Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×
Music The Internet

Cassettes Are Back, and Booming (fastcompany.com) 564

Long time reader harrymcc writes: By now, it isn't news that vinyl albums continue to sell, even in the Spotify era. But a new report says that sales of music on cassette are up 140 percent. The antiquated format is being embraced by everyone from indie musicians to Eminem and Justin Bieber. Fast Company's John Paul Titlow took a look at tape's unexpected revival, and why it's not solely about retro hipsterism.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cassettes Are Back, and Booming

Comments Filter:
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:45PM (#53655135)

    The antiquated format is being embraced by everyone from indie musicians to Eminem and Justin Bieber. Fast Company's John Paul Titlow took a look at tape's unexpected revival, and why it's not solely about retro hipsterism.

    There is no reason to use tape aside from "retro hipsterism". (isn't that redundant?) Tape sucks on SO many levels. Anyone who thinks it doesn't isn't old enough to have had to live with tapes. I can see it being kind of novel to someone once or twice but the charm will wear off fast. Seriously, tape has some use cases but playing music shouldn't be one of them. We used it back in the day because there wasn't anything better available.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:57PM (#53655275)

      Sorry, it's not a complete explanation.

      I'm an indy musician.

      I don't have a lot of cash, and I don't have a lot of sales.

      Unit for unit, on small runs, cassette tape is WAY cheaper than any other medium.

      Cassette audio fidelity (or lack thereof) is a fine match for my typical output.

      And for people who want digital fidelity, I include a slip of paper with a download code.

      But yes, from a marketing and artistic standpoint, having a physical product on offer for those who want it is important, and no, streaming and digital downloads alone don't satisfy that need.

      Yes, I was around for cassettes the first time. I was around before CDs. I know all the arguments, and have lived through them. Your casual dismissal is just incorrect.

      • by ChronoReverse ( 858838 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:59PM (#53655313)
        Doesn't a CD-R cost like 50 cents? Is recording a cassette really cheaper than burning a CD?
      • This has to be a troll.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:11PM (#53655415)

        Sorry, it's not a complete explanation.

        I'm an indy musician.

        I don't have a lot of cash, and I don't have a lot of sales.

        Unit for unit, on small runs, cassette tape is WAY cheaper than any other medium.

        Cassette audio fidelity (or lack thereof) is a fine match for my typical output.

        And for people who want digital fidelity, I include a slip of paper with a download code.

        But yes, from a marketing and artistic standpoint, having a physical product on offer for those who want it is important, and no, streaming and digital downloads alone don't satisfy that need.

        Yes, I was around for cassettes the first time. I was around before CDs. I know all the arguments, and have lived through them. Your casual dismissal is just incorrect.

        You can get 100 CD's (printed disks in jewel case) for $139 [discmakers.com] does anyone do small cassette runs for less than $1.39/piece?

        Blank CD-R's are 10 - 20 cents a piece in bulk if you have a very small run and want to record your own.

        And more importantly, how do you find fans that still own cassette players? I don't even own a CD player anymore, all my disks get copied digitally, then they get packed away in a big CD wallet, never to be seen again. The last time I bought music from a small indie band, they emailed me a link where I could download it.

      • Unit for unit, on small runs, cassette tape is WAY cheaper than any other medium. You are wrong. Cassettes are not less expensive than pressing out a stack of CD's. If you aren't seeing that, you should find another outfit to press your CD's.

        By every possible measure, CD's accomplish everything cassettes do and they do it better. I, literally, cannot think of one feature that makes cassettes better except that maybe they archive longer because they are magnetic vs optical.
        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          No. All my oldest CDs work fine, but all my newest cassettes (from the same era) are warped and sound awful. And I live in the relatively dry and stable California.
      • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @04:36PM (#53656105)

        I don't have a lot of cash, and I don't have a lot of sales.

        Unit for unit, on small runs, cassette tape is WAY cheaper than any other medium.

        Perhaps you'd make more money if your fans didn't need to own a cassette player.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Unit for unit, on small runs, cassette tape is WAY cheaper than any other medium.

        Checking with Newegg:
        8 x normal bias 60 minute cassette tapes: $33.30, or $4.16 per tape
        1 x 512 MB USB flash drive: $1.81
        50 x 700 MB CD-R: $11.99, or $0.24 per CD

        Never mind the cost of duplication time.

      • how about this? I also lived through the tape era, buying high end TDK and Maxell. Tapes died because something better came along. Are you REALLY going to tell me it's CHEAPER unit for unit for you to take the TIME to make a tape than burn a CD? And this whole argument about the "warmness" of tapes is goofy. The "tape experience" I remember consisted of hiss you couldn't get rid of no matter how much noise reduction you used, low dynamic range that couldn't be increased without using something like dbx en
    • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:04PM (#53655361) Homepage

      Oh gods this is so true.

      I grew up in the 80s and 90s and cassettes were my main music format at the time.

      The hiss. The tape becoming damaged now and then resulting in parts of your songs being screwed up. The poor speed regulation on many tape decks. The felt pad under the tape becoming damaged or falling out and having to replace it, hoping not to damage the tape in the process. The tape getting "eaten" by the deck. The fact that almost all prerecorded tapes were made with the lowest quality tape possible (low bias, non-metal), so you didn't even get the best quality tape could provided from your music purchases.

      Heck, the technology itself was a hack. Cassettes were originally meant for low fidelity voice dictation.

