Don't Tell the RIAA

I’ve just gotten back into vinyl after a long absence. I sold off most of my collection about 10 years ago to help finance my move to Madison but now I am re-armed with a turntable and ready to dig the wax (thanks Bob!). Vinyl was still the best format available when I began my mass music consumption in the early 80’s. My friends bought their music on cassette but I resisted, mostly because the fidelity and durability of commercially manufactured tape was dubious at best. With xmas money I got a Walkman and a tape deck and made much better copies of my vinyl on the high-end cassettes that TDK and Maxell produced. I got real pleasure out of the process: fast forwarding and rewinding each tape before dubbing, testing the levels, copying down the track titles and whatever information I thought would be important, etc. I didn’t realize at the time that I was helping preserve my vinyl but moving up a format did just that–I didn’t wear out my records because I didn’t need to roll them out every time I wanted to listen (I was actually forbidden from touching my parent’s turntable so I dubbed mostly in secret but that’s another story).

In 2006 I find myself doing similar work–transferring vinyl to the computer. My friend Shinky loaned me a bunch of Harry Nilsson records and I decided that yes, I wanted copies of these and the best way to do that was to use my recording software to put them on the hard drive. The process is the same as my cassette days but now I chop the songs up with my mouse and save them individually and at the end I burn a cd. My scanner is too small to accurately capture an album cover without multiple scans and a long struggle with Photoshop but thanks to Google I can usually track down a passable copy of the cover to print out. I’ve uncovered sites that are devoted specifically to hi-res scans of album covers, no doubt for folks who are copying their friend’s cd collection.

In this age of downloading controversies I have to laugh a little. I’m still just a home taper like I’ve always been, only now I’ve gone digital. Sure, I could go out and buy all the Nilsson on cd but why spend $12 when you can pick up the used record for $5 and spend $0.05 for a burnable disc and look at the beautiful record cover while you kick it to the hard drive? I still buy cds for modern stuff but I’m guessing the Recording Industry would prefer me to be less thrifty (and less technologically savvy as well). I’m reminded of a great line from an old Life In Hell comic:

Q: Is home taping killing the music industry?
A: Yes, Yes, Yes. Instead of making billions and billions of dollars, the music industry is only making billions of dollars.


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