Zappa Prophecizes, Invents Filesharing….in the 80s – Zapster??

200px-real_frank_zappa_book_front1Reading through Mr. Zappa’s 1989 autobiography can warp one’s mind and it seems to bring the reader to a different time and place all together. The reader gets taken all over the place, much like the space-rocker’s music, but to be taken to the future? Very few would argue that the Freak Out! artist’s musical exploits seemed to be channeling artists from the future, but the digital age…in the 80s?? An exerpt from said autobiography reveals he conceived of music downloads years before the digital revolution even began.

Frank Zappa came up with a business model for filesharing years before the digital revolution began. An article on Techdirt highlights a number of passages from The Real Frank Zappa in which the Freak Out! musician discusses the impact of home cassette pirate taping on the future of music.

“It is our proposal to take advantage of the POSITIVE ASPECTS of a NEGATIVE TREND afflicting the record industry today: HOME TAPING via cassette of material released on vinyl,” Zappa writes, before putting forward the argument that the phenomenon of home taping would never be a huge threat because of poor sound quality.

Zappa continues: “We propose to acquire the rights to digitally duplicate and store THE BEST of every record company’s difficult-to-move Quality Catalog Items [QCI], store them in a central processing location, and have them accessible by phone or cable TV, directly patchable into the user’s home-taping appliances, with the option of direct digital-to-digital transfer to F-1 (SONY consumer-level digital tape encoder), Beta Hi-Fi, or ordinary analog cassette (requiring the installation of a rentable D-A converter in the phone itself … the main chip is about $12).”  Zapster???

The business model Zappa proposes is a true vision as it anticipates a market that had yet to develop and offers a solution to a problem with which the music industry is still grappling. Zappa concludes, “All accounting for royalty payments, billing to the customer, etc, would be automatic, built into the initial software for the system”.


We here at impossible city just had a Freak Out!

have one too

freakoutFrank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention
Freak Out! (1966)

01 – Hungry Freaks, Daddy
02 – I Ain’t Got No Heart
03 – Who Are The Brain Police
04 – Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder
05 – Motherly Love
06 – How Could I Be Such A Fool
07 – Wowie Zowie
08 – You Didn’t Try To Call Me
09 – Any Way The Wind Blows
10 – I’m Not Satisfied
11 – You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
12 – Trouble Every Day
13 – Help, I’m A Rock
14 – It Can’t Happen Here
15 – The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet


One Response

  1. I honestly have to say I enjoyed your post about Frank Zappa immensely. He was quite a character! Thank you so much for posting this, I am now following your blog by both RSS and NetworkedBlogs.

    Please feel free to check out the blog my sister and I run called GreendSpot-On. It is about Environmental and Wildlife Conservation/Education, along with Green Living. There are pictures of wildlife being rehabbed and more!


    I hope you enjoy it and decide to follow it on NetworkedBlogs, Twitter or even RSS! Thanks again for such an interesting post and that album was a great one!

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