Last month, I disposed of 15 kilogram worth of audio cassette tapes. Yes, I was holding on to them even though I had not played a single tape in the last seven years. The reason: their emotional value was much too high.
These tapes had been collected over the last 25 years. They had my favorite music, my idols, my heroes--from Beatles to Bob Dylan, Sting, the Bee Gees, The Who, Pink Floyd, Cranberries, Alanis Morissette, Dire Straits, Chris Rhea and so much more. I am not sure if they were in working condition but they were there with me, and each cassette had a story.
I still remember how my aunt had taken me to Khan Market (a market in Central Delhi) in the peak of summer to buy me a gift because I scored well in high school. I pointed to this cassette in the show window of The Music Shop--Travelling Wilburys. The group had George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. My aunt was amazed. She persuaded me to buy a dress or new shoes. But, for me, that album had more value than dresses and shoes. She had to give in.
Many of those 15 kg stack of tapes were bought out of saving one's pocket money. In those days, an "English" cassette would cost INR 45 (roughly US$1 in today's conversion rates), which was a big deal. By the late 1980s, we had also started copying music. Friends would borrow and copy cassettes to widen their collection.
With time, coping cassettes and then CDs only became more rampant. Today, most of us have our favorite music on MP3 players, mobile phones, iPods, CDs and pen drives. Much of it is downloaded from sites like BitTorrent and Monova.org. It takes just a few seconds to copy music from one mobile to another, from one hard disk to the other…
Most of us may not even be aware if we possess a particular album or not. There is so much of it and it's mostly not paid for.
If my aunt was alive today, and was willing to take me out shopping, I would probably go for a dress or a new pair of shoes. For, all good music is already there--and for free. Just copy it from someone's MP3 player or pen drive. I wonder if youngsters actually save their pocket money to buy the new albums of their favorite stars. The thrill of buying new albums has gone.
I got back only 25 cents per kilogram of cassettes. And for roughly US$4, it seems like one gave away a lifetime of treasure. Music will never be the same again.