When was the last time you had to rewind your music with a pen or pencil when you wanted to hear a song you really loved on repeat? It’s probably been awhile, hasn’t it? Well, get those pens ready and break out those Walkmans because cassettes are coming back in style!
Yesterday, we explored the world of vinyl and its hipster revival. Today, we’re diving deeper into the nostalgia by taking a look at cassette tapes.
Here’s a fun fact: The best seller on Record Store Day 2015 was a cassette. Metallica’s No Life Til Leather sold nearly 3,000 copies. In recent years, cassettes have even been given their own day to shine. Cassette Store Day launched in 2013, and while it isn’t as popular as its cousin Record Store Day, it’s obvious that there’s a very niche market that still can appreciate the cassette.
In 2014 National Audio Company, one of the largest and busiest cassette manufacturers in the US, produced more than 10 million tapes. In 2015 their duplicated cassette sales increased 31% over 2014. So far in 2016, according to a company spokesperson, they’re well ahead of 2015.
–Forget Vinyl, Let’s Talk About The Cassette Comeback, via Forbes
Cassettes are appealing to both consumers and bands for a lot of reasons. Perhaps the top reason is price. Bands that are just starting out can get 50-100 units of cassettes made for $1-$2 per unit. That’s a huge deal when a band is living on Taco Bell and sleeping in their van on tours. In turn, making cheap cassettes mean selling cheap cassettes. Unlike vinyl, which can be anywhere from $15-$30 a record, a typical cassette at a show is around $5.
Websites like Bandcamp allow artists to self-release their music and therefore cut out the middleman. This is a huge deal in the DIY scene that pride themselves on doing it, well, yourself. Pressing vinyl for small artists is unrealistic, but selling their albums on cassette is a lot more doable and therefore generates more revenue for the artist.
There is also the appeal of owning physical media, like we explored yesterday. Being able to unwrap a cassette and pop it in your tape deck and flip it over to side B when side A has run out can be more satisfying than just picking the next album on your Spotify.
While there are a lot of positive memories associated with cassettes, some people prefer they just stay memories. I asked my followers on Twitter what they thought of the cassette revival and here’s their input:
Sure, the sound quality of cassettes is nothing special. It may be based in nostalgic and aesthetic purposes, but that isn’t stopping chart-topping artists from releasing cassettes either. Everyone from Justin Bieber to Kanye West are releasing cassettes these days.
Could this be the end of making a Spotify playlist for your significant other and instead standing outside their window with a boombox playing a cassette tape? Probably not, but who knows…