Is the cassette celebrating a comeback?
The jokes that the young generation no longer knows what a cassette is have only just come up, and that’s when it comes back. Yes, right, the spooling to the right place, the tape that tended to swell out and get tangled, the clicking noise at the end of a page – all this is actually celebrating its revival. And although most people still consume their music from CDs or as downloads, it can’t be denied anymore: The cassette is not a dead medium. But how strong is this trend really? Is it time to get your old tape recorder from the attic?
Life signs of a species believed dead
The tape was declared dead in 2011. This year, the last German photocopying plant stopped its production. But the compact cassette was never really dead. Lovers of radioplays in particular continued to like to reach for it. It has the advantage that you can restart the tape at the point where you stopped. But also music is still released on cassettes. The Leipzig Company „T.A.P.E. Muzik“ has been producing music cassettes since 2004 using equipment form the seventies and eighties – with growing demand. Sales figures are also rising in the USA, where 35% more cassettes were sold in 2017 than in the previous year. In the UK, growth was even 112%. But Germany in particular seems to be a country of cassette lovers; in 2017 almost as many cassettes were sold here as in the USA: 125.000 units, with a small decline of seven percent. Radioplays such as “The three ???”, “Bibi Blocksberg”, “Bibi & Tina” and “Benjamin the Elephant” are among the most popular. The “Awesome Mixtape Vol. 2” from Guardians of the Galaxy can be found in the top 20 cassette sales.
Why the hype about a draining medium?
Unlike vinyls, cassettes don’t really convince with their sound. They are also not very practical, at least for music, because you can’t skip tracks. On the other hand, this is an aspect that makes the cassette popular again: the trend towards more awareness. You hear the album the way the artist did it. You have more time to get to know songs that you may not like as much at first hearing but there is no shuffle and you can’t just pick your favorite song. For musicians cassette distribution is also a kind of rebellion against the mainstream. A Musician with cassettes stands out, is noticeable. So it’s not surprising that the medium is especially popular in the punk scene. But also modern, experimental artist from other directions are returning to the cassette – and starts like Justin Bieber. As with records, the cassette offers the haptic experience – many people want to be able to “touch” their music again. However, it is much cheaper and produced faster than the LP. This is a factor that is quite significant for nostalgic fans. The cassette fits in well with the second-hand trend and is therefore already trendy again. Cassettes are easy to duplicate and very quickly individually designed. Self-made mixtapes were a proof of love for decades. This romantic tough is still attached to the cassette.
Do it yourself is popular
The revival of the music cassette fits very well into a time that is in do-it-yourself fever and in which handmade, old-fashioned designs are in demand. On the internet you can find more and more pictures of very creative cassette designs. On the Slovak label “Mappa Editions”, for example, a lot of love and care goes into the design of the cassettes and their covers. The musician Glochids designed a transparent cassette in which a little plant is inserted. At the same time, however, you also get lots of creative tips on how to recycle old cassettes elsewhere – for example as a CD holder. So it may only be a micro trend. Despite rising sales figures – for an album the number of cassettes sold usually remains in the hundreds, at most thousands range. But in the end the cassette as an artistic medium could last a long time.