Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cassette Tapes: given a new life

In recent times vinyls (or records as I referred to them in my younger age) have shown signs of resurgence, CDs are still readily available and the digital format is quickly becoming the standard choice for many people's music. However there appears that there is a forgotten player in the music world: the cassette tape.

For the decade of the 80s, the cassette was the main format that the majority of consumers used to listen to their favourite bands, but with the 90s came the CD and by 1995 cassettes were scarcely seen on the majority of supermarket shelves, although they could still be found in dedicated music shops until 2000, but by then they were clearly old news.

Although I Luke music in general, mainstream artists that are constantly played on the radio, TV and appear regularly in the charts do not appeal to me. Rather I like to discover unknown artists through browsing sites such as Jamendo and Bandcamp. I was extremely happy to see recently that indie artists are starting to sell their music in cassette form, albeit in very limited numbers (usually 100 copies). But instead of simply flogging a dead horse, these indie artists are offering the tracks in digital format along with the physical cassette. If the purchase is made through Bandcamp then buyer is offered an immediate download, however with some of the other music sites the cassette includes a download code printed on a card that comes in the tape cover.

Whilst many people may see this as pointless and simply a way of hanging onto the past, the sale of cassettes does offer some advantages for the indie artist. Firstly the limited number means that the artist/band isn't investing a huge sum of money. Secondly an artist selling the cassette stands out from the crowd, it offers the consumer a trip down memory lane as well as also giving them the digital form to sync to their media players. Thirdly tapes aren't likely going to be copied. I'm not saying its impossible, all you need is a USB cassette deck, but the process is slow and the quality is considerably poorer than the files produced by a CD rip or the audio files offered by the majority of music sites. Most people don't have twin deck cassette players any more and blank cassette tapes aren't as readily available as they once were.

So when you look at this from this aspect it, then cassettes may be around, in limited numbers, for a while yet. They're not going to be flooding the market, but there's still some life in them yet.