I was born in February of 1980 so it is with great excitement that I report to you that cassette tapes are back! I’m biased and acknowledge that nostalgia plays a big role, but I just prefer listening to tapes compared to digital, disc, or even (gasp) vinyl. I know, that isn’t the popular opinion…although I should warn you it is gaining traction in certain circles.
Cassette tapes are surging as sales have continued to show substantial yearly growth since bottoming out in 2014. Guardians of The Galaxy deserves a big thank you for reinvigorating interest in cassettes and inspiring many top-tier artists to return to the nearly-forgotten format. As an equally big fan of comic books (80’s kid remember?) it is thrilling to see Marvel linked to the cassette tape comeback. All I can say is, Excelsior!
For some artists cassettes never went anywhere. I’ve come across numerous punk bands who have consistently sold thousands of tapes a year over the past two decades, an underground folk singer who has achieved great success exclusively releasing cassettes and an always packed music store that only stocks tapes….well that and zines dedicated to the cassette culture.
So with a quick glance you can see that the cassette tape scene is still alive but when we look at the manufacturing figures for cassette tapes and tape decks we can see it much more clearly. The cassette industry is experiencing growth that is reminiscent of the 80’s, which briefly caused a worldwide shortage for a number of months in 2018 as manufacturers expanded production for the first time in recent memory.
Exciting stuff, huh? This is the news we need in an otherwise bleak 2020. For those of you who are on the fence or have yet to know the cassette tape listening experience allow me to give you nine reasons why the cassette is king:
According to a recent Spotify study most listeners don’t even make it through an entire song…listening to entire albums is almost non existent. Cassette listening will rebuild your musical attention span while providing an album experience as the artist intended it.
A Great Way To Record
I can recall laying on my bedroom floor for hours taping songs off of the radio. It inspired me to record my own songs, poems and stories. I recorded live performances for friends. It was a mind blowing new possibility for the average person and still is for many of us.
I’m not going to argue that cassette quality is superior in any way. I will point out though that they have a very distinct sound…an unmistakable crackle. It’s nostalgic and retro and just feels right.
Hidden tracks on an album, whether a studio album or a homemade mixtape, were a staple of cassettes. You can’t hide tracks on a CD, because the number pops up when when you put in the CD. You certainly can’t hide tracks on an mp3 player. But on a tape? Give me that surprise, that bonus. It’s nice to be caught off guard in the way a surprise track is supposed to catch you off guard.
Tapes Don’t Scratch Or Skip
It is a huge bummer when we accidentally scratch a vinyl record or CD because chances are that song is a goner. CDs can also wear out and eventually start skipping which is equally frustrating. This does not happen to tapes. I am still listening to tapes from 1985 that sound the same today.
Nearly all of my friends have a record collection of some sort. I do too. They’re very cool. But walking into the home of a cassette collector carries instant intrigue. They are also smaller and easier to store than CDs and vinyl.
Less Expensive Than Vinyl
Cassette collecting is much easier on the pocket book than vinyl and nothing beats a physical music collection. Streaming is convenient but it is also soulless and cheapens music as a whole in my opinion. I believe albums play a meaningful role in music and my favorite form of album is the cassette. Try it, you’ll like it.
My introduction to stand up comedy was Adam Sandler’s They’re All Gonna Laugh At You album. I was thirteen when it was released. You can imagine! I listened to it on repeat and it inspired me to seek out many comedy albums. Sandlers was my first. It was on cassette and therefore has imprinted a nostalgic fondness that reminds me of laughing until I couldn’t breath.
There’s a reason mixtapes are still being dubbed in 2020…because they rule! John Cusack said it best in High Fidelity, “the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
“the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.” – High FidelityTweet