Rapper tells music bosses to wake up to mobile threat

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Chuck D, the fiery frontman of the hip hop pioneers Public Enemy, has called on the global music industry to reappraise its gold-rush mentality towards mobile content. The rapper said the ubiquity of the mobile phone means artists no longer need to rely on major music labels to reach a global audience.

'The small screen is the great equaliser. Back in 1998, I envisaged 1 million artists on 1 million record labels splintered across the world. This causes a problem for the major labels," Chuck D said. The rapper gave the address at a mobile content conference in London yesterday to promote Chuck D Mobile. "The soundtracks of people's lives have been revolutionised by MP3 players. Integrating that with mobile phones is the next step," he added.

Chuck D Mobile sells ringtones and video clips and also provides a platform for unsigned musicians to bypass record companies and sell their music directly to mobile phone users, thus avoiding the "middlemen" of the music industry. The rapper, an early disciple of distributing music over the internet, said the mobile phone was akin to "a human remote control", making it a powerful tool for distributing music globally.

Yet he called on major record labels to rethink mobile content strategies. "The problem with corporations is that they come into any business with a gold-rush mentality of making a killing. They're going big, big, big, big on something so little - that doesn't make sense," he said.

He said large music companies do not control the recording process, as was the case when Public Enemy started in the 1980s, meaning a new business model must be envisaged. "They need to think how it helps people, not just how it reaches into people's pockets," he said.