Friday, May 11, 2012

Rolling Stone, 1982

hi there

i was somewhat surprised last weekend when i saw the awful, horrid and free of any sort of target market South African variant of Rolling Stone magazine was still on sale. i really thought it would have gone away by now, for it is so bad (feel free to search for my reviews on the first two editions) that surely no one could still be buying it in any great numbers.

it was a pleasant surprise, though, when during his digging through all sorts of stuff Dad found an old, proper edition of Rolling Stone. it's an Australian edition from November 1982, and it is excellent for all sorts of reasons.

a warning up front, mind - the magazine (or newspaper, since it's printed on that non-shiny paper used by, well, newspapers) was far too big to fit on my humble, conventional sized scanner. i have, then, had to take pictures of the front and back of it with my somewhat limited blueberry phone camera thing, so apologies for the distinct lack of quality in those pictures!

now that's how Rolling Stone covers are supposed to look!

i could fit (sort of) aspects of the pages inside the magazine on the scanner, and got one or two things of interest to put up here. like, for instance, this advert for a new album by a rather, at the time, promising new band....

wow. i think there's an element of "Australianization" as to how the name of Simple Minds features in that advert, but just look at how class that is. also, note that you could buy either the lp or one of them new "tape" thingie versions of it. no CD, no download, no "limited edition" business. just the music. i think it was Promised You A Miracle that gave Jim Kerr and his band their first really big chart success, not long after this they went absolutely massive for a few years.

that said, lots of artists sold lots of records in the 80s, but not it seems in 1982 as such. in something that will seem familiar to present audiences, here's the recording industry back in 1982 deeply concerned by a lack of sales.

yes, that's right - the record industry being all upset at a lack of sales and wanting some sympathy is not, by any means, just a peculiar 21st Century concept. just about any year when the labels don't sell as many records as they would have liked gets declared to be "the year the record industry ("as we know it") will end". it seems, however, that it did not in fact end in 1982.

if there was no internet things and "the kids" doing all them download things, why, pray tell, were record sales so poor (according to the record industry) in 1982? before we look at their unusual theory, my thoughts on this would be that there were just not many decent records to buy. that's my theory as to why record sales have been poor in more recent years too - give us something actually worth owning and we shall buy it!

if you wanted the lack of decent records to buy to be underlined, well, look no further than an interview with one of the biggest acts of 1982.

yep, Survivor were for some strange reason considered to be one of the biggest things ever of all time in the history of biggest things ever, and thus got heavily promoted by their record label. they were by no stretch of the imagination a bad band, but then again they were never likely to be a new Fleetwood Mac or something like that, either. owning Eye Of The Tiger on a 7" single or compilation pretty much meant that you owned the very best of the band.

the record labels, of course, had their own ideas as to why poor sales were being reported in 1982. they were having none of an inferior set of releases or, if you will, "lack of talent" being released. nope, what was destroying the industry back in 1982 was hope taping.

how does one explain "home taping" to the kids of today, with their iTwat devices, downloaded things and headphones? let me try - back when music mattered, you have a huge stereo system - with proper speakers - and on that was something called a "cassette deck". if you put a blank cassette in the cassette deck and pressed record as you played an album, that album would record on to the blank cassette and you could then play that cassette (often called a "tape") in your car stereo or even on your walkman.

here is an advert for these blank cassettes.

i suppose the only other way i can explain it to the younger generation is that you should probably see the above as a "prototype" blank CD or DVD, or if you will our version of a "flash memory stick". i still use blank cassettes, as it happens, much to the delight of my sister and her car.

the (superb) article on this subject by Rolling Stone tries to explore and debunk the theory that the record industry had in regards of home taping. for a start, they discovered that most people were making tapes of albums which they had bought for use as indicated above, rather than people buying blank tapes and recording albums off friends. that probably happened to an extent, but no more or less than people were listening to albums friends had and not purchasing it themselves.

and i did laugh when i saw the figure they threw out in regards of what the record industry believed that home taping was costing them every year!

what's that you say? one BILLION dollars?

as there is no scientific means or any evidence to suggest that someone who taped something would have actually bought whatever they taped if blank cassettes were not available, any "loss" is pure speculation and an assumed number. what i love, though, is that then, as is the case now, the losses the industry report are always "one billion dollars". in the present day, record labels throw that number around to state how much they have lost from "downloads", and indeed the film studios are in no way adverse to stating that "pirated movies cost us one billion dollars" every year. i guess they all just think that this particular number sounds really, really good.

actually, even bigger numbers sound better, as later in the article Warner claim that hope taping did in fact lose them TWO billion dollars in the year before. there was of course no evidence provided by them to justify the figure, and the reporters from Rolling Stone could not find any information to suggest that the figure was by any means realistic.

30 years later and for some reason we see music publications happily accepting as truth such claims instead of investigating them. and what would that reason be? probably the fact that the magazines are now reliant on advertising income from the record labels to keep them operating as a going concern. the overwhelming majority of journalism these days - sadly - seems to be little more than not too subtle PR work for the paying advertisers.

with dwindling sales ("blame the internet") many magazines have either folded or just become outlets for what the advertisers, rather than potential readers, would like to see. proper investigative journalism like seen in this edition from 1982 has become a rather rare thing. i would not wish to go into much detail, but i have had first hand experience of a publication deciding to pull a story because the advertisers said they would not advertise again if it ran. that's a story for another time, though, when i rummage through my own boxes pretty much as Dad has done of late.

i cannot but help wonder, though, if magazines and editorial content becoming something at the mercy of advertisers did not start so much with "the internet" and declining sales as it did when a particular kind of advert was no longer allowed, as featured on the back of this 1982 edition of Rolling Stone...

banning cigarette advertising must remain as one of the single most hollow, empty and shallow gestures of "doing something" to happen in my lifetime. not once have i encountered anyone that said they started smoking because they saw an advert, and not once have i met someone who said that they "probably would have smoked if they had seen an advert for it". considering the huge amounts, regardless of this, that tobacco companies threw at magazines for advertising, one can't help but assume that they propped up many publications financially. sure, cynics, that probably meant that there were no big exposing stories on cigarettes, but it did give magazines the financial freedom to investigate things of interest to the vast majority of readers, as shown in this random edition of Rolling Stone.

erm, this look at an old edition of a magazine seems to have turned into a bit of a rant! sorry, the intention was more to look at it from a "then and now" perspective, honest! on that note, then, best i leave it for now!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Post a Comment