FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Scapegoats. The Music Industry’s War on Cassettes

by Dave Marsh

“It (the music industry) is in real peril now and if we don’t do something about it, running a record company in this country will become so unprofitable that it just won’t be worth taking risks with new acts. It will become stodgy, boring and dead,” said Peter Scaping of the British Phonographic Institute.

Sounds like a cliché doesn’t it? It is. Scaping spoke in 1978. He was talking about cassettes. This was back when the international slogan was “Home taping is killing music.” The opposite was actually happening. Mix tapes probably sold almost as many records as radio airplay over the past 20 years. Today, music retailers complain much more often that the labels are killing off the cassette, which is being done openly and deliberately, than about file-sharing or even CD burning.

There are a bunch of reasons why the record industry wants to kill the cassette. Dual inventories are expensive. Get rid of cassettes, and you’d only need one kind of manufacturing facility, too. There’s also the notion, I suspect, that people with their music collections on cassette might start replacing them when cassettes become hard to find.

The ulitmate reason may involve class. People with money have bought CDs almost exclusively for the past decade. Like me, they came to hate cassettes: It’s a pain in the ass to find a song let alone a specific musical passage on a cassette, they’re impossible to store sensibly, they snap, stretch and otherwise break and if you dub onto them, the variables between any two decks and the signal transmission breakdown leaves you with noise and blur.

But cassette machines are still way cheaper than CD players, blank cassettes can be reused, if you make a mistake while dubbing a mix tape you don’t have to start over with a fresh piece of media, and you don’t have to worry whether something burned on your machine will play on your friend’s. If you don’t have a lot of money, cassettes are much more user-friendly.

Cassettes, even pre-recorded ones from the major record companies, are also less expensive. The gigantic unspoken factor in all of the battles over music is the skyrocketing price of records.

The difference between swapping cassettes mixes–which is what was supposed to be killing the record biz in ’78–and file-sharing isn’t much. “File-sharing is a net positive technology,” according to Aram Sinnreich author of the Jupiter Media research report that showed file-sharers are 41 percent more likely to *increase* purchases of commercial CDs.

File-sharers are beginning to learn what it really costs to download, too: “[F]ree doesn’t mean free,” Sinnreich points out. “It takes time spent, energy spent, hassle, disappointing results. That’s the kind of currency that teenagers have but that people with a day job don’t have.”

Or as my friend Lou Cohan wrote when he sent me 20 beauteous versions of “People Get Ready”: “Searching for, downloading, listening to, and finally, burning mp3 files is not a pleasurable experience.”

I hope the damn thing plays on my machine.

DeskScan

1. “Cold Woman Blues” / “99 Blues” / “Outside Woman Blues,” Blind Joe Reynolds (from a CD burned by a friend of newly discovered tracks-plus the well-known “Outside”–by a country bluesman so great a friend commented, “He sounds like Robert Johnson’s lost brother.”
Very very scratchy 78 sources-try http://www.tefteller.com/html/intro.html for your own sample)

2. Return of a Legend, Jody Williams (Evidence)

3. 1000 Kisses, Patty Griffin (ATO)

4. Become You, The Indigo Girls (Epic)

5. Here Comes the New Folk Underground, David Baerwald (Lost Highway advance)

6. Adult World, Wayne Kramer (Muscletone advance)

7. The Byrds Play Bob Dylan (Columbia Legacy advance)

8. Anthony Smith (Mercury Nashville advance)

9. Plenty Good Lovin’, Sam Moore (Swing Café, UK import)

10. “Float Away (All of the Streets Are Lonely),” Marah (E Squared single)

Dave Marsh coedits Rock and Rap Confidential. He can be reached at: marsh6@optonline.net

Dave Marsh’s Previous DeskScan Top 10 Lists:

May 6, 2002

April 30, 2002

April 22, 2002

April 15, 2002

April 9, 2002

April 2, 2002

March 25, 2002

March 18, 2002

March 11, 2002

More articles by:

Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 26, 2017
John W. Whitehead
Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind
George Capaccio
“Beauty of Our Weapons” in the War on Yemen
Ramzy Baroud
Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syria War?
John McMurtry
Brexit Counter-Revolution Still in Motion
Ted Rall
The Democrats Are A Lost Cause
Pete Dolack
Trump’s Re-Negotiation Proposal Will Make NAFTA Worse
Tom Gill
Is Macron Already Faltering?
Ed Kemmick
Empty Charges Erode Trust in Montana Elections
Rev. William Alberts
Fake News? Or Fake Faith?
James Heddle
The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California
Binoy Kampmark
Slaying in Minneapolis: Justine Damond, Shooting Cultures and Race
Jeff Berg
Jonesing for Real Change
Jesse Jackson
The ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission Itself is Fraudulent
July 25, 2017
Paul Street
A Suggestion for Bernie: On Crimes Detectable and Not
David W. Pear
Venezuela on the Edge of Civil War
John Grant
Uruguay Tells US Drug War to Take a Hike
Charles Pierson
Like Climate Change? You’ll Love the Langevin Amendment
Linda Ford
Feminism Co-opted
Andrew Stewart
Any Regrets About Not Supporting Clinton Last Summer?
Aidan O'Brien
Painting the Irish Titanic Pink
Rob Seimetz
Attitudes Towards Pets vs Attitudes Towards the Natural World
Medea Benjamin
A Global Movement to Confront Drone Warfare
Norman Solomon
When Barbara Lee Doesn’t Speak for Me
William Hawes
What Divides America From the World (and Each Other)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Chandra Muzaffar
The Bilateral Relationship that Matters
Binoy Kampmark
John McCain: Cancer as Combatant
July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail