[UPDATE 09/09/21: ROLI has clarified that all existing ROLI hardware and software will continue to be supported and that Seaboard will return in 2022.]
ROLI, best known for its MPE controllers such as the Seaboard and Blocks, has filed for bankruptcy. The company will be relaunching as a new entity, Luminary, that puts greater focus on its beginner-friendly LUMI keyboard.
- READ MORE: Review: ROLI LUMI Keys Studio Edition
The London-based music startup, which was backed by Pharrell and Grimes, was struggling financially: it reported pre-tax losses of £34.1 million from an income of £11.4 million in the 18 months leading to the end of June 2019.
Roland Lamb, ROLI’s founder and CEO, told Business Insider that its financial woes were largely due to the company targeting a niche market as well as difficulties of operating during the pandemic.
“Ultimately what happened was the pro-focused products we initially developed, although successful within their marketplace, the marketplace wasn’t big enough given our venture trajectory,” Lamb told Insider. “We had our eyes set on hypergrowth and that proved to be difficult.”
The new company, Luminary, will pivot away from innovative controllers for pros. Instead, it will focus on the LUMI keyboard and app, which teaches beginners to read and play music.
The LUMI keyboard is sold at $299, with an annual subscription fee of $79 for additional songs and lessons. In our review, we said it was “probably as close as you’ll get to piano tuition without an in-person tutor”.
Luminary will also not be producing the ROLI Seaboard just yet, but it plans to re-introduce the squishy controller in the future.
70 ROLI employees will shift to the new business, which has already raised £5 million in initial funding.
ROLI issued a statement to MusicTech that read: “We’re hugely excited to work with Hoxton Ventures to further the future of ROLI and LUMI instruments. This restructuring provides a unique opportunity for our team to continue on its mission to make piano learning fun with our LUMI keyboard and subscription, in addition to satisfying popular demand by bringing back the award-winning Seaboard in 2022 and continuing to develop our pro software ecosystem
“While Luminary’s mission to make piano learning fun for beginners with LUMI has grabbed the headlines, we’re also looking forward to bringing back the Seaboard in 2022 and continuing to develop our MPE software. All existing ROLI instruments and software will continue to be supported.”