Home taping was killing music. Was it?

News magazine clip announcing the “Home taping is killing music-and it’s illegal” campaign.
Detail from a Billboard magazine clip announcing the 1981 infamous “Home taping is killing music-and it’s illegal” campaign.

There was a time when music piracy was made possible in many ways by cassette tapes.

People tuned into radio stations and recorded music on tape recorders. A friend of yours bought a vinyl long-playing and you could make a copy of it. You could also borrow records from public libraries and make a copy of them.

The music industry naturally rang alarm bells, as they always do. Home copying, they said, was a bigger threat than commercial piracy.

Was it? Quite the contrary.

What music industry execs didn’t get was that home taping opened so many new possibilities to enjoy music – the portability, the ability to listen to a record before purchasing, the chance to get creative recording mixtapes – that “it was responsible for getting more kids into more music than ever before.” (Andrew Dickson)

Nevertheless, in 1981, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) launched the campaign named “Home taping is killing music-and it’s illegal.” It was presented with a cool logo featuring a cassette silhouette posing like a skull with crossbones underneath.

To make a long story short, home taping did not kill music. The music industry itself almost did it.

But the infamous campaign slogan and its super cool logo remain as a testament of an era gone by.

An era when music was great.

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