Back in the early 80’s it was a great time to be a metal fan. Metal bands were exploding all over the place, but the difficult thing was finding out about them. See back then there was no YouTube and no internet. Yeah you did have MTV, but I am talking about underground unsigned bands. A great way I discovered bands was through tape trading. What is tape trading you say. Tape trading was you would send somebody a blank cassette (60 min or later on 90 min) and they would fill it up with demo bands for you and send it back. If there were certain bands you were looking for, you would send them a list of what bands you were looking for and they would send you a list of what bands they were looking for or even a musical style they wanted and yeah it took a few days and sometimes weeks (if the person was overseas), but man oh man did you get to hear some great music back then.
The funny thing is when I read some old interviews with bands that had just released a demo and they might have only made 100 or 200 copies of it they would get amazed that they would be getting fan mail from all over the place. That was because of tape trading. I didn’t do a ton of tape trading, but I did some back in the day and one of the tapes I got back in 1982 was Metallica’s “No Life Till Leather” demo, which was big time tape traded back in the day and this also helped them to getting their record deal with Megaforce.
Some bands back then recorded even rehearsals to be traded and even helped send them around to all the underground metal maniacs. Back then I never heard or read about a band being mad or pissed off about their demo or demos being traded around as yes some bands were obviously selling their demo, but back then most just wanted to spread the band name in the hopes of possibly getting a record deal with one of the few indie labels that were around back then and there wasn’t a lot back then to.
Now I didn’t have the biggest list, but my god some people back then had huge lists. Of course you also ran the risk of “rip-offs” as people were known back then as you would send them your stuff and get nothing in return. Another thing was that live shows were bootlegged and were also traded back then, though this went for more of the bigger bands at the time like Slayer, Exodus, Metallica, etc.
Obviously trading still goes on, but it all done of the internet now. There are plenty of sites where you can illegally download album releases. This hurts record sales now as not as many people buy records anymore, they just rather go and download a MP3 of a release. Me I like having my CD copy myself.