[pullquote]I think it’s great that the companies have noticed that there is a market for customization. [/pullquote]Michael Minehart is the owner of MPCStuff.comInstrumentalparts.com & CustomMPC.com. If you are a beat maker that has ever owned an MPC, Maschine, MV 8000/8800 etc and you haven’t patronized MPCStuff.com, I’d venture to say that it is only a matter of time.

Michael Minehart has the heart of a beat maker and the spirit of a master internet entrepreneur. His hobby of beat making eventually led him to his current status as the foremost aftermarket parts dealer for electronic music equipment on the internet, particularly the groove box segment. Even Akai Pro sources parts from him from time to time. Also, it may be worth mentioning that Native Instruments may not have recognized the value in customizing the Maschine had it not been for the customization market that Minehart, among others, have nurtured over the years.

In this interview, we were able to steal a few moments from Mr. Michael Minehart to discuss his internet aftermarket empire.

Tell us a bit about your back ground?

I’m originally from the Washington, D.C. area and lived there my entire life until five years ago when we moved MPCstuff to North Carolina. I have been into music/hip hop since I was a kid. I remember riding my bike to the local record shop every Tuesday to pick up the newest tapes and CDs. Music has always been a part of my life, which is what led to me starting MPCstuff.

Are you also a beat maker / musician?

A few of my friends growing up were MCs, I always mixed music and made beats for them. We never really did much with it other than just having fun, and it became a hobby for me. While other kids were playing video games, we were producing and recording. They would come to school bragging that they beat some video game, and we would have tapes of what we accomplished. That had me hooked.

How did you get into selling musical equipment parts?

I have always been into cars and worked in the auto industry. I also had a company in high school that sold wheels and custom parts for cars. After college, I got a job importing car parts for a large manufacturer. While working there I realized how the parts business worked, from manufacturing to importing to selling. I was having difficulty sourcing parts when my MPC equipment broke, so I had the idea to start MPCstuff and at least help people fix and upgrade their MPCs. It started slow out of my house and has grown to what it is today, including our other company, Instrumentalparts.com, where we sell parts for many other manufacturers. Manufacturing has become a new focus of ours to help create new products and improve products that are no longer available for older units.

[pullquote]As for MPCstuff, we put customer service first and our only goal is a happy customer. [/pullquote]MPC Stuff is regarded as the definitive after market parts retailer for drum machines, especially MPCs, How do you maintain such a loyal following even when it seems that Akai has struggled with maintaining that same loyalty?

Sounds cliche, but we think outside of the box. Just because YOU dont think people will like something doesn’t mean they won’t. We keep our ears to the street. Whether it’s posted on MPC forums or comes through customer feedback, we take all suggestions into consideration. Also being a beat maker myself, I know what improvements are needed. The terms “no longer available” or “discontinued” bother me, and I always work to find a solution. It’s not just Akai, a lot of manufacturers these days just move on to the next product and have issues tailoring to their customer base. You can’t blame them really, but that’s where the smaller companies like MPCstuff can come in and meet the customers’ needs. We have actually supplied Akai with parts that they were no longer able to source because it was not financially viable for them. As for MPCstuff, we put customer service first and our only goal is a happy customer. We do whatever it takes and even if we lose money, it will come back around in the long run, in loyalty and repeat business.

Do you have a favorite product that you sell at MPCstuff.com?

Personally, I love the XLCD screens. It took us a long time to develop (more than a year) and they are finally available for customers. I find it amazing that the MPC1000 and 2500 now have a larger screen platform that was never offered before and JJ OS built an amazing pay OS to complement the free one that we offer. I also love customizing MPCs for people, some of the custom combos we create look incredible.

How did the XL screens come about?

I send JJ parts to repair his units, and he and I were talking about new mods for the MPCs. We had discussed the idea of a larger screen before, but neither of us were sure if it could work hardware or software-wise. So we went after it – we started with the LCD and were able to build one that would seemingly work with the MPC1000 and 2500 that was a larger footprint. We had MANY different prototypes, but after a couple months we had it going. Now it was JJ’s turn, and he went to work developing the OS. Also a slow process but he was able to perfect it. The OS is awesome and improving every day.

Oh cool… you worked pretty closely with JJOS to develop the XL screens?

Yes, we worked together. Without his genius software the XLCD would just be an inoperable screen.

Did Akai consult with you with regards to features and or design for the new line of MPCs?

Unfortunately, they did not. We deal with Akai daily, and we share ideas, but nothing relating to product development. Hopefully in the future we can. I would love to see another new standalone MPC come out.

You seem to have your hands on the pulse of what MPC heads want and need for the MPCs, How do you approach developing new products? 

I touched on it a bit before. Just listening to everyone. Web forums can be such a great place for info. The email feedback and questions also help tremendously, we get emails form many people experiencing the same problems. We always note these issues and try to find solutions. Saying no never gets you anywhere.

What are a few of your latest products?

The XLCDs are the newest products out right now. We also have color button sets coming out soon for all the MPCs. We are currently really focusing a lot on the MPC Ren parts. The skins and wood panels are already out and the other items are in design now.

Which model of new MPCs do you think people will gravitate towards more? Why?

While I think the Renaissance is the clear winner, I think the price point of the MPC Studio will really drive people to buy it. At a price of $599.00 I think that it opens up the MPC to a broader group of potential buyers. The Studio will probably use the same software, so it will be a great stepping stone to the Renaissance.

How did you decide that the pads on MPCs needed to be bigger and better? 

All from customer feedback and personal experience. The MPDs really suffered the most, but the MPCs have benefited just as much from it.

What do you think of Native Instruments Maschine MKII custom kits?

I think it’s great that the companies have noticed that there is a market for customization. Clearly there is room for more than they plan to offer, but it’s nice they give them a start. I actually spoke to NI in regards to mods for the Maschine. I am glad they did it, all in all it brings more attention to the customization scene. It’s just like car companies these days, without the possibility of mods people dont want them. That’s where we come in!

Any plans to offer mod parts for the MKII?

Yes, we most definitely will. We have the units on order now so we can work with them and see what we can do for them.

[pullquote]The MV was a very powerful unit, which is overlooked by a lot of people.[/pullquote]Do you think Roland will ever reintroduce the MV series revamped to compete with Maschine and Ren?

I actually hoped they would have by now. The MV was a very powerful unit, which is overlooked by a lot of people. I think Roland may have given up on it, but there is now a huge opportunity in front of them if they wanted to come out with a hybrid standalone/software-based unit. I would love to see Akai make something like that, but as far as I can tell they seem content with the software-based units.

Regarding the MV, are there possibilities and / or plans  for MPCStuff.com to stock further custom parts and mods for the MV? I would imagine there are still a good number of MVs out there.

I hate to say it because it makes me sound like I am giving up on the MV customer, BUT the MV parts have sold so poorly that we decided to leave it for now. When we originally made the color pads by request of the guys at MV Nation (forum site) we made them but sold VERY little. No big deal as we realize some projects fail others are good, but ever since that I have been a bit soured about making more items for it.

What’s ahead for Minehart Holdings, LLC?

Right now we are trying to expand our product lines in both of our companies www.mpcstuff.com and instrumentalparts.com. We also have newly introduced the CustomMPC.com site where customers can create their own brand new custom MPC from scratch.

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