Why the F**K Are We Still Talking About Reviving the Cassette?

Yeah, yeah, I get it.  There’s something retro-romantic about making mix tapes. Hell, I must have made HUNDREDS in my life, carefully selling a running order to fill up as much tape on each side as possible. And yes, I make lots of mix tapes for women for whom I had a fancy.

That was then. This is now.  We’ve moved on.  As I’ve said many times before, there is no reason for the cassette to survive. It should be pulled from life support and declared DNA. In fact, I’m all for smothering the patient with a pillow.

Cassettes were (are) crappy sounding music storage systems. They degrade, they jam, they melt in the sun. And how many people have a working cassette deck?  The last factory-available in-dash cassette player in cars disappeared with a final Lexus model about five years ago.

And please don’t start comparing cassettes to vinyl. At least vinyl sounds better. The cassette audio always, always sucked. So why–WHY?–are people so nostalgic for such an inferior music storage medium?

Yet I keep running across articles like this from The 405.

Burger Records is just one of hundreds of tape labels in operation (see, OSR Tapes; Spooky Town; Hooker Vision; Night People; Gnar Tapes, just for a taste). What they all have in common is an unwavering aspiration to capture the essence of underground music, and share it with others. This can range anywhere from bedroom and noise music, to metal, punk and hip-hop. Some focus on albums, others on live recordings or works-in-progress. The aim is simply to operate in opposition to the capitalistic aims of maximizing profit.

One idea that tests this theory is the emergence of Record Store Day and Cassette Store Day. Revealing that from around 2007 these formats have successfully become revitalised and ‘back in use’, the need to illustrate this through selling product seems a tad ironic. Sure, CSD reiterates to music lovers that cassette culture is still alive and kicking, and independent stores are joining arms to rejoice. But wherever there is a beating heart the masses are sure to follow. CSD has proved that more high-profile bands are taking a newfound interest to tapes. Various labels now issue limited edition tapes; the likes of Flaming Lips, Animal Collective, and Haim, just to name a few. Bands that even in the semi-mainstream realm have approached the craft a little off-centre.

Ugh. Make it stop.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

8 thoughts on “Why the F**K Are We Still Talking About Reviving the Cassette?

  • February 4, 2015 at 9:49 am
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    I agree cassettes are stupid and are only cool in some stupid hipster bubble. lets get real. the cd is the optimal sounding product which contains both physical and digital formats in one, can be uploaded to itunes. it is the only physical product, the most recent one in the evolution of formats, to do this. the mp3 is a digital copy of the cd. the artist which does not transfer to cd first is not a real artist, does not have a real record, simple. that is it. not a lot of artists have the balls to do this these days, of course showing us that instead of billions of artists, there are now only a few, as of course was mentioned before.

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  • February 4, 2015 at 11:24 am
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    Agreed. Cassettes are garbage.

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  • February 4, 2015 at 7:24 pm
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    The more moving parts, the worse the format. Cassettes, reel-to-reel and 8-tracks are all equally worthless. They all have a certain kitsch appeal, I get that, but they are prone to sub-standard fidelity and they have a fairly short lifespan.

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    • February 4, 2015 at 7:28 pm
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      And the idea that a cassette is an affordable option for distribution for young bands is nonsense. Recording software can be found for free and professional-quality CDs and booklets can be printed at home with a very small investment, much cheaper than having packaged cassettes made up.

      Reply
  • February 21, 2015 at 4:48 pm
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    Liam — this lame article sucks and so does the 405’s . case closed ! in fact , 99.9999% of all writing about music sucks big ones , I’m sure you know — musicians generally think it’s “ridiculous” . cassettes are cheap , rivaled only by CDs — remember how some people have less money ? heard of hiphop ? a big part of so-called “tape culture” . all that said , you do look a lot like the guy from Body Double so that’s really cool . : ) — OSR Tapes

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  • February 21, 2015 at 4:51 pm
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    WAIT , I take it back , the 405 article is a rare example of a tape-culture essay that DOESN’T suck . but I still think your “piece” sucks the big one in the sky . love , Z

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  • May 25, 2015 at 5:09 pm
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    You are a “historian of new music” yet you dismissively write off a vital part of the underground attempting to preserve and release music on their own terms? A collective go fuck yourself from the musicians and label curators actually making “new music”.

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  • May 25, 2015 at 5:17 pm
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    . Oh you interviewed U2 !!! I would rather swim in a pool of rotten shrimp. You look like you aspire to interview Billy Joel

    Reply

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