Monday, August 9, 2010

Octave-plateau Electronics Inc. family ad, Keyboard 1981

Octave-plateau Electronics Inc. family of gear advertisement including Catstick synthesizer controller, and "The New" Kitten II and Cat SRM II synthesizers from page 39 of Keyboard Magazine 1981.

I'll get to the advertisement in a second, but first - can you believe it? Go to start the computer to scan in this ad, and my computer wouldn't boot. And I haven't backed up any of my scans for about four months. *Panic*

I did manage to get the computer going again, but a reminder to everyone - BACK UP YOUR STUFF!

I've haven't spent as much time blogging about Octave/Octave-plateau ads as I have with some of the other gear companies such as Moog or ARP. But, there is a bit - so, some history first.

Octave's first set of ads in Contemporary Keyboard were... well... very original with their enjoyable custom illustrations, and then they did the musician-photo thing for a while. But it wasn't until Plateau joined the team that they started to focus more on the gear in the photos.

And now with this rare advertisement, I've jumped a little bit ahead in the Octave-plateau time line because I like this ad so much. As far as I can tell it only appeared once or twice in Keyboard (I'm missing an issue here and there during this time period).

Normally I would be bloggin' all over this ad - there is just so much to talk about. The messaging, the gear photos, even the font used in the title "Second Generation Technology". But, as I was flipping through issues to see just how often this advertisement ran in Contemporary Keyboard... er... I mean Keyboard magazine...

Wait? What?

Yes, July 1981 was the issue that Keyboard Magazine dropped the word 'Contemporary' from their name. And not only that, they also dropped the 'All Styles - Amateur and Professional' tag-line as well. A tag line that had been positioned above the magazine title for quite a while.

I decided it was time to look back at the evolution of the Contemporary Keyboard masthead.

Here's a summary of the evolution:

November/December 1975

March 1977
Thickened up 'KEYBOARD' type-face. Widened the flair in the
stem of the 'Y', much like the fashion in pant legs at the time

October 1977
Added the keyboard keys image on far left

August 1978
Changed 'The Magazine For All Keyboard Players'
to 'For All Keyboard Players'

April 1980
Removed 'For all Keyboard Players' from the top right,
and added 'All Styles - Amateur And Professional' above
a much smaller 'CONTEMPORARY' type-face

Masthead changed to 'KEYBOARD' and stem of the
'Y' is narrowed (skinny pants are back in style!)

It's really interesting to see the slow change over time up of the CK logo (until the big 'Keyboard' change in July 81. One of my theories is that as the cost of technology continued to drop, more and more amateur musicians were able to afford gear. Add that to the fact that synthesizers were becoming more and more common in music as well. And although CK had included the tag "The Magazine For All Keyboard Players" since the very beginning of the magazine, I'm thinking the magazine wanted to make sure that the growing number of amateur musicians were being recognized on the cover, without loosing sight of the 'professional' musician either.

But, the big change to 'Keyboard' in July 1981 was the most interesting of them all. Most people I know called it 'Keyboard' magazine anyways, and simpler usually is better. This final change makes total sense.

The communications professional in me always wants to know the reason behind big changes, so I thought it would be interesting to see just how the magazine positioned the July '81 change with readers. I was sure Jim Crockett, the publisher of CK at the time, would mention something in his monthly introductory column.

But when I took a quick look at the 'From the publisher' piece, I surprisingly found NOTHING related to the change.

Could the magazine have dropped 'CONTEMPORARY' in the name without a mention anywhere? That would never happen in today's world. The change would probably be a trending topic on Twitter, and a Facebook group devoted to bringing the original name back would have been created in under 24 hour of the mag hitting mailboxes. Maybe even before.

I contact Jim Crockett, now part of Dameron Communications, to ask him about the changes, and although he doesn't recall the reason behind the April '80 change, it turns out that from the very beginning he wanted the magazine to be called 'Keyboard':

"I originally wanted to call the mag Keyboard, but a tiny mag for teachers had that line tied up as a part of its title (which I don't remember). So I went to Contemporary (smaller type face) Keyboard until their copyright/trademark expired (or maybe the publication itself did). As soon as I was permitted to, I dropped Contemporary and got the name I originally wanted. I never mentioned it, hoping it wouldn't stir up any legal snags."

Excellent! If you look at Jim's columns, there is some evidence that the name change was on its way prior to July. As late as December 1980, Jim was referring to the magazine as 'Contemporary Keyboard' or 'CK' in his column. But in early 1981, he started referring to the magazine as 'Keyboard', even though the title was still officially Contemporary Keyboard.

Possibly even more interestingly, two other subjects came up in his publisher's column that month:

1. Jim mentions that Keyboard and sister Guitar Player magazines were selected as two of the five finalists in the hobby magazine category of the Maggie awards. He gives us a great statistic as well - that music is 'more than a hobby for 2/3 of' CK's readers. Not sure if that bodes well for my theory that a lot more amateur musicians were reading the magazine. Hmmm...

2. Jim announces that 2,000 randomly selected subscribers would be receiving a detailed questionnaire asking for their opinions about the publication, musical preferences, equipment and vital statistics. Change was definitely underway in the industry, and Keyboard wanted to make sure they were remaining relevant to their audience.

I did look back a bit further at some of the other masthead changes to see if there were any mentions in the magazine when they occurred. In the April '80 issue, when the 'All Styles - Amateur and Professional' tag-line was added, publisher Jim Crockett does slip it in to his column:

"You may have noticed that our cover is a bit different this month. You didn't? For shame! We spent hours working on it. The cover story is a more important CK first, though..."
Nice segue! :o)

Anyways, time to run. And I guess I never did get around to blogging about this ad - just got too into the CK history. I'll have to save that for another day. Now it's time to go enjoy the weather and think about a better back-up solution for my scans.

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