BKE, LLC (Beat Kangz Electronics) creates innovative music technology products designed to help our users make the best music of their lives. Our goal is to develop powerful, user-friendly tools and instruments that inspire creativity and excitement.
The Beat Thang product line is used by artists, producers, DJs and musicians who appreciate the intuitive workflow, uncompromising sound quality, and unmitigated style of our products.
THE HISTORY OF BKE
Our story begins in the autumn of 2004 in Nashville, Tennessee when music producers Aja (A.J.A.) Emmanuel, Reavis (Rev) Mitchell, and Luke (BoomBAP) Jackson join forces to create The Beat Kangz music production collective. From the moment they met, the energy was kinetic, the synergy, symphonic.
Each of them had been rocking stages as artists and DJs, running indie record labels and producing tracks for independent artists and corporate clients like Sony Music, MTV, USA Networks, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and others. As a team, they could pursue more ambitious projects. And they did.
All music producers, at some point dream of creating their own gear, these young men were no exception; and what better opportunity to create, than to create the instruments that you create with. The trio saw many viable business opportunities; underserved markets of urban and electronic music producers, a chance to reinvent user interfaces – lowering the technical barrier to entry for aspiring producers and new inexpensive technologies that could yield features never before seen on the market.
With Aja’s production skills and connections in the established musical instrument industry, Rev’s technological and studio expertise and Boom’s Classical training and music theory saavy, they actually had a fair chance of pulling this off. So they developed and pitched their idea for not only a new musical instrument, but a new way of doing business in that industry.
MADE BY PRODUCER FOR PRODUCERS
The concept was simple: “Who better to design music production tools than music producers? We are our audience,” they said. “Culturally, we can identify with the end user better than some programmer in some lab.” Their plan would require bold new strategies: pushing the envelope with feature sets that didn’t yet exist, and employing marketing and customer service tactics that had never been used in the music equipment industry.
For their first music technology project, Zoom Electronics asked BKE to re-imagine the Zoom RT223 drum machine for hip-hop. The crew designed a new sound set from scratch, refreshed the color, and insisted that Zoom use hip-hop culture and imagery in the product’s marketing. The result was the Streetboxx SB246, an immediate hit in Asia, and later in all major markets worldwide.
The Streetboxx’s superb sound design, battery-powered portability, and low cost make it an obvious hit with up and coming Indie artists as well as established production icons like Jermaine Dupri, The RZA, Public Enemy and Shannon Sanders (India Arie, Heather Headley).
After the success of the Streetboxx, the BKE team were asked to work on another project with Zoom, and are approached by other established developers like Roger Linn, CME and Akai Professional. They declined those offers, however, and held out for something better. They wanted to develop their dream machine from scratch. New machine development is a daunting task, and none of these companies were willing to invest the amount of capital needed. So BKE decided to do it themselves.
By 2007, the team had attracted a powerful ally in music industry veteran Bob Ezrin. Although best known as a producer of classic albums by Pink Floyd, Kiss, Alice Cooper and others, Bob is a well-respected player in the music business who had pioneered Internet radio and was among the first producers to use sampling technology in the studio. BKE’s development and marketing concepts are a no-brainer for Ezrin, who just gets it. Ezrin becomes a partner with the BKE and they begin to shop for investors.
All the pieces fell into place when the team met venture capitalist David Crabtree at the NAMM convention in Anaheim, CA and impress him with their business plan. Crabtree raises over $2 million in private investments to finance the start-up and BKE is born.
The company’s first product, Beat Thang Virtual (BTV), is released in the summer of 2008. This host-based software virtual instrument gives users the ability to turn their Mac or PC into a sampling drum machine. BTV’s extensive sound library coupled with a user-friendly interface result in swift adoption with users around the globe including high profile producers like Rockwilder (Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige) who later became an official endorser of Beat Thang Virtual, and strategic partner with BKE.
Super producer Dallas Austin (Michael Jackson, Will.i.am, Madonna, Gwen Stefani) also began corresponding with BKE, offering feedback on Virtual and on the still developing hardware as well. Austin was so impressed with the long awaited, soon to be released dream machine, that he forged a partnership with BKE. This joint venture opens new doors for distribution and marketing.
Finally, after years of planning, development, and effort, that dream machine – the Beat Thang – is available for purchase. But BKE won’t stop there. What began with three music producers in Nashville is now a burgeoning music technology startup with a bold vision for the development of exciting new products and services for years to come.