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  • The Guardian

The Spotify of the 1980s was Made in Italy

"In 90s Italy, the ultimate seal of approval on a tape wasn’t that of a cutting-edge record label or a stickered quote from a tastemaker publication: it was the varsity-style, hand-printed banner that read “Mixed by Erry”. It adorned everything from regional rap records to collections of Gregorian chants and birdsong, and the fact that it was far from legal was no deterrent – not for customers, nor even the musicians that the lord of Italy’s pirate cassette business was ripping off.

Enrico Frattasio created the pirate mixtape label in the early 1980s, selling his tapes to illegal stallholders in his working-class neighbourhood in Naples, which they flogged alongside bootlegged cigarettes. By the late 80s, Erry had spread throughout Italy and beyond, to Romania and Hong Kong. At its peak, the Mixed by Erry group employed 100 people – including Enrico’s brothers, Claudio, Peppe and Angelo – with an annual gross of around £4m in today’s money.

Marco Messina, a member of 99 Posse, a Neapolitan band who dominated Italy’s hip-hop scene in the 1990s and 2000s, acknowledges that they owe part of their success to Mixed by Erry: “If I think of it as an individual, it’s money that they made from me and I haven’t earned. But in social terms, they have spread my music, allowing it to be better metabolised.”

In Italy, the brand gained a cult status and Erry a divisive reputation. Some see him as a criminal who got rich off the backs of artists; others as someone who brought good music to a wide audience. Now there’s a biopic about him, co-produced by Netflix."


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