Copying of music has always been there. People once upon a time used to listen to the radio and record songs from it. People used to record video clips from TV music stations. People would make a copy of an LP from their friend or a family member. Hell, we would make copies of a copied album and so forth. In other words, the music industry grew because of copying.
So if we used the buzzword of the modern era, piracy was rampant back in the 80’s. Most of my music collection during that period was made up of music taped onto blank cassettes. Every time I visited my older cousin, I was armed with blank cassettes and proceeded to copy albums that he had purchased. I was not alone in doing this, nor was I the first. Most of the music from the seventies that was passed down to me by my brothers was in the same format (blank cassettes that got filled with music).
You know that peak year of sales for the recording business in 1998. Well there is research out there which suggests it was due to two reasons. One reason was people replacing their vinyl collections with CD’s and the other reason is the people who had music on blank cassettes in the 80’s finally having enough disposable income to buy their favourites on CD.
I fit into both reasons because in the 90’s, I purchased every album I had on dubbed cassettes on CD. I re-purchased every LP I had on CD. I went to second hand record shops and purchased LP’s from the Eighties and Seventies very cheap. I was not the only one that did the above.
All of this copying allowed bands to have fans. And fans are not people who just spend money on something because they are a fan. Fans are people who enjoy a particular product. Some fans pay for that product early on while others pay for it later on. Some don’t pay at all. If it wasn’t for cassette copying, I never would have heard the full length albums of bands that didn’t do the rounds on MTV. I never would have heard “Master Of Puppets” from Metallica. After hearing it, “…And Justice For All” was a purchase on release day. It was many years later that an original copy of “Master Of Puppets” came into my collection.
Funny thing, my brothers had a friend with a nickname “Greeny”. He got that nickname because he was a tight arse and even though in Australia we don’t call money “green”, my brothers saw a movie that used the word “Green” as an analogy for money, so Greeny got his nickname.
Now Greeny, would always purchase metal and rock music. It was in his car stereo, I heard Kix “Blow My Fuse”, Bonfire “Fireworks”, Night Ranger “Midnight Madness”, Leatherwolf “Street Ready” and so many more. I always asked to borrow a cassette and make a copy of it, or i asked if he could make a copy of it for me.
And Greeny always said no. He always said, why should he pay $15 for the album, while I paid $10 for three blank 90 cassettes and dubbed six albums from him. So I had to resort to a different strategy. My five fingers would stealthy move and take the cassette from his car, without him knowing. I knew that I had a small time window to dub it before he found out so I would use the high speed dubbing on my stereo to copy it.
When Greeny found out a tape was missing he was always storming over to get his cassette back. In time and before I left the car with my bros he would do a stock take of his collection, so my borrowing days were over. But from borrowing and copying (which the labels call stealing and piracy today), I never would have become the fan of music I am and I probably would have had four houses paid off, instead of having a tonne of grey concert shirts, ticket stubs and a wall to wall record collection.