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Chris Bristol of Roland U.S.


Roland, Cakewalk Ink Distribution Deal

On Sept. 1, Roland U.S. took on distribution of all Cakewalk by Roland-branded hardware products. It also became the distributor of Cakewalk software to independent retailers. The move aims to give dealers better access to Cakewalk product.

On the same day, Roland also announced its future branding strategy. RSS by Roland and Edirol by Roland brands will be consolidated under the Roland brand. The company’s also making the transition from Cakewalk by Roland as a hardware and software brand to simply a software brand.

Music Inc. Editor Zach Phillips spoke with Roland President and CEO Chris Bristol in late August to hear about these developments and why music retailers should capitalize on technology products. Highlights:

Phillips: Why is Cakewalk a good partner for Roland?

Bristol: While other Roland companies in North America design and manufacture products, Roland U.S. is primarily a sales and marketing organization. Cakewalk’s a development and engineering company selling software product. We have more than 20 salespeople in the field with an average tenure of easily over 15 years. We have strong relationships, and we’re out in the field every day.

So it made sense that we would take on the sales of the Cakewalk by Roland-branded products — the interfaces, the keyboards and speakers — and also help Cakewalk with the sales of the software. Because we’re in the stores all the time.

I really believe we will find new business for [Cakewalk].

Phillips: Have independent retailers been underserved by Cakewalk?

Bristol: I don’t think they were particularly underserved. However, Roland will definitely bring additional benefits to the table. A large component of this is that Roland U.S. can offer more solutions and applications to the typical MI customer. For example, with our expertise in the guitar market, we may be able to turn on more guitar dealers to the PC music environment.

Cakewalk’s been very successful at selling its own software. But I’ve got to believe there are plenty of small retailers around the country that would like to get involved in, let’s call it, PC music, but they don’t know how to get started. We’re there to help them. We have a lot of enhanced services. We have a really good product support staff here at Roland, and so does Cakewalk. So we can support the dealer really well.

Cakewalk already has a strong relationship with the large chains — Guitar Center, Sam Ash and Musician’s Friend. That’s fine with us. Frankly, we’re looking at all the other dealers that we deal with every day.

Independent retailers are going to get a high level of service, face to face. We can actually be in stores with our salespeople. Also, we have a lot of product specialists that record. They can speak to the whole art of it.

Phillips: So Roland will now be Cakewalk’s main distributor?

Bristol: Aside from a few chain stores, the answer is “yes,” and we hope to become the one of the largest worldwide.

We also think this is an important area of our business going forward — PC music, people sitting around with their laptops. Where are all the recording studios? They’re in people’s homes. And that’s where we need to be.

Phillips: Are you going to try turning non-technology retailers onto recording gear?

Bristol: Absolutely. I don’t want to talk about some of our plans because it’s premature, but we look at the schools and teachers as a huge area of business for us.

You can digitally reproduce your music on iTunes now — record your music and publish it. Anyone can do it. So if you had a music store, wouldn’t you like to show kids how to record their music and put it up there? Of course you would.

Phillips: Any other plans for the partnership?

Bristol: I think the thing that’s cool is that we have these incredibly gifted engineers at Cakewalk. The synergy that they can provide for some of our Roland products is pretty powerful. To be able to include certain types of software in with our products would be pretty neat — don’t you think?