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Behringer forced to apologise after bullying row

Behringer Kirn
(Image credit: Behringer)

Behringer has been forced to apologise following accusations that it embarked on a campaign of bullying and intimidation against a respected music technology journalist.

Yesterday (2 March), the company posted a mock product launch video for a synth called the KIRN CorkSniffer. While, on the surface, this could have been perceived as a lighthearted jab at ‘synth snobbery’, many took it to be an attack on Peter Kirn, an experienced music technology journalist and the owner of respected and influential blog Create Digital Music. The video has since been removed from Behringer’s official channels, but is still available to view elsewhere.

There’s speculation that Kirn may have provoked Behringer’s ire by reporting on its failed attempts to sue an employee of rival synth manufacturer Dave Smith Instruments and members of the GearSlutz forum in 2018. Two previous social media posts from Behringer have teased other mock ‘KIRN’ products.

It’s also being reported that, late in 2019, Behringer filed the paperwork required to register the ‘KIRN’ synth brand in Europe. Although Peter Kirn doesn’t release products bearing his name, he is one of the creators of the MeeBlip range of synths and MIDI products.

'Just a bit of fun'

Although, prior to its removal, Behringer insisted that its CorkSniffer video was nothing more than them "Just having a bit of post Karnival fun here, with Pinnochio and Wine :)," few were convinced. The company faced a barrage of online criticism - not least for removing negative comments from its Facebook and YouTube channels - with some claiming to have cancelled orders and others vowing never to buy a Behringer product again.

There have also been some more serious allegations: specifically, that the caricature of the long-nosed man on the CorkSniffer has anti-semitic overtones.

Whatever its intention, it seems that Behringer’s decision to publish the video has backfired spectacularly. The music technology industry has rallied around Kirn - who has maintained a dignified silence on the matter - forcing the company into an embarrassing climbdown and leaving it looking more isolated than ever.

Uli Behringer has since responded to the controversy with a statement on Facebook

“Please allow me to respond to the video we had published today,” he says. “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.”

While this might placate some, others have been critical of the fact that Behringer has blamed his marketing department rather than taking personal responsibility. Is it really conceivable that he didn’t know about the video before it was published? What’s more, apologising to people who “felt offended” is not the same as admitting that the video was offensive.

Yesterday’s episode follows a pattern of behaviour that has seen Behringer striking an increasingly populist tone, distancing itself from the ‘synth elites’ and frequently claiming to be on the side of its customers (see Uli Behringer addressing “the haters” in a lengthy post on Facebook)

However, there are standards of respect and decency to which everyone should adhere, and, in this case, the consensus is that the company has fallen well below them.

That said, Behringer is likely to remain a polarising force within the MI industry. While its fans will doubtless continue to offer support, the events of the past 24 hours are likely to further damage the company’s reputation among those who’ve previously been critical of the way it goes about its business. 

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