We’ve heard plenty about the big comeback of vinyl records, in all its warm, scratchy, retro glory. With that being said, the record’s revival is old news. These days, it’s all about the cassette tape comeback.
Load your portable boombox with D batteries because tapes are making a serious comeback. National Audio Company as the US’s biggest cassette manufacturer, reported a growth in sales over the last few years. 129,000 cassettes were sold in 2016, as an estimate. That’s an incredible 74% increase over the previous year, according to Engadget.
Consumers would expect sales trends to be exactly the opposite. One of the few places this antiquated music technology was still in use were older cars with cassette tape players. However, older cars are steadily disappearing from the market. Used cars for sale these days mostly come from the CD player era.
What’s going on with the sudden cassette tape boom? The answer is a mixture of nostalgia, cost-effectiveness and, weirdly enough, Justin Bieber.
History of the cassette tape
Despite commonly being associated with the 1980s, the use of magnetic tape recording technology actually began in 1935. Tape was wound on large reels and played back on a reel-to-reel machine. It was necessary to manually feed the tape into the player deck, then spool it onto the receiving reel. Commonly used in recording studios and radio stations, these tapes were considered too bulky and inconvenient for the home.
1962 was the game changer. Philips introduced the “compact cassette,” after a number of previously failed efforts. Philips licensed their “compact cassette” free of charge. Other manufacturers quickly picked up the design, thereby, making it the market standard. 1965 brought the first pre-recorded music tapes. The cassette tape wouldn’t truly catch on for around another decade.
1979 introduced “The Walkman” by Sony, the first portable music player. Cassette tapes exploded in popularity. This even allowed the spread of Western music and culture into isolated societies like Soviet Russia. The tape enjoyed its heyday as the music industry standard until the 1990s. That’s when the CD finally usurped the cassette tape..
Modern day tape culture
By 2010, the CD era faded as people started listening strictly to digital files. Most Americans got the majority of their music from streaming services like Spotify by 2017. Streaming delivered a massive music catalog without requiring a tangible device or file download. However, many music lovers felt nostalgic. They missed were the days of sharing mixtapes or enjoying the liner notes of favorite albums.
Tapes crept quietly back onto the market. Cassette tapes are cheaper to produce than vinyl records. Underground bands found they could make a mark releasing their music that way. Plus, while not everyone owns a record player, most people have a dusty boombox sitting around somewhere.
Justin Bieber officially brought tapes back into the mainstream in 2016 by releasing his album Purpose in tape form. Urban Outfitters and other trendy stores, began stocking albums on tape as well.
Whether the tape is back for good or just a passing fad, remains to be seen. However, new bands can get in on the latest analog craze. Bands can release their music in this trendy, low-cost medium.
Cassette Duplication & Custom Cassettes for Bands
Looking to get into cassette duplication for your bands next release? Tapes are a great way to attract attention and stand out from the crowd. Concerned no one has a tape player anymore? Put stickers on the casstte tapes including your website. On your website people can listen to your music or download a special bandcamp link. Here’s a few recommended places for for both large and small custom cassettes and duplication runs.