Did You Miss Cassette Store Day Saturday? Me, Too. Shame.

Saturday (October 8) was International Cassette Store Day? Really? Sorry I missed it.

Actually, I’m not. I hold in my heart the absolute truth that cassettes are an old, outdated technology that deserves about as much nostalgic fondness as a wax cylinder from 1909. Anyone who insists on fetishizing these hateful things wasn’t around when they were the only choice for mobile listening. They sound awful, get jammed and warp and melt in the slightest bit of heat. While I understand that they’re still very popular in less-developed nations with harsh climates–Africa, South Asia, Indonesia–where they continue to serve an important purpose, there is no need to perpetuate the existence of cassettes in the First World.

(Note that I do make the distinction between a physical cassette and the notion of a “mixtape,” which is an anachronistic yet useful term from another era. It’s the same was asking someone to “dial a number” when phones haven’t had rotary dials for decades. A mixtape doesn’t actually involve tape; it’s just another word for a curated selection of music that can be shared. A playlist, in other words.)

Cassettes, though, still have their fans. Even as record stores close, outlets that specialize in cassettes are opening. Dupe Shop at 1185 Bloor Street West in Toronto is one such place.

Manager Malin Johnson had this to say to the Toronto Star: “Not only do we have local labels, but we have international labels represented and we’re getting more and more stuff in by the day….We kind of want to make this a hub of cassette culture. It’s kind of a cool, eclectic mix we’re creating.”

Cal MacLean, the owner of Shortstack Records at 256A Queen Street West in Toronto waxes nostalgic about the cassette format: “It really mean something to make one for someone, choose the songs and sequence them, make the artwork. I think cassettes are really rooted in that personal experience in a way that digital formats have had a hard time recreating.”

Fill yer boots, cassette people. I’ll be busy crate-digging for vinyl.

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.

7 thoughts on “Did You Miss Cassette Store Day Saturday? Me, Too. Shame.

  • October 10, 2016 at 1:50 pm
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    “A mixtape doesn’t actually involve tape; it’s just another word for a curated selection of music that can be shared. A playlist, in other words.”

    Certainly a mixtape can be *just* a sequence of songs, but that is a gross under-selling of the concept. Great mixtapes of the cassette era contained not only songs, but movie quotes, field recordings, snippets of radio, etc. They also, if crafted by an ambitious mixtaper, included a custom sleeve with bespoke artwork. Today one can do amazing things with a DAW to tweak and enhance the audio – and then put it on a cassette, if one desires. Or create a website for the delivery, a la Maxo’s Chordslayer. The options are endless.

    As for fetishizing the “hateful things” – it isn’t really the (fragile, muffled-sounding) cassettes that are driving this, it is the way they (like vinyl, like paper books) facilitate socialization. Not so hateful, IMHO.

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  • October 10, 2016 at 5:00 pm
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    I used to love making up my mixtapes, and like Ken says, they would often include bits of movie dialogue and other things relevant to the time. I still have several suitcases of them in my basement. I hope to one day transfer them to digital. I used good quality tapes, so the sound wasn’t bad at all, and back then, that was all you could play in your car. The format I couldn’t stand was eight-track tapes. Absolutely horrible!

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  • October 10, 2016 at 9:50 pm
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    Thanks for the mention, Alan! My store, Shortstack Records, is actually at 256A Queen Street West, however. -Cal

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  • October 11, 2016 at 12:54 am
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    It’s definitely weird to see this cassette nostalgia popping up lately. I mean, even though I wasn’t huge into vinyl back in the day, I get why people look back at records fondly. There’s a warmth to the sound, the cool (and big!) album cover and artwork, etc.

    But cassettes were just a mediocre technology that was quickly replaced as soon as they came up with something better. I certainly don’t miss them at all.

    It is funny you mentioned mixtapes though, because that is the one thing I do remember fondly. I burned mixed cd’s too, but for some reason it just wasn’t quite the same. But at least we didn’t have to keep trying to find a pen to roll the tape back in after it got caught in the cassette player!

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