As many music lovers will remember, in a previous life music was killed by kids making mix tapes on their cassette players to give to friends, potential sex partners and other music geeks.
Some might have seen this harmless habit as free marketing. Not simply marketing, but marketing of the highest order. Peer to peer.
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) didn't see this as free marketing. They were sure that all this taping would lead to a decline in units sold, and introduced the "Home Taping Is Killing Music" music campaign in 1984 (sic).
The idea was first put forward in an article in 1970 in Billboard magazine, but it was the introduction of the Sony Walkman at the dawn of the 80s that put the Industry's paranoia into hyper-drive.
As it happened, taping an album you had bought was not actually illegal.
"For most of the recording era, record sales have fallen under the doctrine of first sale, which says that once you buy a record, it's yours. Among other things, the doctrine has been used to permit records to be played on the radio -- a practice the recording industry first opposed."
Nevertheless, soon the Industry was reporting billions in lost revenues, and the skull and crossbones cassette with the catchy slogan
Coming hard on the heels of punk music
and its DIY ethic, with millions of music lovers pre-inclined to doubt the good intentions and honesty of the Music Industry, parodies and remixes of the BPI campaign began to appear on t-shirts, stickers and other lifestyle items.
The ridicule continues to the present day. More than 25 years after it was first unfurled, the little flag of the cassette and crossbones remains a charged symbol that still speaks to many music lovers in a louder voice about 'piracy' than the keening of the RIAA and other Industry associations.
In retrospect, this campaign stands as the first public appearance of a profound difference of opinion vis-a-vis 'ownership' between the Music Industry and the people who buy their products.
If anything, these differences of opinion
have grown over the years.
The Industry has pursued increasingly aggressive legal actions against individuals, businesses
and educational institutions while lobbying governments to assist them in criminalizing
its existing and potential customer base.
These days the Industry pays people to fake the effect that mix tapes once had - creating so-called 'street teams', paying people to the post messages extolling their products in list serves and socially networks and other marketing initiatives of dubious integrity and effectiveness.
- tbc -
as ever, one can look to...
for more information.