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This chapter considers the clash between the radical accessibility of the cassette and the critical discernment of the music press in the 1980s. As cassette labels sprang up across the US and the UK, they gained the notice of many music zines and radio stations, yet critics struggled to discern what standards the cassette release called for and what level of recognition it deserved. The cassette undermined the distinction between demo tape and finished product, lending a sense of contingency to music releases that would become familiar in the digital age. Music zines that offered to review cassettes were always on the verge of being overwhelmed, and the format's excesses were felt more acutely by gatekeepers situated further upstream who commanded larger audiences.

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