uses innovation to make creation more accessible, affordable, and easier for everyone.
“It’s always been an attitude of asking ‘What would musicians want to use?’ and ‘What can we do in technology to make music easier?’ as opposed to just what would sell,” Dan said.