8-Track Piracy Is Killing The Music Business…. In 1976

from the and-again-and-again-and-again dept

It really is amusing at times to go back and look at the historical moral panics by the recording industry over the “threats” of piracy. It’s the same story every year, from the player piano (killing live music!) to the tape recorder (home taping is killing music!) to the MP3 player (illegal!). Sometimes such stories get lost to history, but Boing Boing has an amusing image from a 1976 record album sleeve, where the cover is devoted to telling people to fight the scourge of 8-track piracy.

And I thought 8-tracks were the retro solution to “piracy.”

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Comments on “8-Track Piracy Is Killing The Music Business…. In 1976”

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Anonymous Coward says:

And don’t forgot those evil player pianos! Here’s John Philip Sousa declaiming how they’re ruining the music industry back in 1906 – http://explorepahistory.com/odocument.php?docId=418

“I foresee a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country, and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestations, by virtue — or rather by vice — of the multiplication of the various music-reproducing machines. When I add to this that I myself and every other popular composer are victims of a serious infringement on our clear moral rights in our own work, I but offer a second reason why the facts and conditions should be made clear to everyone, alike in the interest of musical art and of fair play.”

Anonymous Coward says:

In one of the most civilized societies on earth Japan where people in the face of tragedy can still maintain their dignity and be orderly, piracy is rampant, what do that tell to others about what people really think about the issue at hand?


I saw an article once describing how even store clerks said no to enforcement of copyrights, because the Japanese go into the stores and actually photograph everything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You don’t live in Japan do you?
Every f’ing Japanese I know have pirate something, heck they are even the ones that showed me how to use Winny(now defunct), also you can go to any konbini(convenience) store and you will see dozens of Japanese reading without buying anything, you can get into any bookstore and see the same behavior, you can also see them taking their cellphones and actually photographing the damn books and magazines.

Heck even government officials where pirating things until they forbid Winny from being used by officials in the workplace after somebody miss-configured the app and shared government documents LoL

The politicians also know they have a problem trying to pass laws about copyright that is why they do it in secret and only inform the public after the laws are passed.

But still the Japanese buy tones of media, because in Japan there is this craze about calling things “1 push”, push one button at it is ready to go you see the mindset there?

I don’t know where you get your information, but you are wrong LoL

Joe Publius says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

As I understand it, there’s a report that estimates that there are 1.23 quadrillion (with a Q) copyright infringers in this spiral arm of the galaxy, costing the economy over 599 Quintillion (also with a Q) galactic credits.

If this keeps up, the I’k’l’flotz industry will have to go out of business, costing Tau Cygni 1 5,000 jobs.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Hey! It’s just like nowadays.

-It has bogus statistics “The $200 million that pirates pick up represents 10 per cent of total for the music industry”. Though the modern pirates have figured out there is no reason to stick with 10% when you can claim several times the size of the US economy in revenue.

-They don’t care for customer wishes: “At times legitimate record companies put more than one artist on a record or a tape, but it is rare. […] These tapes are often called ‘The Big Hits’ or ‘Top 20’ etc.” Apparently, the modern music industry is getting something for nothing by stealing those ideas from those innovative pirates. 1… 2… 3… Cue lawsuit from original pirates!

-Instead of resorting to courts and due process this Jerry Lee Lewis character declared himself above the law and destroyed private property in order to protect his “copyright.” Ah the good old days when artists went and did their blatant lawbreaking themselves instead of outsourcing it to goons… oops, I meant the DHS. Forgive the confusion. It’s such an easy mistake.

Stephen says:

8-track piracy

I was an 8-track pirate! I had a box of 8-tracks that i copied from my friend’s brothers albums: meat loaf, queen, etc, plus I taped the entire 1979 New Year’s Eve countdown of the best songs of the decade on WNBC AM in New York (#2 Stairway to Heaven. #1? Just The Way You Are, by Billy Joel. And with that I jumped to WPLJ FM.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Pirating was bad with 8 tracks, but it's the same as today.

As an avid Techdirt reader and the world’s largest dealer of 8 track tapes, this article caught my eye. While it’s fun to laugh at 8 tracks and use them as hyperbolic analogies for a myriad of topics, they really were pirated on an enormous scale; the bootlegging was done on a scale never seen prior and not seen since until the mp3. It was a huge problem, while at the same time a blessing.

First, the bad… Pirated 8 tracks a were cheaply made, and performed as expected. While a major label release might have cost $6.00, give or take, a bootleg could be purchased for a couple of bucks. Most bootlegs were highly inferior in quality. These tapes not only sounded bad, but broke much easier, thereby annoying the hell out of listeners and ultimately helping to kill off the format in favor of the technically and functionally worse format of audio cassettes (which save for their smaller size and the fact that they don’t break, as easily, were actually a step backwards technologically…ie. flip the tape, one track, etc.).

