photo from Wikimedia
For a while I could not get over the fact that this new generation would have no idea what a VHS is, or dial-up internet, or cassettes. Now, it’s seeming like at least part of that was misconstrued.
I remember my purple boom box. I remember listening to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness with my dad. I remember listening to Tragic Kingdom with my mom. But more than anything I remember playing my cassette of The Rugrats Movie so many times that it stopped working. That’s not going to happen with an MP3.
A few years back, I found my family’s old tape collection (including the Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt, and Rugrats albums). The next day I went to a Unique Thrift Store and bought my first walkman since 1999. It was an Aiwa TX388 Super Bass and it cost me less than $2. A $2 walkman and a collection of cassettes that cost no more than $5 per album sounds a lot better than a $150 iPod with songs that start at $0.99 each. Plus, I would prefer a physical copy of something over digital any day. (Kindles, I’m looking at you.) CDs are compact (hello it’s a part of their name), but discmans are bulky and don’t quite fit anywhere. The decision to continue on this analog adventure was, for me, nostalgic, convenient, and economical.
I scoured thrift shops for more tapes until I found safe havens like Cheapo and Extreme Noise. Before long, I noticed a movement. More and more contemporary bands started to release their albums on cassette along with their CD and MP3 counterparts. This is most commonly found in the DIY punk and hardcore scenes, but it is quickly traveling through the channels and becoming an apparent trend.
In our very own capital city of St. Paul, a fairly new cassette-only distribution label is capitalizing on this. Tridroid Records is an independent company that “produces and distributes limited quantities of cassettes for bands of all shades of metal.” Rolling Green Records is another budding Twin Cities collective. They aren’t cassette-only, but most of their releases can only be purchased on tape (which includes the new split EP from Minnesota sad boiz Unturned and Remo Drive). In regards to the expenditure of producing cassettes, the owner of Sanity Muffin (another cassette label) claims that he can release five tapes for the cost of a single CD.
People have been commenting on a potential cassette comeback for years now, but it seems to finally be here. In 2013 Burger Records began hosting a Cassette Store Day in conjunction with their annual Record Store Day. In 2014 Disney paired up with Record Store Day to release a cassette of the Guardians of the Galaxy album Awesome Mix Vol. 1. In 2015 Record Store Day will be held on April 14th, when even Metallica will be releasing a seven song demo strictly on tape. It’s impossible to track sales of tapes that don’t have barcodes, but National Audio Company reported an 89% increase in cassette sales in 2014.
I am very happy with my current tape collection. An old boombox is perfect for mixtapes, and new albums being released on cassette creates the perfect combination of nostalgic and contemporary. Whether this becomes a full scale resurgence or dies out in a couple of months, I suggest you pick up a cheap walkman before you miss out.