‘Home taping is killing music’ was the slogan generated by a paranoid music industry in 1981. The slogan was accompanied by a cute little logo of a skull and cross bones, a cassette tape representing the skull.
It was an apt demonstration of how short sighted and greedy the music industry was. This campaign was active when sales of recorded music were historically high yet some bright spark made an assumption that a blank cassette tape was going to rob the record companies of their revenue.
Cassette tape was a medium that seemed worthless , worthless in commercial terms perhaps but otherwise invaluable and essential.
The cassette tape was the thing that allowed you to acquire music you could not afford to buy, it was utilitarian, libertarian, and essential to the development of popular music.
Compact discs tempted consumers to ditch their nasty analogue tapes and records
and to embrace the world of digital audio and all it’s shiny perfection.
The late Sir George Martin showed Paul Mcartney a cd for the first time, George
proclaimed the cd to be indestructible and then broke it in half.
The record companies were fat, bloated and insecure, they all swam in the same muddy shallow pool, they were the vermin that got fat on other people’s talent and they had the nerve to complain about the humble little cassette tape.
Many people like me end up surrounded by the detritus of a life devoted to music. Shelves of albums, boxes of singles, compact discs, cassette tapes, dat tapes, mini discs, they all reside in a state of neglect.
I stopped buying music some years ago at a time when music products were cheap. Local shops ceased trading and I bought heaps of stuff at knock down prices, all on compact disc.
The cd was a format I never got to like, you got less for your money, the record industry embraced the cd because it made more money for them than the vinyl record or cassette tape, without it the music industry would have reached stagnation.
The day came when the cd was proclaimed dead, on the internet people seemed to be celebrating it’s demise and purging their lives of these dreaded silver discs. That was ok but I had just conspired with other people to release a 5 cd box set!
So we pressed 1k and sold 400 leaving the rest to be sold off at a knock down price or to be dropped in a hole somewhere. A terrible loss and a disappointing finale to a miserable episode.
So someone tells me that vinyl is now a viable format and it is out selling downloads. Vinyl sales are maybe increasing but music consumption is decreasing. True UK sales figures of recorded music can be found on the BPI website. Vinyl sales were 4.5% of the market in 2017.
I read an article about resurgent of vinyl , the writer says that the vinyl record is like ‘music written in stone.’ A vinyl record is the most vulnerable format ever made. Exposure to heat and they warp, scratch them then the sound is scarred forever, a vinyl record will eventually wear out if you play it enough, a vinyl record is a great thing but makes absolutely no sense at all in this day and age.
Will modern vinyl ever be valued in the same way as vintage records? I doubt it but fortunately there is still a minority who think so and will continue purchasing records.
‘Lets make the record together’ a band proudly proclaimed on the internet, ok I will be round with my bass.
The band had launched a ‘kick starter’ campaign to fund their new album.
Kick starter is a convenient begging bowl for people who don’t want to use their own money or take the conventional route of a loan. Kick starter has funded many worthwhile projects, but it has also been abused and investors have been let down.
This particular campaign attracted my attention.
Almost 15k from nearly 300 backers in a very short time. The band are happy as larry, who wouldn’t be if the public were throwing money at them. This would all be ok if these guy’s were young,talented starving musicians but check out any video and you will see a bunch of middle aged, well fed, well equipped rock and roll animals. Still it’s easier than robbing a bank.
So the band got 15k to pay for some studio time but wait and minute, if they could just have another 5k they can make a video! I wonder where it will end.
Anyway good luck to them I am sure their fan base will adore the new record , although I am cynical of this fund raising method it finally eliminates the most corrosive and anacronistic element the record company.
The record company is today an anachronism, a business that can only operate successfully if they take an absurdly high level of the profits from music sales.
20% is a figure that has some relevance to SP3, I am always quite keen to point out to the people who use this figure as a royalty percentage, 20% is the rate of value added tax!
For a company that employs people the royalty rate paid to artists has to be low, it is the only way they can keep their heads above the water.
It is a point that I have made before I know but I think it is worth reiterating, in some cases some labels are often a one man concern but they will still attempt to apply these archaic and unrealistic percentages.
So it is no surprise that artists will want to jump ship. I still love writing songs and performing and even at this late hour I would love to record a new album.
Should I consider launching a kick starter campaign or take a 10-20% cut or should I choose a different option.
Back to tape! yes I think I will release my new album on cassette tape. If a vinyl record is considered a viable method of delivery of recorded music then the good old cassette tape is also a viable and superior medium.
Cassette tapes are remarkable things, I have heaps of them, they have resided for decades in cardboard boxes , baked and frozen in the attic but they all sound great, absolutely no degradation at all.
One day I switched on my laptop, the Apple home page came up, there was a picture of The Beatles standing in an empty white Apple mac void. I was curious.
Apple had bought the entire Beatles catalogue for iTunes, the most over exploited back catalogue in history. They were selling an apple with a removable core which was a usb stick containing all the Beatles tunes.
A few days later a friend came round to my studio and dropped off a bag of cassette tapes he found on a house clearance.
Amongst the pile of tapes was the entire Beatles catalogue and James Brown’s greatest hits.
Tape sounds like a record but with out the surface noise, they are sonically superior providing you have a good quality tape machine, amp and speakers. A good quality tape player can be had for very little money on flea bay or from a charity shop.
I have complete faith that the cassette label will serve me well and anyone else who wants to release music, anybody can set up a cassette label, and anyone can trade music honestly. If this could happen and overtime all record companies cease to exist then the world could be a better place.
Artists need some hope, record companies can no longer provide any hope, they are all pall bearers at their own funeral and the cassette tape will out live them all.