Alfred Music Joins Peaksware LLC
...for athletes, expanded into music two years ago with the acquisition of MakeMusic, an interactive online music teaching aid, and Finale, a leading developer of notation software. Commenting on the new alliance, Peaksware CEO Gear Fisher said, “Our long-term goal is to build an end-to-end ecosystem that connects composers, publishers, educators, directors, and musicians. Alfred brings additional distribution opportunities for artists and composers while expanding the repertoire within SmartMusic for teachers and musicians.”
Alfred will remain an independent operation following the transaction, maintaining its headquarters in Van Nuys, California, and branch offices in New York, Miami, the U.K., Singapore, and Germany. Prior to joining Peaksware Holdings, Alfred had licensed its extensive music catalog for use on the MakeMusic platform. However, Ron Manus, CEO and chairman of Alfred, said, “We will work more closely with MakeMusic to significantly enhance our mission since 1922 of helping the world experience the joy of making music.”
MakeMusic’s flagship SmartMusic program is an online practice aid that provides access to thousands of band, orchestra, and vocal pieces, allowing students to practice with background accompaniment and get immediate feedback on their performance. Peaksware’s Garritan Virtual Instrument operation has developed high-quality sounds to give the SmartMusic accompaniment tracks sonic realism, delivering the experience of playing in a full ensemble. The subscription service is widely used in the U.S. and international markets. In online reviews, educators note that MakeMusic accelerates the learning process for individual students, resulting in better ensemble performances.
Although the majority of Peaksware products are internet-based, Fisher sees continued opportunities in traditional print music, saying, “It has some incredible strengths as a user interface. This is a term we use in the software industry, but it applies here.” He added, “Alfred has done very well in the traditional print-based publishing business and we have every intention of growing that business.”
Based in Boulder, Colorado, Peaksware Holdings evolved out of the Trainings Peak program, an online coaching platform developed in the late 1990s to help endurance athletes refine their workouts, set goals, and measure progress. Train Heroic, acquired in 2014, offers similar online aids for strength training. Fisher sees close parallels between these athletic programs and the educational offerings of Alfred and MakeMusic. “The process of prescribing workouts from coach to athlete is incredibly similar to how music teachers give practice assignments to their students,” he explained. “Both are based on the concept of deliberate practice. The right way to learn a skill includes setting a specific goal, getting expert instruction, performing structured practice, and receiving immediate feedback. Repeating this loop moves someone from novice to expert. Our platforms enable teachers to take students through this loop, or for individuals to go through it themselves. With Alfred, we have the key parts to build the ecosystem within the music practice domain—the technology and now the content. With TrainingPeaks, we changed the way the endurance coaching industry works, and I think the music education industry provides a tremendous opportunity for a similar change.”
Alfred Publishing was founded in 1922 by Alfred Piantadosi as a vehicle for presenting his own compositions. The business was acquired by Samuel Manus in 1928. At the time, Alfred was one of hundreds of music publishers operating in New York’s “Tin Pan Alley,” so named because of the constant din of pianists trying out new tunes. Among the company’s early hits was “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee.” Sam’s son Morty Manus joined the company in the early 1950s and began shifting away from pop hits toward educational method books. “Our business had been completely unpredictable. Sales would be great one year, and nonexistent the next, based on a single hit,” he once recalled.
After building a highly successful catalog of educational methods for both piano and band and orchestrsal instruments, Alfred returned to the pop music business in 2005, acquiring the extensive Warner Chappell Publishing catalog, which included the music of Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, George Gershwin, and countless others.
The business has been run by the Manus family since 1928. Morty Manus passed the CEO title to his son Steve in 2000. Younger son Ron Manus took the helm in 2010. Morty Manus succumbed to cancer in January of this year at age 89.