Also bad…for the record labels who would have lost boat loads of money to these pirates. The artists also would have lost money as well, if you can assume that everyone buying a bootleg for 2 bucks would have actually spent 6 if a bootleg were not available.

But, like today, you could not assume that. And like mp3’s today, (I’m speculating here, based on years of collecting and dealing, and seeing personal collections) the bootlegs were likely a gateway purchase that would get the listener hooked on an artist, who would then later purchase the better quality and newly released albums put out by the labels.

We buy small collections and many people send their parents’ collections in the mail for us to buy, and never ever ever have I saw a collection, whether it be of 20,000 tapes or ten, that had nothing but bootlegs in it. Despite being widely available, people still purchased much of their music

The 8 track tape was originally designed and marketed as a means to have portable music in cars (the under dash phonographs didn’t work so well). They needed portability to make money and to take advantage of the growing consumer demand for cars. This allowed them to sell more albums, but it paved the way for pirating. Pirating therefore, is largely the fault of the major record labels. Pressing vinyl, creating labels, sleeves and printing jackets for records was a costly bunch of work for bootleggers to do to pirate LP’s. But anyone with access to the blank cartridges could mass produce 8 tracks a dozen at a time on one machine and all that was needed was a cheap paper sticker to paste to the fronts.

btw – I like the part of the article in the image about reporting a pirated 8 track to the local police.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Pirating was bad with 8 tracks, but it's the same as today.

“[cassettes] were actually a step backwards”

Funny how that works. It was like the VHS tape – not as good as betamax technologically, but because they actually met the consumer needs better they ended up the standard. You cannot blame piracy for this, that is market forces at work. Producing something that sounds or looks better can easily fail against something that is more reliable, smaller, etc.

“The artists also would have lost money as well”

This is the same argument we hear today that rings rather hollow. Yes, the artist may have lost money on the same of the tape IF the “pirate” would have bought the legit copy when the bootleg was not available. On the other hand, they may have made more money if the purchase of the bootleg led to concert ticket sales, t-shirt sales, etc. This may not have happened if the “pirate” was dissuaded by the original price of the tape. In addition, the bootleg may have served as a preview and the fan may have purchased the legit one because of all of the reasons you listed about the legit ones being better.

Everything I added was speculative, but so is the idea that the purchase of the bootleg is a lost sale of a legit copy. The reality is we don’t know anything other than there being examples of both happening.

“the under dash phonographs didn’t work so well”

I have owned a few of these (still have one in a box in my garage). They are really pretty cool.

“Pirating therefore, is largely the fault of the major record labels”

I’m not sure that is true. I’m not sure 8-tracks were invented by the major labels. I really doubt it, but you may know better than I do. Piracy seems to be the result of society not buying into the idea that something that can be easily copied should cost anything.

That’s not a record label mistake, that’s basic economics. Make supply infinite and cost will eventually be pressured to zero.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pirating was bad with 8 tracks, but it's the same as today.

“Piracy seems to be the result of society not buying into the idea that something that can be easily copied should cost anything.”

Piracy is the fault of record labels sort of like a broken condom is the cause of Down Syndrome. If you think about it, that analogy works well for 8 track piracy.

I’ve said before that largely the labels are obsolete, or should be, or at least could be, provided the artists wish to pursue their own marketing in today’s digital environment. It’s interesting that 8 track bootlegs were available in many places, but for a fraction of the cost. So they had a decent distribution network in place, which is supposedly the biggest cost to labels besides marketing. There’s no denying that the labels cashed in on the music by price gouging for something that really didn’t need to be that expensive.

That said, the cost of a song has always been about a buck, forever. Single sided shellac 78 rpm records cost right around a buck back in the late 1800’s – a song on Amazon or itunes is 99 cents today. If the price kept pace with inflation, the price today would be around $26 per song. Sure cylinder records cost a lot more to produce than an mp3, but in the 1960’s-1970’s labels needed to produce albums on reel to reel, 8 track, 4 track, Playtape, vinyl record, cassette tape – all within a time period of five years. Without digital delivery and marketing the cost might have been justified during that era while people couldn’t seem to decide what format they would use, but today, there is little reason to continue charging a buck a song.

There are several things that are “killing” the music industry in terms of sales and solving one of them will do nothing to save it or bring it back to the way it was.

1. As Stever pointed out, kids aren’t buying as much music. And we no longer have to buy the whole album to get one song we like.
2. Piracy – good or bad or justified or not, it does exist.
3. Online streaming sources – Pandora, Rhapsody, etc. where you can virtually handpick a radio station.
4. Indy – Is there any type of reporting done by independent artists on their sales, and is it calculated into the whole?
5. Online stores – in 1910 if you dropped a dollar on a Caruso record, you bought it for the Victrola in your living room…maybe your next door neighbor might listen to it or borrow it. You most certainly weren’t going to listen to it, then use your Edison dictaphone machine to scratch yourself a copy and put the original on Amazon for a penny to sell to someone 3000 miles away.

