The year is 1989, you’re cruising down the street listening to your brand new copy of Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever” on cassette tape and life is good. Then suddenly cassette tapes just sort of fade away, succumbing to the infinitely superior CD.
Being born in the very tail end of the 1990’s I’m barely even old enough to remember a time when cassette tapes were one of the prefered choices for music distribution, So for me cassette tapes were no more than a cool alternative to paying $20 for a new CD or just digging around at thrift stores finding albums for little to nothing.
Flash forward to 2018 and artists like Justin Bieber, Eminem, Post Malone, and Metallica, have all released their albums on cassette tape. Sales of cassettes have risen immensely in the last 10 years with a notable increase of 35% in 2017. This was all thanks in part to the release of the Marvel film “Guardians Of The Galaxy” which heavily featured the format. Still, with that being said Cassette tapes still remain an incredibly niche format that only the deepest of music fans attempt to track down.
The slight increase in sales of the format has kicked off this new wave of retro and nostalgic culture that has been ripe with people who are just looking to relive their youth or a teenager who’s curious as to what it was like listening to music on old formats. In some ways though, deep within the music industry, cassettes never really went away:
Independent record labels have used the cassette as a prime choice for music distribution since the early late 1990’s, This is because maybe certain artists aren’t making enough money to have records or even CD’s pressed, with many bands just making “DIY” copies of their albums in order to sell them at shows.
The cassette also brings with it an aesthetic quality that can’t seem to be replicated anywhere else whether it be vinyl records or CDs, there is nothing like the tape hiss of a cassette which is a certain quality that definitely can’t be replicated with a digital file.