Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We Got It On Tape

AquariumDrinker asks if cassette tapes were the perfect music technology. Not a fashionable opinion by any means and, despite having a pretty hefty collection of cassettes gathering dust in an attic back in Sligo, each one of them was a poor substitute for a vinyl copy, which back home in the late 80s and early 90s, weren't always available. But I do agree with him that cassettes were an underrated technology and the charm of the blank tape/compilation is undeniable. And he also has a pertinent point about the development of CDs being a technological dead end.

Let’s face it, CDs are a regressive technology. They have all the problems of a record — they scratch, break, and warp in the heat — with none of the advantages of holding a big piece of LP art in your hands and experiencing the music in the way the artist intended.  What’s more, before the advent of iTunes and read/write discs, CDs were a locked and essentially inflexible technology.

My guess is that this combination of factors — fragility and the inability to copy and mix — probably made early CD technology the holy grail for the big record companies. In short, we were duped by the record companies into spending millions (billions?) of dollars on what was essentially a flawed technology that would be rapidly replaced by digital downloads.

I agree especially with the latter point; the record industry never liked the flexibility and recordability of cassettes and emblazoned early cassettes with the legend 'Home Taping is Killing Music' (as seen in the picture above). It never did though and filesharing will not kill music either (though it may kill off some incompetent inefficient peddlers of it).

were cassette tapes the perfect music technology? | aquariumdrinker