End of an Era: 3M Announces Elimination of It's Recording Tape Division

by Dave Oliwa

3M, the company that manufactures Scotch tape, has announced it will close its recording tape division and stop making all video and audio tape next year, including those radio professionals use. If you're a dedicated user of Scotch 806, 996 or Scotch DAT tape, you're going to need a replacement by the end of 1996. 3M's Pro Audio/Video Marketing Director, Dan Rushin, says, "all professional tape will be available through next year."

But, as supplies are gobbled up by those unwilling to make the change (or go back) so soon to Ampex 456, 499, and 467, or Agfa 468 and BASF 911, Sony, Fuji, and others, supplies of 3M tape may dwindle earlier than expected. Some stations and groups make their supplies purchases at the beginning of the year and stow them, using up their tape budget and taking advantage of quantity discounts.

That may also play in the Production Director's favor—a shake-up is always good opportunity to make new deals, and suppliers may be more willing to discount if they think you're looking at other options and other suppliers. Your 1996 budget may buy more than you expected in that circumstance. Why not even ask for a few pancake samples to "test the tape out?"

On the subject of splicing tape, Scotch 67 will continue to be manufactured since it is an "adhesive tape" and is manufactured by a different 3M division.

It is difficult to predict the overall effects of 3M's decision on the broadcast industry. With the ever-increasing footprint digital audio is making in production studios, it may only be a slight inconvenience to change DAT tape brands. For many stations who rely more on analog recording practices, there is going to be more of an adjustment—especially if your station uses Scotch products exclusively. Tape machines biased for Scotch tape will have to be re-biased for the new in-house tape standard. Machines set up for Scotch 806 or 996 are not going to sound good with Ampex 456 or 499.

Few things can be argued like preference for one tape over another. A certain sound or "warmth" may be your spiritual need; how easy the tape sits in an editing block and behaves at lightning razor speed may be the whole criteria for others. It could be the "tzzzzz" on the hi-hats. Everyone has a preference for "the best tape." I know one Dallas Production Director that literally cringes in pain at the sound of the word "Ampex;" no doubt some leftover feelings from being burned by a little formulation problem way back when. I've always been an Ampex kid for editing jobs, and a Scotch man when it came to mastering. All will have to come to terms with the loss of a major supplier of recording tape when 3M closes the doors on its factories.

3M has been in the recording tape business since 1947, when it introduced its first audio tape. The company helped pioneer the video revolution when it developed its two-inch video tape in 1956.

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