The Winter NAMM show in Southern California, USA, is well-known as the event where new music instruments and technology are introduced to the music industry press. Newcomers to the show can easily become overwhelmed by the combination of gear and celebrities filling the exhibition halls. For NAMM show veterans, it is customary to walk through the halls in hopes of discovering the "next big thing" or "cool new toy." More often than not, the press and sales people encounter few innovations in a sea of "the same old thing," but there is usually one or two that stir excitement. In January of 1997, many eyes turned to ReBirth RB-338. Coincidentally, Mr. Kakehashi first showed his Rhythm Ace and Canary at the NAMM show at the Hilton in Chicago, and it was at a press gathering at the Anaheim Hilton that Ernst Nathorst-Böös introduced ReBirth. In an interview, Ernst recalls:

"Steinberg held a press showing in a suite at the Hilton. They were showcasing a product that was in rough shape - Cubase for Silicon Graphics - and the mood could have been better. I went on stage and did a demo of ReBirth, and I still can't believe the mood swing in the room. Suddenly, everyone was clapping and cheering, and at the end I even think there even were standing ovations. Man, I wish Marcus and Pelle had been there to witness it - due to the nature of software, developers seldom get firsthand credit."

The press clearly understood the impact that ReBirth would have. Electronic music's audience burgeoned in the years leading up to 1997, and the climbing prices of vintage electronic gear brought forth a revival of vacuum-tube pro-audio equipment. Throughout 1996 and early '97, articles in music publications advised readers on obtaining rare Roland gear, facilitated by the phenomena of eBay and online auction houses. Reviews indicated that ReBirth RB-338 could make it possible for everyone to experience music making with the Roland classics without having to cough up their life-savings on antiquated technology.

A few months after NAMM, ReBirth made its European debut at the Frankfurt MusikMesse. A visitor recounted how the Propellerheads did not even set up a proper display booth, only a table in the convention hall's foyer with a couple of computers running ReBirth. Despite the modest presentation, people gathered around the computers to get a glimpse at the future of software synthesis.
The Roland Seal of Approval

Of the thousands of people who downloaded the alpha versions of ReBirth from the Propellerhead's website, access logs revealed that many originated in Japan, specifically from internet addresses at Roland. There were undisputable copyright concerns with the development of software that capitalized on the phenomenon established by Roland. Sample library companies had taken liberties with their own recordings of 303, 808, and 909 sounds, but Propellerhead was the first to push the envelope and add visual references of the TB and TR devices.

Representatives from the Roland Corporation initiated fax correspondence with the Propellerhead office, and ultimately, Roland stipulated that the following phrase be added (in fine print) to the packaging and application splash screen:


Propellerhead Software regarded this as a blessing from Roland, as it was considered an "unofficial thumbs-up" and their acknowledgment provided strong marketing leverage. In a sense, Roland's stamp of approval legitimized ReBirth as something that met the standards of Roland quality. Since their initial correspondence, Propellerhead Software has cultivated a strong relationship with Roland and Mr. Kakehashi. Ernst Nathorst-Böös states, "Kakehashi-san is a person we have a lot of respect for. I have met him on a few occasions. He is very much aware of what we are up to and we are grateful for the respect they treated us with."

Part 5: ReBirth and the Internet

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