Image-Line

a company history

Image-Line is a Belgium based software company, founded in 1994. If you

thought Belgium was all Beer and Chocolates, then you may be surprised to

learn Belgium is also the home of one of the worlds most successful music

production software companies.

 

The early days 1992 - 1994

 

After doing more boring jobs (in stock market software & network solutions) Jean-Marie Cannie
and Frank Van Biesen (company founders) wanted to have some more fun.

 

The first thing they did was develop a Tetris game clone and offered it on floppy disks in the 'little ads' in Computer Magazine. Surprisingly, this caught on and people asked for more. JMC writes: "This was the time CD-ROM games like 'The 7th Guest' started to appear and we decided to do a CD-ROM and teamed with 'Private', one of the bigger players in the over-18 games market. We released a whole bunch of our CD ROMs including 'Private Prison' and 'Private Castle''.

 


Around the same time, IBM held a "Da Vinci" contest where 1st prizes included color laptops (which cost about $8000 back then). As Image-Line didn't have a lot of cash to spare we reworked an existing game , mailed it in and won 1st prize in the multimedia category. The most important part wasn't the win, but that we met a 19 year old developer called Didier Dambrin (nicknamed Gol).

Didier not only won 1st in the 'Game' category but the 'Grand prize' too, a trip to the US. We immediately saw his talent and somehow convinced him to come and work for us. Gol's first game for us was Private Investigator and it involved some gruesome game play, pretty mild by today's standards, that caused the rapper Ice-T to shout: "This game beats cocaine!"... after playing if for like half an hour on our booth on the adult show in Las Vegas.  

 

We decided to use Gol's talent for something better and asked him to develop a platform game called Eat This.

Sadly enough for us, this was the time that everyone went 3D and most of it went by unnoticed. You can still download

and check out the demo on our Eat This page. This platform game really shows of Gol's coding and visual skills

(remember this was made in 1998).

 

The rest of our developers continued on our other products like Fact2000 (invoicing software), E-OfficeDirect (a content-based web tool that was the precursor of EZGenerator). We even topped the Belgian game charts 4 years in a row with the CD version of a popular Belgian TV show called Blokken (funnily enough, based on Tetris also).


From Games to Music

 

Meanwhile, Gol was being drawn into the music scene by applications like Hammerhead
and Rebirth 338. He had the idea of merging both into a stepsequencer with rows and steps, so he started developing FruityLoops.

When he dropped it on our machines it was a simple, midi-only Step Sequencer that we really couldn't place our existing product range leaving us scratching our heads how to market it.
This turned out not to be a problem as people went WILD about it and sucked our servers dry (downloading the demo) days after launch. It was also around this time we came up with the idea of Lifetime Free Updates for the program, that existing customers should get the latest version of the software for free.

 

The first couple of years were pretty tough as there were hardly any sales and we always had to beg people to host the demo on their servers (thanks Maz!). To generate some additional income, Gol developed an EJay type program called FruityTracks that was "OEMed" for Mattel into Pro-DJ (for

France & UK) and Radio 538 Music Machine (for Holland & Belgium). During this time FruityLoops slowly grew from a simple midi drum machine into the fully featured virtual studio that a wide range of musicians are using today.

 

How FruityLoops became FL Studio…

 

After producing FruityLoops for about four years we changed the name to FL Studio, here's why:

 

Kelloggs decided to challenge us when we applied for the FruityLoops trademark in the US. We had a very strong case AND we received the trademark in Europe as the two markets are obviously separated. But later they claimed to have released CDs and games in their cereal boxes, and as we didn't want to waste money fighting them in court for 5 years ...

''Fruity' seems to have all sorts of meanings and innuendo associated with it that we thought best to avoid for the sake of international marketing appeal.

The 'loops' part of the name implied that music was made from pre-canned loops and no 'musician' wants to be associated with that. We even had one customer almost lose a contract because their label heard about them using FruityLoops and believed they were using a 'pre-canned loops' application.

Program development was in the opposite direction to Acid/Ejay, so people buying 'FruityLoops' thinking it was a similar app didn't have a clue what to do when they were confronted with a Step Sequencer and Piano Roll.

No one ever took the 'FruityLoops' name seriously. Whenever we went to a meeting to discuss a possible bundle with a hardware manufacturer, we had to excuse ourselves and explain for half an hour that it WAS a real music production package, while the marketing managers on the opposite side of the table were looking at us with grins on their faces.

 

Anyway, since we changed the name we have received a lot more credibility and our customers no longer seem to be ashamed to admit what application they are using to make music. The FL Studio demo is now downloaded over 30,000 times PER DAY and is used by some of the biggest names in the industry. We have definitely come a long way thanks to our customers support.