Poor Music is an "interactive guerilla art project" that was developed by Pea Hicks. It started when Pea would go around to thrift stores and randomly select interesting looking audiocassettes. These tapes would normally have very mundane music recorded on them, but because of their context they became incredibly interesting and valid works of art.


The idea here is this: context is essential. Without context bands like The Shaggs, Wesley Willis or The Moldy Peaches just wouldn’t be as good. But knowing that these "musicians" just picked up their instruments and played whatever they felt like without the set idea of being brilliant or original makes them that much better.

It’s much the same way with the tapes found in thrift stores; the music can be horrible but if it is interesting and provides insight into a former place and time then it becomes a valid piece of art. It’s the whole "outsider art" theory.


So with that in mind the whole idea behind Poor Music is to record music, spoken word, or any other interesting sound experiment that can be recorded, give the tape a misleading label ("my twelve year old playing at the church battle of the bands in 1983" or "conversation I had with my English teacher"), and then leave the tape in one of those music bins at your local thrift store.

Whoever picks up the tape will be tricked into believing that what they have is a genuine look into the past and into a person but it will all be fake.


  1. Come up with concept. It’s helpful to think of something that could have happened sometime in the 80’s or early 90’s. Throw in some references of current music to make the person think they’ve stumbled onto something really important or way ahead of its time.
  2. Record sound. Use only instruments within your designated time frame. Use a crappy 4 track or a boombox to record; something that will sound very lo-fi and old. Remember, no one will believe your tape if it’s all done with Fruity Loops or something.
  3. Dub tapes. Make as many copies as you can/want. Do not dub onto a new 90 minute tape that you just bought from the store. Go out and find an old looking cassette that looks like it came from the time period you’re recording from.
  4. Write description on tape. It’s better to write descriptions than song titles. Make sure to drop the "date" somewhere on the tape. Do not make any mention of this being fake, that will come later.
  5. Make the rounds. Distribute the tapes to your local thrift stores. Don’t sell the tapes to the thrift stores, just throw your tape in with other cassettes but make sure it sticks out somehow so that someone will actually pick it.


This is important. At the end of your tape you should add the following announcement:

"You’ve been listening to another tape in the Poor Music Series, a guerrilla art project happening in thrift stores in your area. For more information please visit us on the web at www.optigan.com/poormusic.html."