Hand-crafted audiotapes may teach us a lesson worth remembering.

Hand-crafted audiotapes may teach us a lesson worth remembering.

Where can I get some colorful examples of audiocassette liner notes—like the ones we used to create for friends and others?

Why do I ask? Well, this Friday, I’ll address a banquet hall filled with legal leaders. The Chicago event is the Bar Leadership Institute of the American Bar Association. I was privileged to speak last year on the topic of written communication (primarily how bar presidents can increase their engagement and effectiveness in their presidents’ column, whether in print or online).

This week, my ABA-assigned topic is broader: strategic communication (the program is here). After my remarks, I’ll be joined by three smart communicators from bars around the country, who will speak on communication in print, online, and in person.

So why was I searching online for images of cassette liner notes? (That’s right; cassettes, created in about 1962.)

Well, among the messages I’ll impart has to do with the way all of us want to consume information today. Among the many items I read and watched to prepare my 30-minute presentation, one by Don MacKinnon stood out. He explained what had occurred in the music industry, and how listener interests had led to the downfall of the one-size-fits-all album. And not only have we begun to yearn for the mixtape again in music; we can see the same in various kinds of entertainment.

If in entertainment, why not in law, I wondered? Many of the people I’ll speak to on Friday can recall the heyday of associations. That’s when they controlled most of the means of production, in print and in professional education. It’s when competitors such as podcasts, apps, and downloads didn’t exist. It’s when—kind of—bar associations were record producers. And when we dropped a new album, we could be assured our audience would consume it. The lifting on the part of bars was pretty light.

That’s all changed, of course, and our audience wants a mixtape. That is, they want to curate great content from multiple sources. Smart associations will still be part of that mix, but we’re no longer the only game in town.

mixtape 2 disco mix

So my liner-note search was for some punchy visuals, as well as to serve as a model for my conference handout (a list of additional reading).

I’ll report back on how it all went (maybe I’ll even Slideshare my Powerpoint). And if things go well, I may have an audience selfie to share with you. What’s more mixtape than that?

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