By awarding the distribution of its products in France to Axente, Minuit Une moves into full distribution mode, in order to focus on the potential of its core business, the R&D at the heart of the little twist that has made the difference in the stage lighting market.
Minuit Une, a young French company, developed a new lighting technology in 2013 and launched a revolutionary fixture in 2016. Over the past five years, the IVL technology has been seducing the whole world at meteoric speed thanks to some forty distributors.
Minuit Une, which had previously retained the distribution in France, has now awarded it exclusively to Axente. What does the future hold for this emerging French company and its innovative luminaires? We got some answers from the co-founder of Minuit Une, Aurélien Linz, in a videoconference together with Jérôme Bréhard, CEO of Axente.
SLU : What made you decide to entrust the distribution of your products to Axente?
Aurélien Linz : It’s part of a general move towards a full-scale distribution model. We have expanded very quickly into about thirty countries abroad, including the USA in October of 2019. Since May, there has been an increased interest in the IVL solution and a steady stream of new partnerships, which is quite encouraging.
We are approaching 40 companies, between distributors and dealers. For example, Inner Circle distribution in the USA, Luxilag in Belgium, Entedi in the United Kingdom, VCI in Spain and Portugal, Tongsuh Technology in South Korea, TreTi in Italy, Complex V in Ukraine, ShowAtelier in Russia, Damei in China, Lisys Project in Hungary, PS Teatr in Poland, etc.
We were operating directly on the French market but we did not have the means to deploy a sales team capable of covering all the potential sectors in the territory. So we decided to move to a full-fledged distribution model.
It’s the logical progression of our growth and having a partner like Axente is the best way to serve the French market and spread our technology in broader circles. We are now focusing on R&D and partnership with our distributors.
SLU : These days, one realizes what percentage of sales is from exports.
Aurélien Linz : We are exceeding 80%. The U.S. has significantly tipped the scale.
SLU : Are you still concentrating on laser sources?
Aurélien Linz : Using a laser was not the initial solution. The idea was to develop a new lighting technology and to take advantage of a series of patents. The IVL technology needed to satisfy the following requirements: coverage of a very large area; a multidirectional approach for increased efficiency; and a very efficient ratio between the area covered and the number of units used.
We chose the laser source because it provided an optimal solution. We will first expand the IVL range so that everyone can access an IVL product that corresponds to their needs.
SLU : Currently, how many IVL products are there?
Aurélien Linz : The first product, IVL Carré, exists in two versions: square and pyramidal. These are two different products that produce different results and they are not used in the same way. Since then we have developed a version of the square IVL Carré tailored to meet the standards in the USA, the IVL Square. In 2021, the IVL range will be further expanded.
SLU : Are they still made in France?
Aurélien Linz : Yes, we have the Made in France label. We work with a partner factory that assembles the products in France.
SLU : What sort of turnover are you doing now?
Aurélien Linz : We don’t disclose our figures. I can only tell you that we have almost doubled our turnover every year since our foundation.
SLU : Which vendors in France currently have IVL fixtures available?
Aurélien Linz : B-Live was the first vendor to invest in our products. At the time, we had an exclusive six-month partnership with them that allowed them to secure a return on their investment. It was a kind gesture and we will always be grateful to B-Live for being our first customer. After the exclusivity period, we promptly began selling to other companies.
Today, there are also Alive, De Facto, Dushow, GL Event, Lagoona, MPM, S Group… These top-tier vendors are taking our technology on their small and medium-sized tours, because with a single flight case of IVLs (2, 4, 6 or 8 fixtures), they can make the difference in terms of efficient logistics and reasonable costs. The IVL range has been designed to make an impact with just a few units. And the need for more efficiency has increased dramatically in this age of Covid.
One of the big challenges right now – and we’re starting to hear it in discussions with lighting designers – is to deliver the experience, but with reduced logistics, less budget and more restrictions. And our products provide a real solution tailored to these conditions.
SLU : How is IVL positioned, in terms of price?
Jérôme Bréhard : It’s about the same price as a big moving head, but it’s not outrageous. The experience that the fixture provides compared to its purchase price is extremely attractive and is one of my main reasons for distributing Minuit Une in France.
The market that will be coming to us, as the upcoming months – hopefully not years – will force everyone to do more with less budget and reduced logistics. I think that IVL technology really meets these challenges.
SLU : How did you enter into this agreement?
Jérôme Bréhard : It’s a brand that we’ve been keeping an eye on since its inception. We talked to each other, not in a negotiation context, but in a framework of exchanging ideas. I have the greatest respect for this venture. Now they’ve convinced us to distribute the brand because it’s been around for four years, it hasn’t gone out of style, and it still generates a “wow” effect. That’s important.
It’s a product designed for different experiences in smaller rooms. It is also a real complement to everything else that exists today. For the same price as a big mover – and therefore reasonable – it really gets the job done. It delivers great visual performance, both graphically in 3D as well as in projection, with its digital gobos. It is important to use it correctly, but that is the case with any multifunction intelligent fixture, as well as for lighting in general.
