The history of Philips Digital Compact Cassette 1992 - 1996


Happy hometaping!

Just in time for the launch of Philip’s DCC hardware, US congress handed American consumers and the music and hardware industries their ticket to new digital music technologies on Oct. 7th 1992 by passing the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992. President Bush signed it into law on Oct. 28. The law will permit importation and sola of home digital recorders such as DCC and Minidisc. It also legalizes audio home taping, permits limited digital copying through the use of the Serial Copy Management System, and provides a royalty to performers and sound recording and music copyright owners. The original bills were introduced in the Senate and House on Aug. 11, 1991, following a historic compromise agreement between the music and hardware industries to move ahead with digital home-taping legislation that would include royalty provisions to compensate for home taping losses.

Roll your tapes

Like the hardware the introduction of software was too problematic. The scheduled Oct. 1 1992 launch of prerecorded DCC software in Japan was postponed more than a month following discovery of defects in cassettes made under license by JVC. Polygram rolled out pre-recorded DCC’s tapes on November 3th 1992 in 300 music retail outlets in markets where the hardware launch accured: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, the Northwest and Florida cities. On Nov. 3, Polygram Group Distribution released Bon Jovi’s “Keep The Faith” and about 37 other DCC titles. UK-consumers got their prerecorded tapes on Nov. 9th, three weeks after the first players became available. Japanese record companies began selling a total of 200 DCC titels in mid-November. Capitol/EMI released 20 DCC titles Nov. 17 and released another batch Dec. 8. BMG has 20-25 DCC titles in store in December 1992. MCA released 38 DCC titles Dec. 15.

Philips president: “A genuine quality product”

The National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers named Philips Electronics N.V. president Jan Timmer as the keynote speaker to its 35th annual convention. The convention was held in Orlando, USA March 6-9 1993. Timmer’s held his speech on March 7 and it focused on the globalization of the music industry and its impact on the retail community. Ken Terry of Billboard magazine interviewed Philips president Jan Timmer days before and wrote down some nice quotes. In a 1986 speech Timmer (He was president and CEO of Polygram between 1983 – 1987 – DCC museum) cautioned the industry against embracing digital audiotape too quickly. ,,Back then, he and other label executives were concerned that a premature DAT (Digital Audio Tape) launch could nip the incipient CD bonanza in the bud. But today, with the CD firmly implanted in the marketplace Philips and Polygram are vigorously promoting their latest product, the digital compact cassette. Asked how he views the initial process of DCC, Timmer says he is “very encouraged”. ,,We always wanted to put a gennuine quality product on the market, and when I read the reviews about DCC, I’m very proud of our achievement.” Timmer denies that there is a competitive situation with MiniDisc which was launched around the same time as DCC. ,,I never look at MiniDisc in those terms.” he explains. ,,In my view, it’s a different product for a different consumer category. I don’t see direct competition between the two carriers.” (Billboard 1993-03-13)

Portable DCC’s and free music to boost sales

Portable DCC’s and free music to boost sales
Philips and Panasonic both launch a first portable DCC-player early September 1993. Philips DCC130 and Panansonic RQ-DP7). Players in the market said this was the moment they all waited for. It should give the DCC the boost as uptill this moment in history sales were… well… not that great. Fictures are very hard to find. In most countries sales were that low that the never even made the statistics. Gerry Wirtz, a Philips spokesman, admitted that the decision to launch in late 1992 with only an expensive home deck, initially priced at $800, had probably lost the format some momentum. Yet Philips said it felt the need to prove DCC's more-than-accept-able soundquality first, then promote the portable and automotive systems' advantages. At the Berlin meet (September 1993), Philips disclosed no sales figures, describing them as "irrelevant." (Billboard 1993.09.11) Christian Jörg, VP of new technologies at BMG International, adds, "This is certainly going to be much more important for us than the launch of the home deck. So we are excited that the portable is being launched finally, and I think it will help us sell some prerecorded tapesfor the Christmas season." (Billboard 1993.09.04) Philips has said all along that the key marketing position for DCC is as "the portable extension of the CD" (turf to which MiniDisc also has laid claim), and the company already has begun an aggressive national campaign keyed around the portables. Buyers of Philips' DCC portable or home units from Sept. 15 -Dec. 31 could  choose 12 DCC titles from 36  listed on mail -in coupons. Panasonic's give-away, which ran until March 1994, required a customer to mail in a proof of purchase to get two free DCC titles from a list of 20.

