On this day in 1981…..

….The British Phonographic industry placed advertisements in the press claiming that ‘home taping was wiping out music’. The Boomtown Rats, 10cc, Elton John and Cliff Richard all backed the campaign (well they would, wouldn’t they!)

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So, if you weren’t alive in these cold, hard years we called the early ’80s then settle down and I’ll try and explain. This was an age before file sharing, streaming, youtube and the rest of it – indeed, you might say ‘home taping’ was the analogue version of file sharing. Throughout the ’70s and early ’80s (the era of the cassette) you were able to buy new album releases (later singles too) on cassette/tape, they looked like this….

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……blimey, I hear those born after 1985 PCD* exclaim, what kind of trickery is this? How would you play such an item? Well you may have had one of these snazzy little ‘devices’….

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…..ahh, the portable cassette player with optional microphone accessory, a thing of beauty yes? Some came with their very own perforated, faux-leather cases like this too….

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Okay, so what’s this got to do with ‘home taping killing music’? Well, as well as being able to buy pre-recorded albums on cassette you could also buy a range of blank cassettes like these….

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…..you could then put these in your Hi-Fi system (systems usually had a record player and tape recorder combined) and record your favourite album, if you bought tapes that were 90 minutes in length you could usually get an album on each side too – yes, I kid you not, an album on EACH side. Guess what people did? They exchanged tapes with each other, they said things like, “do us a tape”, or “tape it for us will ya'” and “I’ll make you a mix-tape” (actually mix-tapes is a whole other story and too complicated to go into here) and verily the music industry did doth crumble, well not exactly but it did prompt them to launch the ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music” campaign such were their fears.

Technically you were breaking the law each time you recorded music in this way as you were breaching copyright, but nobody bothered with that and I’m not sure if anyone was ever convicted for it, certainly not on a personal level. However, there were organised bootleg versions of albums on the market (actually usually to be found at an actual market on the European mainland). The campaign didn’t last long as it kind of backfired on the industry making them look a little behind the times. Island Records even went the other way and launched the short-lived 1+1 series which actually encouraged ‘home taping’, yes you read that right, encouraged it. You could buy a range of their albums on cassette with the full album on one side and a blank, yes blank, side on the other, for you to record whatever you wanted – Outrageous!

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…other people joined in the, err, debate as well – check the debut ’45 (also available on cassette) by Malcolm McCalren’s first signings after the Sex Pistols, Bow Wow Wow. The snappily titled C-30, C-60, C-90 Go! (that’s the differing length of cassette you could buy) which detailed the everyday practice of kids up and down the land who recorded all their favourite music off the radio, not only that- it’s a great record too!

….the campaign fizzled out soon after, and before you know it, CDs were launched and the whole thing was no more than a storm in a portable cassette deck.

*Post Compact Disc)

 

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