The first time I saw Sony MiniDisc in action was at Mammoth Records next to Kinkos near the university in Anchorage. The guy at the front counter took a small square disc out of a case and put it into a shiny new Sony stereo component I hadn’t seen before and hit play. The place started to shake when Smells like Teen Spirit began to play. It was my introduction to the Sony MiniDisc and grunge music. I got into grunge, but I never bought into MiniDisc.
As a consumer audio format, MiniDisc actually became a massive phenomenon, at least back in Sony’s homeland of Japan. The peculiar economics of the Japanese music market, especially back in the 1990s, made CDs about twice as expensive there as they were in the United States. Enter the music-rental shop, where customers could check out a dozen albums for the cost of buying a single one of them, then go home and copy them all to their MiniDiscs. Veritably printing money, Sony and other MiniDisc hardware manufacturers came to the defense of music-rental chains when the displeased Japanese record industry took them to court. By the time the issue was settled, MiniDisc had already entrenched itself in the Japanese market to the point that its devices surpassed CD players in sales.
Of course, in the States, this was not the case. Compact discs became the format of choice and dominated the market before the MiniDisc landed. In response to everything going digital many of my friends have flocked to vinyl in the last decade. I’ve tried that, but it just doesn’t do anything for me, probably because I didn’t grow up using vinyl. I grew up with cassettes. And if I had my pick, I’d go back to discs. I miss the cases, making mixes, and—more importantly—the mixtape artwork.
Maybe it’s the record heat we’re going through right now, but in the time I started writing this post and now I just purchased a case of 80 minute Sony MiniDiscs. What started off as a quick look into the past brought me to a few articles that inspired clicking a buy button. Now I just need a recording deck and a new set of markers to make case art.➵