Often scoffed at and regarded as one of the lesser forms of music media, it would seem the Cassette tape has long since gone the way of the slide rule or the home telephone. However, there is one factor that can save almost anyone or anything from permanent obsolescence…Music! This is apparent when you look at the rising popularity in vinyl records. While cassettes may not yet be as big a seller as Vinyl or CDs, we’ve recently had to expand our selection to accommodate the growing demand. Now, this Saturday marks the 3rd annual Cassette Store Day celebration. Similar to Record Store Day, cassette store day features exclusive releases and reissues…but, only on cassette. With cassettes making a modest yet notable comeback, we figured we would pay a little tribute and perhaps explore this growing trend.
I was born in the late 70s and had a little time to soak in the cassette culture before it’s gradual demise, in the 90s, with the advent of the compact disc. I still remember walls of cassettes at my local record store. I remember making mixed tapes, recording songs off the radio and the short lived trend of cassingles. Perhaps I was too young, but I don’t remember any badmouthing of cassettes when CDs arrived on the scene. There seemed to be a harmony between the two formats. You bought CDs because of the convenience of switching though tracks and the sound quality, but you kept your cassettes because you still have a tape player in your car. It would be a few more years before everyone had the ability to burn their own mixed CDs, so cassettes were still the desired format for making mixes for yourself or others. The shift towards digital formatted music seemed to take a more hostile tone towards older formats. Even today, you have the occasional crumb bum criticizing your choice to buy any sort of tangible form of music, over just downloading it. So, where does that leave our once beloved cassettes in today’s musical climate. I suppose it depends who you ask.
As a record store clerk, when asked why people are buying cassettes, and I am asked often, my answer is the same as it would be for vinyl or CDs…”people like music” and cassettes are just another way of experiencing music. And with much of the music we choose to listen to, we love to take ownership of it. Cassettes offer you another way to own your music in a way that is special to you. The same way I love to listen to 78s on an old wind up phonograph, cassettes give you a different perspective. That perspective may be in the context of an anachronistic experience or something more textural. However, there are more practical benefits to cassettes. I recently picked the brain of one of our regular customers who enjoys vinyl records but also has a great appreciation for cassettes. He explained that the cassette format offers more freedom of expression because of it’s length. Cassettes can hold up to 90 minutes of music, which lends itself to more experimental, long form recordings. Also, if you are a smaller band, cassettes are a great alternative to vinyl or CD, if you are looking to do a short run of your album. You can easily do a 100 copy run of cassettes, where most vinyl pressing plants have a much higher minimum. This opens cassettes up as a chosen media for many “DIY” and experimental artists who may have a small but loyal following. There will always be those who enjoy nostalgia, or the exclusivity of obsolete formats. But, like vinyl, regardless of why you get into it, you’re sure to come away with a little more than expected.
The cassette format seems to be one of those things you either get or you don’t. While there may be some converts, I don’t see it having the renaissance that vinyl has seen in the past few years. But, I wouldn’t mind seeing the ever so present negativity towards cassettes become the obsolete. They served a purpose. Where the phonograph helped take music out of the concert halls and into our homes, the cassette helped take music out of our homes and into our day to day lives. And, as with any form of media that introduced a generation to music, I believe it is worth celebrating. So, as strange or unnecessary as it may seem to some, we welcome a “Cassette Store Day.” We welcome any day set aside to appreciate music and the ways we choose to enjoy it.
We will be carrying some of the exclusive CSD releases, as well as our regular stock of cassettes, new and used.
Happy Cassette Store Day!