Ever since the introduction of vinyl, audiophiles have been arguing about which format is the best for music. Was it the crispness of records or the ease of CDs? No matter what side you’re on everyone knew the answer was not cassettes. They never had the best audio quality and were inconvenient compared to the other music formats. It was no surprised when they were quietly phased out in the early 2000s. But in a shocking turn of events, they are trying to come back. Why?
When Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones released Foreverly, I was shocked to learn there was a cassette edition. I thought it was supposed to be a one-time, interesting release for collectors. Then Demolicious got its own cassette, which puzzled me even more. Soon, artists left and right starting releasing their new or exclusive material on tapes: Skrillex, Fred Durst, and Protest the Hero to name a few. For any collector, these are cool items to have, but it’s still baffling. Cassettes never seemed like the popular option when it came to buying music. If anything it was just the cheaper one or your only choice if you had a Walkman. They may have been portable, but they sure weren’t convenient.
When you think about it, cassettes are pretty annoying. Unlike CDs, you couldn’t easily skip songs. Instead you had to fast forward and hope you didn’t stop in the middle of the one you wanted to hear. Also, they had the highest risk of getting ruined: they can easily get stepped on or the spool of tape can get tangled in the player. Personally, I like to own tapes; it’s the collector in me. But whenever I wanted to listen to an album I always went for the CD. Aside from hipsters, I didn’t think anyone cared for tapes anymore, yet more artists are starting to release new material on this format.
It’s even gotten to the point where Cassette Store Day made a comeback. Inspired by the much beloved Record Store Day, several UK record labels created the day to celebrate the diminishing format. It was first introduced in 2013, but since sales were anything but impressive, it was unsure whether the event would continue into the next year. Surprisingly, Cassette Store Day made a return this year with notable artists Julian Casablancas and Karen O providing exclusive releases. While it’s a cute idea, I doubt you’ll see hundreds of people lined up in front of shops to get their hands on exclusive tapes.
It’s a weird new trend in music that doesn’t add much to the listening experience. If anything it just seems like a way to get more money out of people. There are some fans who want to own everything a favorite band of theirs has released, so of course they are willing to spend 10 bucks on a cassette they don’t need. If this is the case it doesn’t seem like a trend that will last long. Sure, a few people will buy into it, but they’ll soon get tired of it and remember why cassettes were kind of shitty to begin with. It would make more sense if there were new cassette players or something like that, but most don’t even own a stereo system anymore.
Other than that, I don’t understand why they’re trying to make a comeback. Maybe it’s a way to play on nostalgia. Or record companies are so desperate for sells they see them as novelty items. Whatever the reason it’s still pretty strange. Even as an avid music lover and cassette collector, I find it bizarre. I can understand the avid love behind vinyl or why some people still turn to CDs. But cumbersome cassettes? It’s kind of hard to believe. Does that mean new concert films will be released on VHS? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.