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Music startup Roli has filed for administration and is reforming as beginner-focused Luminary

The new company wants to sell keyboards and apps to beginners

Roli’s Lumi keyboard and app is like Guitar Hero for learning the piano.
Image: Roli

UK music startup Roli, best known for its squishy keyboards like the Seaboard Rise, has filed for administration and is reforming as Luminary. The new company will focus on the Lumi keyboard and app, which are designed to teach beginners to play the piano.

The news was reported by Insider, which notes that Roli has struggled with generating revenue and growth. The company reported pre-tax losses of £34.1 million ($47 million) from income of £11.4 million ($16 million) in the 18 months leading up to the end of June 2019. The company’s CEO and founder Roland Lamb told Insider that a limited market for its products had combined with pandemic difficulties to force the closure of Roli.

“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 light-up keys on the $299 Lumi keyboard help guide beginner pianists. A $79 annual subscription buys access to more songs and lessons.
Image: Roli

Instead of focusing on selling hardware only, Luminary, née Roli, wants to combine hardware with software subscriptions via its Lumi products. The Lumi keyboard, which uses light-up keys to guide beginners, costs $299, but users can pay an additional $79 for a yearly subscription that gets them access to extra lessons and songs to play along with. It seems, though, that Luminary isn’t completely abandoning the company’s other hardware, and Insider reports that Luminary will also “reintroduce the Seaboard” at some point.

In our review of the Lumi last year, we thought the keyboard and app offered some engaging and inventive ways to tutor new musicians. At a time when the pandemic has made in-person lessons difficult, having a digital tutor could be very beneficial. But not everyone will enjoy Lumi’s hardware, or the price of access.

Insider notes that Roli’s roughly 70 employees will all be moving to the new business.