Open Culture reviews the music industry’s 80s-era freakout over cassette recorders and in paerticular the British Phonographic Industry’s deranged, piracy-promoting marketing campaign against “home taping,” which made absolutely clear to otherwise unaware consumers exactly what those recorders were useful for.
The first time I saw the infamous Skullcassette-and-Bones logo was on holiday in the UK and purchased the very un-punky Chariots of Fire soundtrack. It was on the inner sleeve. “Home Taping Is Killing Music” it proclaimed. It was? I asked myself. “And it’s illegal” a subhead added. It is? I also asked myself. (Ironically, this was a few months before I came into possession of my first combination turntable-cassette deck.)
Ten years and racks and racks of homemade cassette dubs on my shelves later, music seemed to be doing very well. (Later, by going digital, the music industry killed itself, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.)
Even the logo was immediately appropriated as a cultural signifier of piracy, a flies to this day as The Pirate Bay’s Jolly Roger.