SLU : It is controlled like any other motorized fixture, right?
Jérôme Bréhard : Yes, completely. There are some nuances that you need to be familiar with, because the possibilities are very extensive, so a little training is necessary to fully exploit them. It goes without saying that fixtures with a lot of parameters require the same approach.
Minuit Une has created “Quick Start Shows” for all types of consoles. It goes beyond the patching. It really allows you to start with a library of presets and to get the best results out of the fixture quickly. This saves a lot of time. There are also some very simple control modes in these units, so they’re not just for the most experienced operators. These modes allow you to send a lot of different patterns that produce great effects.
SLU : Jérôme, the distribution of Minuit Une is part of a larger search for alternative lighting fixtures…
Jérôme Bréhard : Yes, alternative and differentiated. This is extremely important for our customers today. With Ayrton, we have always wanted to offer different products and Minuit Une offers something very different in both technology and results. They are hyper-creative and it feels really good. We believe very much in the future of this company.
SLU : Aurélien, you started off with three people in 2013…
Aurélien Linz : Yes, we were three founders, including two engineers and a salesman. Currently there are fourteen people in the company, including seven development engineers. This is our DNA.
SLU : What kinds of shows have used your products?
Aurélien Linz : After the first electronic music tours with Olivier Germain, our reference projects in music have widened to jazz, metal, rock, hip-hop, variety, dance shows… As far as events are concerned, we have done the fashion shows of major labels, classic corporate events, a lot of video-clips of product launches…
Jérôme Bréhard : There is no limit to the possible applications of the product.
SLU : What’s been your largest or most important deployment?
Aurélien Linz : Obviously, we’re happy and proud to have had 40 IVLs on a Louis Vuitton event. But we are also proud when, because of a limited budget, on a show like the Fever Ray show at the Olympia, three of our fixtures are used from start to finish by Sarah Landau, bringing a different feature to each track. In such cases we provide a major added value.
We are also proud of an EDM festival where two stages were deployed. The “Main” stage had lots of resources, a video screen and a lot of moving lights. The secondary stage, which had a small budget, used twelve of our fixtures, with hardly anything else but a spotlight for the artist. The audience couldn’t tell which one was the main stage. That’s very satisfying!
SLU : Has Axente become a shareholder in Minuit Une?
Jérôme Bréhard : Not at all. Axente is “only” the French distributor. It’s our job to go and find pearls like this. It’s also a question of timing, which today works for everyone. We know that the coming months will be difficult for all our customers and, consequently, for all of us.
We believe in working from the ground up and we are going to do it with the same spirit and the same desire and the same enthusiasm as before the Covid tsunami, because life is going to get back on track. There will be shows, people want to get together and we know that IVL technology really makes it possible to deal with this somewhat troubled and difficult period. You have to have nice products and good stories to provide a little bit of positivity.
In my opinion, the IVL has not yet reached all the markets where it can potentially be used. It’s true that it has a strong live show connotation but it’s a product that I see perfectly in fixed installations in music venues or more present in certain types of TV programs. There is a lot to be done. To do this, we’re going to get closer to the relevant people and we’ll do as usual, consult them and suggest that they use the product.
Aurélien Linz : Axente is a leading distributor with many years of experience and a highly specialized sales organization. This is obviously valuable and it will make us stronger for our international network.
Things you learn in one territory can be duplicated in other countries. It allows us to further refine our resources, our support and assistance for our partners.
We have entered into a partnership for the future. New challenges imply finding new solutions and changing habits. We have to be patient, but I can’t wait to see what will happen when the recovery comes. I think that the public will be thirsty for events more than ever and the expectations will be very high, and for this, lighting really makes the difference.
SLU : Where will the after-sales service be carried out?
Jérôme Bréhard : Our after-sales team is trained by Minuit Une and we will, of course, provide full after-sales service for all products already sold in France. This is what we usually do when we pick up a new product line for distribution. It would be out of the question to ask the purchase date in order to differentiate. We are their partner so we handle the future and the past. But the after-sales service remains minimal. The products are manufactured to a very high industrial quality standard and are extremely reliable.
SLU : Has IVL made it into clubs?
Aurélien Linz : Not in France. We didn’t really have the sales team for this market, generally speaking. Abroad, there are some very nice installations. The most outstanding one is the DC10 in Ibiza. They based their scenography on 18 IVLs, a mix of square and pyramidal versions in the center of the dance floor and all around. The impact is immersive. A lot of clubs in South East Asia are also equipped with IVLs and Ledscontrol has integrated them into several clubs.
SLU : Is there anything new coming in 2021?
Aurélien Linz : The IVL solution is going to expand with a brand new product: a different option that complements the first product, again with a little twist so that the IVL technology is used in the best possible way to support the artist.
More infos, videos and tutorials on the Minuit Une website