Ongoing History Daily: The longbox, part 2

A major complaint of record stores in the early 80s was the cost of installing new shelving to display this new thing called the “compact disc.” After investing in displays for LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, and cassettes, the last thing they wanted to do was build another type of shelving for CDs. This is where the longbox comes in.

CDs come in cases roughly 6 inches by 6 inches or half the width of an album. “What if,” said the labels, “we put this 6 by 6 CD in a box that was twelve inches long? That way, you retailers could place two CDs side-by-side in the same-sized bin that held LPs?”

And so the longbox was born.

This packaging lasted for a few years before music fans got real angry at the environmental impact of all this waste, especially the full plastic ones. They were also almost impossible to open—and when you did, you could cut yourself on the sharp plastic.

Longboxes were eventually phased out and new bespoke display shelving for CDs was brought in.

Part one of the story can be found here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Ongoing History Daily: The longbox, part 2

  • May 27, 2021 at 10:26 am

    OH CRAP!!!! That makes so much sense!!!! I always wondered what the story was with the longbox!!!! I used to cut them up and put them in my locker, or my bulletin board at college. God, I wish I would have kept a few!

    I bought Paul’s Boutique in 89 when it came out, but I have no memory of the box. I do remember when the controversy about them started Spinal Tap put out an album in an extra-long box. “It’s very shape pays homage to the trees of our planet’s noble forests.”


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