Now that the news is out and the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at what this means to Pioneer DJ and to we gear-hungry DJs, if only because that’s the question that keeps getting asked of us repeatedly. And with the help of some documents that have been provided by AlphaTheta, we can demonstrate the thinking behind Japanese company Noritsu Koki‘s acquisition, as well as a glimpse at future plans.

Before we start, and to clear this up again — AlphaThetha is the parent company of Pioneer DJ. It’s AlphaTheta that’s been bought from venture capitalists KKR and the Pioneer Corporation. Clear?

WHO IS NORITSU KOKI?

It’s a name that has never blipped on my radar, and has had no connection to DJing or pro audio before. They started life in 1951 as a manufacturer of photo processing equipment — the kind of machines you’d see working in the background when you took rolls of film from your two week holiday from hell on the Costa Brava into Boots or Max Spielmann’s. I’m so happy that the days of blurred paper prints of sun stroke aren’t a thing anymore. 

This was fine until, like so many industries around the world, the digital age got a grip, and actual printed photos became sooo passé. So in 2010, upon having “an existential crisis” (second time I’ve written that in a week) they decided to step outside of their core activity and diversify, with a focus on manufacturing and healthcare, but to generally build a wider portfolio of interests. If I’m reading correctly, in the same way that the Pioneer corporation is nothing to do with Pioneer DJ, Noritsu Koki has nothing to do with the photo printing market anymore. 

WHY ALPHATHETA? 

I’m guessing it’s not because they have a long-held desire to be DJs. It feels more about having an established manufacturing business that leads a field through innovation, and AlphaTheta fits that criteria nicely. 

This handy infographic shows what AlphaTheta actually does: 

alphatheta group Noritsu Koki

You knew all this anyway, but it’s nice to see in picture form. Reading is such a chore. But read you must, because these are the key reasons why Noritsu Koki acquired AlphaTheta:

alphatheta group Noritsu Koki

FYI Teibow is another Noritsu group manufacturing company — quite the name in pen nibs apparently. I expect they’ll play a part in knocking out parts for future DJ hardware. But I like it when I read “enhancing uniqueness” — it’s a tad business speak for my liking but the message is clear.

So it’s about building and expanding Pioneer DJ’s position and then some. I’ve read an endless stream of armchair experts simply posting “RIP Pioneer” to this news, but it seems that couldn’t be further from the truth. But when did critical thought and social media comments go hand in hand? My message to those who have been spreading doom and gloom — unless you can back it up with actual knowledge, similar scenarios, or internal secret memos showing that Noritsu Koki is nothing but an asset stripper secretly working on behalf of inMusic — please shut up. 

Pioneer DJ is already the industry leader and sell consistently across the board. And Noritsu Koki wants for that continue, so there’s little sense in rocking the boat in a company dominating an industry that you have no experience in. Things can change of course, but the prevailing message is business as usual. 

“SO IF I CAN JUST GET THIS STRAIGHT”

I keep imagining a scenario where the Noritsu Koki bean counters are pre-sale auditing AlphaTheta’s books. They unearth a significant amount of money leaving the bank account and heading in the general direction of partner/competitor Serato. 

“So if I can get this straight — one of your strongest assets is your rekordbox software, yet you pay all this money to arguably your biggest competitor to use their software?”

This being the case, there’s one line on that last slide that stands out a mile: 

“Shift focus from refined products to services”

This is a totally logical move. Let me be clear on my opinion about hardware again — it’s all been done before, and done well. The opportunities to create revolutionary huge selling DJ products are thin on the ground, the Denon DJ Prime Go being a rare example of a new product that aims to be a new paradigm.

But it’s hard to imagine what can be done to mixers, players, and controllers that will cause mass hysteria and make GAS afflicted DJs sell body parts to covet them. New products will appear but likely to be largely iterative. They’ll continue to sell well, just not in the quantities witnessed in the gold rush early part of this millennium. 

So it makes perfect sense to shift focus to non-hardware activity. To me this shows that rekordbox and associated music services are going to get a serious boost. V6 is due and with it comes a rumoured subscription model i.e. software as a service. But for me (and forgive me sounding like a broken record… we need a new modern-day analogy), Pioneer DJ needs to get behind rekordbox across the whole of its product portfolio, and create that true ecosystem. 

DVS in particular is an area where Pioneer DJ could excel, but to me they barely acknowledge its existence compared to others. In my opinion, It’s the trojan horse to wider scale adoption. If turntablists can show how robust rekordbox is (because it is), then the word will get out. 

I’m also a firm believer that new features developed in software can bring about hardware controllers, or at least allow for existing models to be updated with new hardware features. After all, people would rather turn a knob or press a button than reach over to the laptop trackpad and awkwardly attempt to adjust a parameter in the heat of a mix. 

Summing up

Some of you have probably noticed a lack of numbers in this piece. I literally don’t care how much Noritsu Koki is worth, or how much they paid for AlphaTheta. They don’t matter to DJs in the whole scheme of things. I do however care about what that means to Pioneer DJ and to us DJs. I’m assured that aside from having to order a shitload of new letterheads, for Pioneer DJ it’s business as usual. Do we need another modern metaphor for that too? Stupid digital age. Think of the trees. 

From a product perspective — I expect to see more development in rekordbox and related products than I do a slew of new shiny. I have been talking about “Pioneer DJ’s response to Denon DJ’s Prime” for a long time now, but it’s a phrase I’m despatching to the literary bin. It’s more clear than ever that Pioneer DJ feels no need whatsoever to keep up with the Joneses, and will do whatever the hell it wants. Despite what you might like to think or hope to be true, it seems to be working out for them just fine.

Everything is pointing to a very bright future indeed for Pioneer DJ under Noritsu Koki. Be happy for them and for what it means to us.