MakeMusic CEO Gone; Search for Replacement Begins

The music software company said that Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Karen VanDerBosch will assume the CEO duties on an interim basis—and the board has initiated a search for a new chief executive.

MakeMusic, Inc., announced Thursday that President and CEO Karen van Lith will no longer be employed by the company, effective Friday.

The Eden Prairie-based music software provider offered no further details about the abrupt departure of van Lith, who took the reins last June.

“On behalf of MakeMusic, I would like to wish Ms. van Lith the best in her future endeavors,” board Chairman Robert Morrison said in a statement. “During her tenure, MakeMusic made progress towards fulfilling its strategic direction, enhancing the company’s technology architecture, and extending its core product value into new product innovations and platforms.”

MakeMusic said that Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Karen VanDerBosch will assume the CEO duties on an interim basis—and the board has initiated a search for a new leader.

In a Thursday morning phone call, VanDerBosch wouldn't elaborate on the circumstances surrounding van Lith’s exit.

“What we’re trying to focus on is that the management team is moving ahead with our growth initiatives that are in place,” she told Twin Cities Business. She added that the board is moving “as quickly and expeditiously as possible to look for candidates and appoint a new CEO” and hasn’t yet determined whether to hire a search firm. VanDerBosch said she is not a candidate for the position.

MakeMusic is the developer of music notation software Finale and interactive music learning software SmartMusic—which is used by more than 10,000 schools, colleges, and university music programs in North America.

In December, the company acquired Orcas, Washington-based Garritan Corporation, whose software creates sounds that mimic real instruments. And in March, MakeMusic inked a deal with Milwaukee-based print music publisher Hal Leonard Corporation. MakeMusic said at the time that the deal would dramatically expand its SmartMusic library to include some of the most popular music from the 20th century through today.

But MakeMusic experienced a tough first quarter. The company in May reported an $840,000 net loss for the three month-period that ended in March—significantly greater than the $180,000 net loss for the same period the prior year. First-quarter net revenue, meanwhile, totaled $4.2 million, up from roughly $4 million a year earlier.

MakeMusic is among Minnesota’s 100 largest public companies based on revenue, which totaled $17 million in 2011—down 1 percent from 2010. Net income was $4,000 last year, down from $1 million in 2010.

According to van Lith’s LinkedIn profile, she is a director at Xata Corporation, Food for Hungry Minds, and Associated Banc-Corp.

The Star Tribune reported that as of last year, MakeMusic had been through four CEOs in five years.

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