The top ten online music stores selling albums (not mp3s) have hundreds of millions of albums available. Most are either used or have already had their original sale factored into the sales statistics. No resale (including CD transfers that many offer) on these sites results in any money going to the labels or artists.

Factor in the sales of LP-CD, cassette-CD decks and even legal backups of copyrighted material now result in lost revenue. But it is only a theoretical loss, as like I said before, there’s no guarantee that the person making a CD or mp3 of their Pink Floyd album would have actually purchased a new reissue CD or record.

When you’re looking at examples of artists using new methods of distribution successfully you should check out what Tom Waits is doing. He seems to be more popular now than he was 35 years ago, was just inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame. He is on an independent label that allows him, apparently, to put out lots of albums. He even had a release on 78 rpm record last fall that was bundled with a brand new limited edition record player with proceeds going to a charity.

I see the record labels acting a bit like the USPS when email was a new thing. Instead of utilizing the new technologies for growth, their lack of foresight resulted in a new format threatening to put them out of business. Eventually they will survive on royalties/licensing of previous songs alone as there will be little need for artists to pay the labels for exposure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You can't be serious

(which save for their smaller size and the fact that they don’t break, as easily, were actually a step backwards technologically…ie. flip the tape, one track, etc.).

Umm, yeah, because it was so much better to have 2 or 3 of the songs on an album be interrupted by the glorious fade-out/”kerchunk”/fade-in as the album progressed from one pair of tracks to the next. At least cassettes were long enough that the albums didn’t have to be butchered to fit without leaving blank space on certain tracks. Or was that too the fault of the 8-track pirates? (Because judging by the criteria outlined in the record sleeve above, my copies of Moving Pictures, Dark Side of the Moon, etc. were authentic and not pirated copies…)

Seriously, 8-tracks permanently degraded my enjoyment of certain albums because I first owned them on 8-track. To this day, when I listen to certain songs, I still expect them to pause for the kerchunk, even though it’s been almost 30 years since I’ve listened to them on 8-track. (For example The Camera Eye by Rush… around 5:49 of that song is when the 8-track switched from “program 3” to “program 4”)

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: You can't be serious

> To this day, when I listen to certain songs,
> I still expect them to pause for the kerchunk,
> even though it’s been almost 30 years since
> I’ve listened to them on 8-track.

I had the same experience, except with casette tapes. I collect movie soundtracks and many of the cues can be quite lengthy, so even with casettes, there would be a fade-out at the end of one side of the tape, and you had to stop it, flip it over, and the cue would fade back in. Now that I have most of those albums digital format, I still anticipate those fade-outs, even though they never come.

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) (user link) says:

Re: Re: In other words...

It should be obvious: he’s saying only an idiot wouldn’t take someone seriously when they’ve said the same thing dozens of times and been wrong every time.

Given the coward’s remarkable lack of pattern-discerning ability, I guess it should be no surprise that he didn’t foresee the blindingly obvious retort that I gave him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Masnick just can’t decide. Here and other times he tries to say piracy isn’t hurtful.

But then he says everyone simply has to adapt to the problem of piracy.

I’m sure no one notices he talks out of both sides of his mouth, never making sense no matter what propaganda angle he’s trying to sell.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“Here and other times he tries to say piracy isn’t hurtful.”

Correct, it’s not proven to be hurtful to the music industry or wider economy.

“But then he says everyone simply has to adapt to the problem of piracy.”

No, the recording industry needs to adapt, because they’re the one hurting.

This makes perfect sense to most people, but the plastic disc producers are definitely struggling with it.

Stever (profile) says:

Everything is killing the music industry

Ah what is killing the music industry.
Rather than buy music I listen to the radio. They pay for me. I watch music videos. They pay for me.
I no longer buy CD’s because most of what I hear I really dont care less about hearing again. So I will leave it to radio stations playlists. That is what is killing the music industry. I once would buy 2 CD’s a month but now I have more music than i can ever listen to. I am part of the decline. My kids dont listen to music as I did so they will never purchase like I did. That is what is killing the music industry.

sam sin says:

this and any other article from years gone by, concerning the issue that innovation will kill the music business, the movie business and every other type of business imaginable, should be sent to the thick fu**ers that are in charge of our countries and legal systems. it hasn’t happened yet, it will not happen in the future. if that were the case, none of these businesses would be ‘alive’ today, yet alone making absolute fortunes which increase year-on-year!!

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