In our week-long (I don’t know, I just made that up) series of “hilarious in hindsight” articles from old Billboard magazines now on Google, I present to you this gem from July 6, 1996: “Inquiries Spark Shutdown of Tape-Swap Site on AOL.” Yes, in ’96, the most awful threat from the Interwebs (or AOL, as we called it in those days) was people meeting online and exchanging cassette tapes. The horror! The horror!
The article informs us that the popular titles being exchanged were by Hootie & the Blowfish, Eric Clapton, and Nirvana. Nowadays, if you stated either that you used AOL to meet people or owned anything by Hootie & the Blowfish, it would just be assumed that you enjoyed cassette tapes.
But in a hint of the joy to come, there is this key line, which I’ll have to transcribe, as there’s no cutting & pasting in the archive (emphasis mine):
Online subscribers offered to exchange tapes with one another by mail, and apparently, some subscribers were using the site to download unauthorized copies of major-label albums.
Ouch. That doesn’t sound like it’s going to go well for the labels, does it?
In other news from ’96, there’s a big advertising section to celebrate the grand opening of the Virgin Megastore Times Square, the biggest record store in the country. All the labels chipped in big full-page ads (I guess they were making a lot of money or something!) to congratulate Virgin. I wonder how that all worked out….
Oh hey, I forgot this song existed. Thanks, Billboard 1996!