Move over vinyl. Cassettes are coming back!!
Yes, you read that correctly.
Our penchant for vintage records is one thing – but cassette tapes? Those pesky little things you sometimes needed a pencil to rewind? Apparently they’re a ‘thing’ again, especially with younger generations.
After lying dormant for decades, unused and unloved by anyone and any Walkman, the cassette tapes have been resurrected by audiophiles all over the world.
It’s understandable if you’re confused. You may even be asking yourself, “But why?” as you’re left scratching your head. As far as we can tell there are 2 main reasons why people are flocking back to these clear, plastic, magnetic ribbon holding pieces of yesteryear.
Cassette tapes are astoundingly cheap for music producers, making them an ideal medium from a margin perspective. And as we all know, underneath the glitz, glam and artistic glory of it all, the music business is at heart a business. It’s literally in the name. They only cost about $2.50 to produce, making them a really strong option for labels and artists. They’re also great for the consumer, because you can pick up a new cassette tape for about $20 instead of the $45 it costs for vinyl. Or the $25 it costs for CDs. That is if you’re one of the six people who still actually buy those shiny little discs. It’s basically a win-win for everyone involved.
Human motivations are strange. We like to stick with what we know, even if it’s not the best thing in the world. Objectively, tapes are not the best medium to use to listen to music. The sound quality can be lacking and fuzzy (but that’s some people’s thing), the user experience of rewinding, loading, and flipping feels archaic, and they’re kind of wasteful from an ecological standpoint–especially considering how easily accessible streaming services are. But none of those things particularly matter when you’re talking about what makes people feel good. That’s the beauty and the oddity of nostalgia. It’s not just what it sounds like but the whole experience behind listening to it – the familiarity, the feeling, the packaging – everything. Putting on a cassette feels nice for people who are reminded of their younger, happier years when they do it. Nostalgia can cause some interesting motivation for folks, and the cassette resurgence is one example of that influential power.
Whether you like it or not, cassettes are on the up. Fast-forwarding their way back into our hearts and homes. In fact, they’re the fastest growing music media in the world right now if you can believe it. Whatever motivations anyone has, we can’t be completely sure, but we do know that they’re doing their best LL Cool J impersonation to not call it a comeback; they’ve been here for years. The good news is that, next time you see someone rocking a walkman on the street like it’s 1988, you’ll know exactly why they’re using it.
With artists from Billie Eilish to Ozzy Osbourne now making their music available on the format, sales have risen sharply, with close to a quarter of a million cassette tapes sold globally this year alone.
In an article this week for global foundation Luminate, Research Director Paulina Pchelin says “Physical music has proven to have staying power, with growth persisting throughout the pandemic and beyond.”
“What’s fascinating is that these trends are actually driven by younger generations. We know from the U.S Music 360 study that Gen Z makes up one third of cassette consumers, over a quarter of vinyl consumers, and almost one fifth of CD consumers.”
She notes that cassette buyers also spend 227% more money across music categories than the average music listener.
“Music fans show fandom in a number of ways, from streaming favourite songs on repeat to blowing up social feeds and purchasing merch.”
“So when it comes to cassettes, perhaps younger consumers are drawn to the novelty and the vintage aesthetic that also serves as another badge of honour to their love of music.”
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