Zappa invents the internet

Truly, the prophet is not recognized in his own land. Re-reading this, I’m amazed at how much his world view (and his take on the recording industry) has stayed with me over twenty-plus years since I first became a listener. Re-reading the book, it’s quite depressing just how little American culture has moved forward in that time


From the chapter entitled “Failure” from The Real Frank Zappa Book (published 1989), which Frank described as “a few excerpts from my own personal collection of crumbled dreams”-

“The next document explains the meeting mentioned above at Rothschild Venture Capital, led in the long-forgotten past, when CD’s weren’t even on the market…


“Ordinary phonograph record merchandising as it exists today is a stupid process which concerns itself essentially with moving pieces of plastic, wrapped in pieces of cardboard, from one location to another.

“These objects, in quantity, are heavy and expensive to ship. The manufacturing process is complicated and crude…

“The bulk of the promotional effort at every record company today is expended on NEW MATERIAL…. the latest and greatest of whatever the cocaine-tweezed r**-****ers decide to inflict on everyone else this week.

“More often than not, these ‘aesthetic decisions’ result in mountains of useless vinyl/cardboard artefacts which cannot be sold at any price, and are therefore returned for disposal and recycling. These mistakes are expensive.

“Put aside momentarily the current method of operation and think what is being wasted in terms of GREAT CATALOG ITEMS, squeezed out of the marketplace because of limited rack space in retail outlets….

“Every major record company has vaults full of (and perpetual rights to) great recordings by major artists in many categories which might still provide enjoyment to consumers if they were made available in a convenient form…


“We propose to acquire the rights to digitally duplicate THE BEST of every record company’s difficult-to-move QUALITY-CATALOG-ITEMS, store them in a central processing location, and have them accessible by phone or cable TV, directly patchable into the users home-taping appliances, with the option of direct digital-to-digital transfer to the F-1(Sony home digital tape), Beta Hi-Fi or ordinary analogue cassette tape.

“All accounting for royalty payments , billing to the consumer, etc., would be automatic, built into the software for the system.

“One advantage of the TV cable is: … a visualization of the original cover art, including song lyrics, technical data, etc., could be displayed while the transmission is in progress… since there are so many consumers who like fondle and fetish the packaging while the music is being played.

“In this situations Fondlement and Fetishism Potential [F.F.P.] is supplied, without the cost of shipping tons of cardboard around.”

I hope his family is getting something from Itunes!


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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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