Founders net $16m as US firm buys music software group

Sibelius, the music annotation software developer loved by artists such as Elvis Costello and Sir George Martin, has agreed a $23m takeover that will net twin brothers - Ben and Jonathan Finn - who founded the company about $16m. The 37-year-old brothers are now expected to spend more time composing their own music.

The US company Avid Technology, a digital editing and broadcast technology company, will purchase Sibelius and integrate it into its DigiDesign division which also houses the Pro Tools music studio system loved by musicians around the world.

Sibelius was founded in the Finn's back room in a house in Cambridge in 1993 and grew at a rapid rate. It now has 180,000 users across 100 countries. Both brothers are pianists and former choirists, while Jonathan also plays the bassoon. The twins own 70 per cent of Sibelius, while the private equity company Quester will make a handsome profit on the £1.4m it paid for a 12.5 per cent stake in 1999.

Sibelius enables musicians to automatically score and edit music online either by composing on-screen or by plugging instruments directly into the computer. The software is used by professional composers, including Michael Nyman, but Sibelius is more focused on providing software to schools so that children can learn to compose music on the same digital system used by famous musicians.

Elvis Costello uses Sibelius to annotate his increasingly eclectic musical ideas as does Sir George Martin, who produced almost all The Beatles records.

Jeremy Silver, Sibelius chief executive, said: "Digital media over the past three years has grown enormously. Only five years ago, many studios were still using tape." He said the massive investment in school IT infrastructure over the same period has opened up the market to provide students with the same technology that professionals such as Costello and Nyman use. He said that within Avid, Sibelius will have greater resources to grow its presence in the education market and can combine its product with Avid's existing video editing systems to bolster its product portfolio.

The acquisition also adds annotation to Pro Tools functionality, meaning budding musicians can automatically transcribe recorded music.

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