COMPANIES TO WATCH
|PianoDisc's Prodigy system delivers its most advance player piano technology to date.
Using technology to transform the piano into an educational and entertainment device.
PIANODISC'S NEW PRODIGY system is the culmination of three decades of investment in digital player piano technology. Its sophisticated solenoid system that can be installed in virtually any acoustic piano offers a staggering 1,024 levels of expression, delivering playbacks of unmatched nuance. In addition, it serves as an audio player and accompaniment device, can record performances, and in “Silent Mode” can allow players to practice without disturbing neighbors. This versatile functionality can be seamlessly engaged through any smartphone or tablet, with access to thousands of songs available online at the PianoDisc library. By expanding the capabilities of the conventional piano, PianoDisc management hopes to expand the entire keyboard market, transforming conventional instruments into a combination home entertainment center and educational tool. This outlook is shared by the leading piano manufacturers in China, which prominently displayed dozens of Prodigy-equipped pianos at the recently concluded Music China in Shanghai.
The Prodigy system has become the player device of choice for top piano makers globally, including Blüthner, Samick, Bechstein, Sauter, Hupfeld, Ritmüller, Kayserburg, and Seiler. In addition, PianoDisc is collaborating with Pearl River, the world’s largest piano maker measured by units, to develop a factory-installed player system that will be marketed in China as the Pearl River Player Piano System. Accolades for the new partnership have been forthcoming. Two of Pearl River’s Kayserburg red anniversary grands equipped with the new system received the “Top New Product Award” at Music China. The Pearl River Player Piano will be available on a factory-installed basis in the near term, ensuring flawless performance and maintaining the outer beauty of the instrument.
“One of the key features of Prodigy is the ProRecord, technology that’s compatible with distance learning educational software programs, a concept that is largely being encouraged and subsidized by the Chinese government and heavily promoted by Chinese piano retailers and manufacturers,” explains Tom Lagomarsino, PianoDisc executive vice president. Distance learning has become increasingly important simply because there are not enough qualified teachers to serve the approximately 40 million Chinese students currently studying the piano. Lagomarsino says that the Prodigy’s distance learning capabilities have similar potential in other markets around the world.
Celebrating its 166th anniversary, Mason & Hamlin, PianoDisc’s sister company, will be introducing two new piano lines at NAMM that address the most popular price points. Dubbed the Artist and Classic series, the new pianos will be outfitted with proprietary Mason & Hamlin-designed carbon fiber and advanced composite WNG actions that deliver exceptional response and include design features associated with hand-built instruments. “We think our dealers and fans will be pleased with the quality, value, and performance of our new Artist and Classic Series pianos,” says Lagomarsino. “These are high-performance pianos, prepped and regulated by Mason & Hamlin craftsmen and priced to allow our dealers to compete well in the market.” Beyond incorporating Mason & Hamlin piano action innovations, the two new lines will also feature traditional Mason & Hamlin cabinet and casepart designs and features. “In addition to their sound and performance, the durability of the Artist and Classic, their price point, and the longstanding reputation of Mason & Hamlin make these additions a natural for institutional, studio, stage, and home use,” adds Lagomarsino. The new Artist and Classic lines will also be available with factory-equipped PianoDisc player systems.
Both PianoDisc and Mason & Hamlin are benefitting from a comprehensive digital marketing effort, headed by Calvin, Victor, and Nathan Burgett, sons of company owners Kirk and Lisa Burgett. From social media videos to an expanded presence on YouTube, to a content-rich website, the trio is harnessing new technologies to both engage consumers and provide support materials for retailers and technicians. “Media Team has also created a compendium of product support videos to help and better communicate the features and benefits of increasingly complex products,” says Kirk Burgett, PianoDisc president.
An expanded presence in China and the new piano lines, backed by an aggressive marketing campaign have Lagomarsino forecasting a banner year in 2020. He adds, “We are excited about many untapped opportunities in the global piano market.”