FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Scapegoats. The Music Industry’s War on Cassettes

“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/

July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail