Songtape Collection

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Synonyms: tape collections, vid collections, songvid collections, songtapes
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Contents

The early VCR vids were often shared with other fans on videotape as copies from the originals. Most often the vids were compiled into a single videotape as part of a convention vid show (see Contapes) and then sold to the attendees. However, when a vidder (or a vidding group) had enough videos, they would create their own songtape collection and distribute it themselves. Most vidders, aware of the legal underpinnings behind the fair use defense made certain to charge only production costs (the costs of the tape and postage). A smaller number chose only trade videotapes as a method of lowering any possible objections to vidding. On occasion, however, a vidder would ask for more than production costs, pointing out that the costs of producing a vid were much higher than just a videotape. Editing VCRs were expensive and acquiring source videotape added to the expense. In most cases, the vidding community rejected those arguments by pointing out that most fan activities (fanzines, art etc) never came even close to covering all the costs.

Tape quality was important to many vidders and offering their vids directly to fellow fans via their own 'duping' (or copying process) was one way of ensuring that their vids were shown at their best. This was important because unlike the digital copying process of today, analog videotapes would degrade with every copy. A 3rd or 4th 'generation' (or copy) videotape was often unwatchable, with the people reduced to fuzzy blobs and the sound tinny and distorted.

From On the Double #34 (1996), a fan named JAM says:

"ATTN SONGTAPE FANS!! Please note that all music videos with piano logo titles are done by 'JAM1, including S&H vids & a multi media called 'Move This'. Nth gen copies are being passed around (which are barely watchable) with no idea who did them. Please, do not copy! This is bootlegging my work!!"

However, fans in other countries where the TV shows didn't air (or not yet, or not in English), often copied the episodes for each other and the tapes usually included as many episodes as would fit on a tape because postage was expensive and fans sometimes shared these costs and the cost for converting a master tape from NTSC to PAL. The people receiving copies of copies of the master tape usually had no idea where the episodes originally came from (people placed ads in genre magazines, asking for copies of this or that season of The X-Files, offering Highlander in return, etc.) and the fans who copied their own copies for fellow fans often included vids, bloopers and interviews from other sources to fill up every free second of tape with something fannish. Without title credits, these vids were as anonymous as the episode sources and few vids on these copied tapes came with credits. Copying these vids together with the source material was quite common in the 1990s.

Songvid Collections on Videocasette

Songtape collections started out barebone - the videotape would come inside the manufacturer's videotape box with a simple label and a handwritten playlist. Later collections were more likely to be polished, offering color covers and booklets that explained the creative process behind each vid. (This level of increased polish took place inside the box as well -- early vid collections rarely had title credits; later collections virtually all did.) Songtape collections were advertised by word of mouth and via flyers at conventions. Occasionally they were listed in adzines for sale.

Songvid Collections on DVD

As vidders moved to digital vidding in the early 2000s, songvid collections were offered on DVD. These early homemade DVDs were sometimes incompatible with computer and DVD manufacturers efforts to force the consumer market to adopt a specific DVD format (DVD-R or DVD+R). As a result many DVDs included warnings such as:

"This homemade DVD is made on a Region 1 DVD-R Disc. Please make certain your DVD player can play Region 1 DVD-Rs. Most new standalone DVD players are compatible with DVD-R Discs, but you can check yours at your manufacturer's website. Audio and video quality on homemade DVD-Rs will also vary from DVD player to player. These vids were originally created on VCRs in the 1990s and transferred to DVD." (~from Morgan Dawn's DVD vol. 1).

As DVD authoring technology became more sophisticated and more accessible, the early bare bones DVDs were replaced by DVDs with printed disc covers and booklets (see examples below). Some vidders, in an effort to promote sustainability, offered their DVDs using recycled materials (see Laura Shapiro's In The Rough below). Interestingly, even though the DVD duplication created no video quality loss, some vidders still put limits on both the distribution and duplication of their work. The reasons against distribution without the vidder's permission were complex, but the main focus was ensuring that the vids did not come to the attention of the video or music copyright holders.

Today, fewer vid collections are being offered in physical format as most vidders prefer to showcase their vids via file downloads and on streaming video websites. A number of the vidders that still create DVD vid collections also offer the DVD encoded files as downloads along with a printable pdf DVD cover case. The video file is burned onto DVD and the DVD case cover is printed at home by the downloader, thereby keeping distribution costs to a minimum.

Audio Tapes

The phrase songtapes also has another historical meaning. It was occasionally applied to early fanmixes, or collections of songs distributed on audio cassette. In many ways, these collections were like "proto-vids". The collection of songs were supposed to evoke a particular fandom or relationship. Sometimes they would come with detailed notes of explanation. Sometimes they were circulated along with stories; fans were supposed to listen to the music as you read the story.

Some Fan Reactions

  • "Carrying on with our theme of wishful thinking, this column [in Cold Fish and Stale Chips] could also be called "Songtapes I'd like to see, but don't have the Time, Equipment, Patience to do myself". Again, ideas are solicited from you for future columns. These can be as simple as a song title, or as complicated as a line by line description of which scenes you'd use for what." [1]
  • "I know songtape ideas don't get their total "feel" across on the written page --(otherwise why do tapes?)-- because of voice inflection, mood of the music, instrumental breaks, and a thousand other reasons. But we do our best." [2]
  • A fan at Closet Con writes: "On Friday night [P R] presented a selection of K/S music videos, many of which I hadn’t seen before. They were wonderful! As many of you may know, I am a real connoisseur of K/S songtapes. I crave them, cherish them, play them, memorize them, and require frequent injections to support my habit!" [3]
  • A fan discussed songtapes, especially the ones by Chris Soto and Mary Van Deusen: "Likewise, there are some Mary van Deusen tapes that are absolute classics. What do you think of trying to get permission from her and compile a few hours and selling them, at cost and a little extra for time, to anyone who wants them? And there are others, like the Jersey Trek tapes, so clever and funny and moving, and those we discovered last summer from a very unassuming fan who doesn’t want her name mentioned, but who made some fantastic songtapes including one with the Kirk and Spock dolls undressing each other on the bridge." [4]
  • "Some people do not like songtapes because they do not transfer well to the written page. But obviously a lot of people do like them, because they do not translate to the written word. But obviously a lot of people do like them, because that's what gained us the most contributions." [5]
  • "I love songtapes, especially with the words written out." [6]
  • "I'm also a sucker for silly and my friends and I have discovered that country western songs are best for this. There is something so incongruous about two British agents running through the streets of London to the twang of "Your Cheatin' Heart" that makes me chuckle Of course, there are quite a few contemporary country songs that have perfect lyrics for our boys. But I don't know if anyone would take them seriously. I also harbor a secret desire to do a song tape for B and D with show tunes. You know, Broadway belters. I think it would be great. It reminds me af that funny songtape someone did for S&H many years ago; it had snippets of songs over short scenes and one of my favorites was Hutch in the shower washing his hair from Fatal Charm" to the sounds of "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair" from South Pacific." [7]
  • "Regarding the songtapes -- a good third of my stories come from songs: sometimes just the melody, sometimes just the title." [8]
  • "The "songtapes" leave me cold. I have seen only one or two in any. fandom that I've liked. In general, I think it has to do with being visually oriented, so that the words to a song, printed on a page, just don't spark my imagination. Perhaps if Cold Fish were on audio tape, now .... " [9]

References

  1. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #1 (1989)
  2. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #2 (1989)
  3. from The K/S Press #13 (1997)
  4. from The K/S Press #18 (1998)
  5. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #2
  6. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #5 (1990)
  7. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #2
  8. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #2
  9. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #2
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