DCC Tour Bus hit the road

Philips decided after approx. 6 months after the release of its first homedeck DCC900 that marketing had too change. Philips and Polygram hit the road with a multimarket bus tour to support the launch of the new DCC portable players. The DCC Music Express Tour kicked off Oct. 25 in Nashville and hit cities including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Madison and New York. The bus stopped at consumer electronics retailers and music merchants. Consumers were invited abroad the bus to check out a variety of products.

“DCC seems like it’s gone already”

On the 36th annual National Assn. Of Recording Merchandisers convention, held March 19-22 in San Francisco, USA it became clear DCC and MD were not filling a gap, left by a dieing cassette. As written down in Billboard Magazine many retailers and some major distributors vowed to support the analog cassette until a replacement is viable. “Even Jim Caparro, president of Polygram Group Distribution, whose parent company Philips introduced DCC, showed strong support for the analog cassette. […] Similar support for the analog cassette was declared by BMG Distribution president Pete Jones, who opened the BMG product presentation and vowed that the company is "committed to the cassette until consumers make it clear that there is a successor. DCC, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found in PolyGram's product presentation which led some to assume that the distributor is backing off the new configuration. Caparro later downplayed the omission of DCC. DCC hardware from Philips and other manufacturers was prominently displayed on the exhibit floor, but the unspoken message that DCC is in trouble seemed clear to retailers. "DCC seems like it's gone al ready," said Doug Smith, head buyer for Carnegie,Pa.-based National Record Mart. "No one’s even mentioned DCC."  Most retailers feel it is too soon for either of the new configurations to catch on. As one major retailer noted, people in middle America "still listen to eight -tracks." (Billboard 1994.04.02)

Warning signs

In 1995 it becomes clear the DCC is not performing well. Salesfigures are in some cases to low to mention and Philips is lacking commenting them. Minidisc is doing better, but that format too is not the long awaited precessor of the analog cassettetape. Or the portable version of a CD, the public is waiting for. Billboard, who covered the CES in 1995’s January issue speaks to Sheryl Feuerstein, executive director of DCC Group Of America. ,,She admits "it is no secret that[DCC] has not taken off as we had expected or hoped." But she insists that the  configuration requires "a longterm commitment, and everybody is still committed to making this happen." Feuerstein notes that Philips and Matsushita -the co- developers of the format -are the only major hardware manufacturers of DCC at present. Philips' DCC decks appear under the Philips and Magnavox brandnames, while Matsushita manufactures DCC hardware with the Panasonic and Technics logos. Feuerstein declines to release software or hardware figures for DCC sales, other than to say, "There's a lot of product in the marketplace. [...] Philips Consumer Electronics did not have a booth on the floor, and it did not promote the format publicly, according to a company spokesman. Philips did, however, demonstrate its DCC gear in its private suite at a hotel near the convention site, and it announced a new home deck and its first record /playback portable model.” (Billboard 1995.01.21). Figures about sales of prerecorded DCC’s tapes are hard to present. We at the DCC museum believe a total number of approx. 1000 titels have been released by a handful companies. At the start of the sale of DCC we believe approx. 400 – 500 titles were available or became available in two months after the first sales. DCC has been pronounced dead by industry executives, and the health of the rival MiniDisc is frail (Billboard,Feb.11 1995).

Philips stops production of DCC

Philips took eventually the digital compact cassette  out of production. In the pressrelease from oktober 1996 the company says “DCC will only be made for professional applications”. For the Japanese market, Philips are releasing a MiniDisc player in the near future (they did under the brand of Marantz – DCC Museum). Eindhoven’s Dagblad wrote down (translation by Jac Goudsmit): ,,A spokeswoman for the company acknowledged this yesterday. "We are still delivering the product, but we aren't making it in large quantities anymore". Last month, Matsushita, known from the Panasonic and Technics brands, announced that they would stop with DCC. Philips announced earlier that they would release a couple of new models around this time. At the introduction, four years ago, Philips had high expectations about its own invention. DCC was going to be the successor of the ever successful cassette. Every year, around 2,500,000,000 tapes and 200 million players are sold. DCC had to compete against Sony's MiniDisc system right from the start. In Europe, that system didn't become a success, but in the Far East, MiniDisc is very popular. Philips is going to produce it for the Japanese market as well. The hardware will be sold under the Marantz name. In february this year, Jan Timmer who was President of Philips at the time, admitted that sales of DCC were below expectations. According to him, it had become a "niche product for audiophiles". Timmer made clear that it would not be kept in production at any price: "We have to make the balance sometime: how much did it cost, what does it bring in and what are we doing with it now".

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