Between Radiohead being held to ransom and vaporwave releases, the MiniDisc isn’t strictly dead.
I’ve owned a lot of hardware in my time but one model that always alluded me was a MiniDisc player. My cousin had one in the early 2000s and it was the coolest thing. This was before the days of MP3 players (I got one of those in 2004; a 128MB silver capsule for £20). You could record a whole album onto one MiniDisc or make yourself a mixtape, all in high-quality sound. But they weren’t cheap for a 12-year-old and they died out before I had the means to buy one.
But fast forward to 2019 and they’re in the news again. An anonymous hacker stole a bunch of Radiohead’s MiniDisc recordings and asked for a $150,000 ransom to return them. The band decided to release them digitally, almost rendering the “crime” useless. The only snag is all proceeds towards the sales are going to the questionable activist movement, Extinction Rebellion. But I digress.
There’s also the more wholesome side: new releases on MiniDiscs. The format all but died in the mid-00s but Sony was still selling devices up until 2013. Blank MiniDiscs themselves are still readily available and vaporwave artists are capitalising on it.
This Does Not Compute made a video about the format and their availability with artists such as Flamingosis releasing music on MiniDisc. But are they making a significant resurgence? The real answer is no. It’s still a niche format due to wider cost and availability. Sony stopped making MiniDisc players a long time ago so eBay is your best port of call and prices aren’t cheap for what you get.
When most music listeners have their phones for streaming or, at a push, use iPods, there’s no major market for them. So that’s why the MiniDisc player will remain a niche device for the quirky connoisseur of audio.
Stream This Does Not Compute’s video below.