Music History

Are Cassettes the New Vinyl? (Jeezus, I Hope Not…)

Good riddance to cassettes. They’re about as relevant to today’s world as an 8-track or a 78 RPM record. They sound like crap, get jammed up and warp. And eventually, the glue holding the magnetic particles to the tape eventually dries out causing the music to disappear into a cloud of dust the next time you attempt to play it.

And speaking of playing it, how many people still have a workable cassette machine in the house or car? Yeah, I thought so.

If you’re a collector, great. Go nuts. But to suggest that cassettes are experiencing a resurrection akin to what we’re seeing with vinyl is beyond stupid. Yet even Popular Science–which should know better–has been sucked into this bullshit scenario.

There are those of us past a certain age—say, 30—who have a relationship with the cassette tape. A recognition of its existence as something more than a box of things in the corner of a garage sale, a two-and-a-half-by-four-inch plastic vessel containing 60, 90, or 120 minutes of musical bliss. The folks behind the Billboard chart-topping Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack know this, and in celebration of our cultural obsession with nostalgia and subpar sound quality, they’ve announced a special cassette edition release on November 17.

Is this a valid format reboot, or just another sentimental product play left behind by the crashing ’90s tidal wave? Do we need another musical medium that involves more hissing and scratching than a pissed-off alley cat? The cassette’s brutal, sudden demise is real: 2001 saw 49.4 million tapes sold, dropping to 8.6 million in 2004, 274,000 in ’07, and a mere 34,000 in 2009, all of which were probably singles of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”

There are, however, some solid arguments for a return to rectangular plastic form.

Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37921 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Are Cassettes the New Vinyl? (Jeezus, I Hope Not…)

  • Two words… Mix Tape.


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