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Middelhof: Embrace the ‘Net

Bertelsmann boss sets music biz straight at Cologne confab

BERLIN — Speaking at the annual Popkomm international music confab in Cologne on Friday, Bertelsmann chairman Thomas Middelhoff challenged the music industry to see the opportunity rather than the risk in the Internet and to learn from its mistakes.

Middelhoff, who has long championed new media at the very traditional Bertelsmann Group, accused the music industry of being too far removed from the reality of the digital revolution and called upon corporate heads to show the courage to suffer failure as well as to question everything they know about the business.

The Bertelsmann chief also said the significance of music download services like Napster and MP3.com have been underestimated, warning that the new technology cannot be stopped.

He further accused the industry of not always considering the interests of consumers. Millions of people would enjoy the opportunity of using Napster to download music, he said. “Are they all criminals? No.”

To counter the threat of such sites and the vast online catalogs of pirated tracks, however, labels have to hasten the digitization of legal music, he added.

A number of industry bigwigs could only agree with Middelhoff.

Universal topper Tim Renner said labels have to transform themselves into service providers for artists; he predicted that many of the majors wouldn’t be able to adjust.

Middelhoff also echoed the concerns of German lawmakers and called for tough action against neo-Nazi music on the ‘Net.

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