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Top Story

Music fans snap up old technology

When it comes to buying music, is the new thing the old thing?

A couple years back, the ParetoLogic newsletter reported that vinyl records were experiencing a resurgence. While MP3s are still the popular choice, bands and fans appear enamoured with other formats. For example, cassettes are attracting attention.

In Victoria, B.C., where ParetoLogic is proudly based, there are about a half dozen music labels producing cassettes. Thanks to the ease of production, bands are also releasing tapes themselves. Thomas Di Ninno said that his label, the Fan Club Music label, which he runs with his brother Robert, has almost sold out of all the cassettes they have released. Most releases are done in runs of 50 tapes.

"We sell a lot," he said. "They are affordable. You can release a full length tape and keep the selling price at five bucks. It's convenient."

However, tapes do have their drawbacks. While they are portable, sound quality was never the cassette's top attribute. As well, there is the inconvenience of trying to fast forward or rewind to your favourite song. Also, how many people still own a working cassette deck? Di Ninno questions if most buyers are running home with these tapes and cranking up the volume.

"I don't think many people who buy tapes are actually going to listen to it. I think these days music is mostly listened to and distributed digitally. The cassette is mostly a physical representation of what you have on your computer ... something to collect, to have on your shelf, something that (hopefully) looks nice, a vessel for a digital download. That being said, some people are obsessed with tapes and do listen to them religiously."

Vancouver-based band Apollo Ghosts are willing to try any medium to promote their music. They released a cassette, on the Scotch Tapes label, with fellow groups Thee AHs and The Divine Prophet. Also, the Apollo Ghosts once put out a 3.5 inch floppy disk in conjunction with a Nanaimo band with a non-family friendly name. Adrian Burrus of the Apollo Ghosts told the ParetoLogic newsletter that the band has even talked about issuing a "CD-R in a mason jar of moonshine."

In regards to the floppy disk, Michael Carpenter of the Nanaimo band said it was "an inexpensive, tongue-in-cheek alternative to a seven inch (record). With the resurgence of vinyl and cassette, media which had been considered long dead by the recording industry, we thought what better way to capitalize on this idea by predicting the next trend."

While floppy disks have not exactly caught on with music connoisseurs, he is not opposed to doing more of them. He told the ParetoLogic newsletter: "We may have future releases on floppy (as I have a box under my desk full of 100s with old PC games on them) but may resort to .MID files to squeeze entire albums on, or switch to ZIP disks to release our and Apollo Ghosts’ entire discography... Save your A: drives!"

Meanwhile, other musicians are embracing the download method. Victoria singer/songwriter Vince Vaccaro opted not to have CDs created at all for his latest EP, The Dove. Instead, he printed up download cards on paper made from natural fibres with wild flower seeds inside. After using the card to download music, it can be planted. Vaccaro feels it is an environmentally conscious way to go.

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