Some Important Tape Labels
updated about 1 year ago
Compact cassettes came onto the market in 1963 but did not gain complete musical dominance over the bulkier reel-to-reel until the early eighties. Their offer of cheap recording and duplication chimed perfectly with the DIY (post-)punk revolution and it was in this period that tape labels began to appear regularly. The extended format and the aforementioned cheap recording and duplication (indeed, the offer of the very modern printing-on-demand option) opened the door to the release of huge amounts of experimental material that would otherwise have taken significant resources to get out to the audience. Somewhere between the demo and the record or CD label, the tape label has provided a first release or a one-off release of live material, outtakes etc for an amazing variety of bands who went onto or were taking a break from much bigger things. It should be said that a number of these labels have been known for a mixture of formats or have later moved on from cassettes, but are well-known for their regular or significant use of the cassette format. Most of them have followed in the footsteps of that punk era revolution in music distribution, but others come from a variety of music styles. I am not covering tape labels of music mainly from developing countries and from the world of dance music and hip-hop, which have gone down a similar route to supply fans with long-form recordings when no other format was wide-spread or adaptable enough.
In the early noughties the tape label faltered, as the emergence of CDR technology as a new, cheap option for home-made music releases with all the added features that CD brings either killed off the labels or persuaded them to jump format for all or a significant portion of their releases. In the last few years, there has been a resurgence in tape labels though, based seemingly on retro appeal, the new problems that CDR brought (copies that wouldn't play at all rather than just getting chewed up, etc), a dislike of faceless digital amongst some music fans & the fact that tape remains a good format. I thought it was thus time to gather a list of touchstone tape labels together.
Suggestions welcome. Thanks to Simon Hobs & Dsic for contributions so far. Remind me if I forgot you!
Before anyone asks, I haven't got any stuff on most of the early ones :-)