Behringer has come under heavy criticism after posting a video promoting a new product called the KIRN Cork Sniffer, seemingly a reference to Peter Kirn, founder and editor of music technology blog Create Digital Music. The video depicts a character clearly modelled on Kirn, with the 'cork sniffer' term a reference to snobbiness. It's unclear exactly what provoked the video, but CDM has reported on Behringer's various lawsuits in the past, including a recent post around Behringer attempting to trademark a series of legacy synth brands, and their attempt to sue a Chinese website called Midifan who called Behringer 'copycats'. The story is on-going and we'll update as and when developments occur.
The now-deleted video (which is still available to view here) drew a barrage of criticism from both Behringer fans and the wider electronic music community, who viewed it as an attack on journalism and an attempt to curtail criticism of the company and its actions. Last night, company founder and CEO Uli Behringer was forced to apologise, stating on both his and Behringer's Facebook pages, addressing the anti-semitism claims that many made based on the comparisons between Behringer's Kirn character and anti-Jewish propaganda art:
"Please allow me to respond to the video we had published today. For the past 20 years, Peter Kirn and Behringer have had an ‘interesting’ relationship to say the least. What was meant as pure satire by our marketing department, has clearly offended some people and looking at the video, I could understand why. However, in no way did the team ever intend to make any connection to semitism, as some people have alleged. We unreservedly apologize to Peter and anyone who felt offended."
The apology has since been deleted. DJ and producer Black Madonna took to Instagram to condemn Behringer, posting:
View this post on Instagram
@behringer This is not ok. This caricature of writer, Peter Kirn is absolutely in line with the history anti-Semitic caricature. The meaning of this kind of drawing is well documented and easy to learn about if you’re unfamiliar. Even if it’s unintentional, it matters that this be known. To make such an image of a well respected technology journalist, TAKE HIS ACTUAL NAME, (correct me if I am wrong) TRADEMARK HIS ACTUAL NAME and put it on a product like this for sale? Just because you didn’t like what he, a journalist, wrote about you in the course of doing his job? Out of line. He’s a person who runs a website. He’s just doing his work. Not that this matters. This retaliatory behaviour towards writers or anyone else is unacceptable, shameful, petty and most of all, bigoted regardless of how you try to frame it or even if you didn’t mean to send that message. There’s no place for anti-Semitic tropes like this anywhere. You can’t slap this on a piece of gear and say aren’t aware of the long and sad history of this kind of imagery. We know better and you can do better. And yes I’ve turned the comments off because we’re not debating the obvious in 2020 and if you disagree with me, that fine. Jog on. This is my Instagram where I put take pictures of my food and my dog and rave parties and what I think about random shit. It’s not a forum. It’s not even that serious. Who cares what I think anyways. ;)
While Kirn has yet to make any official comment, many artists and producers are suggesting a wide-range Behringer boycott, and some posting videos of themselves destroying their Behringer clones. Behringer also initially attempted to trademark Kirn's name according to a post on their Facebook page on January 23rd, before redacting the trademark when a Facebook user pointed it out in the comments under yesterday's now-deleted apology post.
Ironically, in his story about the Chinese website that Behringer was suing, Kirn said: "A manufacturer taking legal action against music press for being critical or even calling it names is as far as I know fairly unprecedented. I’d almost call it shamel– actually, let’s just stick with 'unprecedented'.”
Furthermore, Twitter user @Nalepa pointed out that the 'joke' product is actually in itself a clone of a real product called The Cork Sniffer from Blammo FX!
— Nalepa World Peace (@Nalepa) March 3, 2020
Update (15:11 03-March)
We reached out to Peter for a quote and he replied with:
"Behringer's apology is down; the last post to follow it involves their social media team bragging about the size of their YouTube following. I didn't ask for an apology, though, so that's really up to Behringer. I haven't communicated with them at all since I was made aware in January that they filed the trademark registration in the EU for 'KIRN'. But I support the people who did complain yesterday. Since I'm not Jewish, I have an added obligation to listen to Jewish friends who raised those concerns.
"It seems strange, the whole thing. Most of us are in electronic music entirely for love. This is very obviously not about snobbery; I've spent my entire career writing about, producing, and teaching inexpensive and free music tools. If I did this to get rich or collect a bunch of vintage gear, I, uh, really really screwed up. But I love this community because the people I know in it are dedicated to developing new ideas and talking freely about what they think and feel.
"Oh, and I find the Cork Sniffer really funny. The problem is - it wasn't Behringer's joke.