      Cassettes have literally NOTHING to offer except the nostalgia. If you want a physical copy of your music, CDs are the way to go. If you want to be retro-hipster, vinyl is far better in audio quality and durability. Tapes are a clusterfuck and I remember RELISHING the day I got a CD player and didn't have to deal with them for my new music purchases.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:10PM (#53655395)

      so my 60 year old dad, who tapes shit from spotify directly to tape so he can listen in his car, is a hipster, i got to tell you, i always knew those suspenders he uses are kinda weird

      now it all makes sense

    • by kriston ( 7886 )

      I would agree, since I also lived through this horror, but the most expensive metal tapes with Dolby C processing sound almost like live audio. Seriously.

    • There is no reason to use tape aside from "retro hipsterism". (isn't that redundant?) Tape sucks on SO many levels. Anyone who thinks it doesn't isn't old enough to have had to live with tapes. I can see it being kind of novel to someone once or twice but the charm will wear off fast. Seriously, tape has some use cases but playing music shouldn't be one of them. We used it back in the day because there wasn't anything better available.

      Yep. Back in the days before CDs, I only bought tapes if I had no choice - something went out of print on vinyl and was only available on tape. I've got a small number of old commercial cassettes sold by various music companies. These are real legitimate releases, not bootlegs. Some have long been completely unplayable. I've got a somewhat larger number of cassette tapes I made myself in that era. They all still work, although I rarely do anything with them. Commercial cassette quality was known to be

    • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:27PM (#53655553)

      "It's nice to only be able to listen to what's in front of you, instead of having the entirety of music at your fingertips with Spotify and all that"

      Right, and when I go to lunch I prefer to go to the convenience store where I only have the pre-made sandwiches in the cooler to choose from. That's also "nice". When I can pick from anything I want I just get confused. I prefer it when my choices are today's ham and swiss or yesterday's ham and swiss. Sometimes I pick yesterday's ham and swiss because I appreciate the retro taste of it, I like that the bread just feels warm and fuzzy (where it isn't soggy). I also avoid online dating, when I want a date I go to the closest cheap bar and think it's nice that I'm only able to pick from the selection of women at the bar, I appreciate their retro ages. Sometimes I pick the one without a disease, but I always appreciate a retro penicillin shot.

    • I actually begin to wonder if all this 'retro hipsterism' is just a symptom of people's brains being overwhelmed by so much high-tech, information overload, and a desire to 'simplify' things. Also, there's one thing analog tape can do: you can't load it down with DRM or any sort of copy protection, and so long as the 'analog hole' exists, you can dump audio to cassette tape. Sure, the quality is poor (somewhere between telephone and FM radio, fidelity-wise) but most people aren't audiophiles, they just want
  • meh, i just dusted off my minidisc player last week!
    • If minidisc hadn't had SCMS, and had been agnostic as to "is it music or is it data", it would have had a long run. Probably would still have some uses today, in fact, for backing up modest amounts of important data in physical form. Cassettes... Well, they were cheap, the hardware was cheap, and you could easily power them with standard disposable batteries. If you wanted to go interview remote populations deep in the jungle, and weren't too particular about sound quality, they would probably be a good cho
      • Totally, but Minidisc did get a bad rap, claims that ATRAC was inferior to MP3 which is lie.

        I love my MD player/recorder, it rand on batteries as well as the portable CD player I had, better than the cassettes I had.

        SCMS was a problem. Since cassettes have none of that, let's see how that goes. But copy protection for cassettes was actually inherent. Each generational copy got worse and worse, so digital media actually CAUSED the DRM revolution... Sort of.

      • Full ack.

        Plus the form factor about the size of your palm, could handle it with one hand better than a CD (without bending it) not tiny as current usb sticks being lost forever if you dropped them in your car once.

        They could have made a zip-disc killer if they made a combined data/music drive at that time.. Company policies killing a product.

  • Vinyl recordings, magnetic tape, photo film. All are on the slow uptick since a few years ago.

    • Vinyl recordings, magnetic tape, photo film. All are on the slow uptick since a few years ago.

      Buggy whips soon to follow!

    • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

      I hear wax cylinders are making a comeback!

    • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:18PM (#53655473) Homepage
      I have heard some of the non audiophile arguments for vinyl being popular, usually it is a collector piece with added inserts, special add-ons and larger better cover art. For photos some people just like film and film photography is something that people do because it is film, just like people still paint scenery even though photography does a better job of capturing it accurately. It is now basically art and carries its own unique characteristics that digital doesn't have it will likely be able to keep on like that forever. I still don't see a reason for there to be an uptick in cassette tape as there was nothing redeeming about it when it was new other than it was portable.
    • Baby boomers retiring and trying to get their youth back.

  • Cassetes have died long time ago and were totally pushed out by CD's.

    CD's, at the same time, have been conquered by mp3/digital audios.

    Now if you are talking about a bunch of retro aficionados, who collect vinyl, collect tapes, collect 35mm cameras. I am glad I do not hear that VHS tapes provide a more reliable image and have a soul.

    Realistically, 140% increase is not enough to sustain increased interest in retro technology.

  • Compact Cassettes are nothing but entirely obsolete. Unlike vinyl which might in some cases have desirable audio characteristics compared with an compresses digital audio file, or even a CD. Cassettes just SUCK period full stop.

    They are less seekable than even vinyl (which is quite seekable if you have good turn table) They are all sorts of problems with streching and temperature variation. They don't really have all that great a bandwidth, frequency response. They are fragile. All in all nobody should

    • LPs also give you a couple of nice size pages of interesting reading or imagery and are fun to play. Tapes ALWAYS sucked.
      • Tapes had portability going for them back in the day. You could take a lot more cassette tapes with you than you could vinyl records. Plus, a cassette player fit into your car easier than a record player would. They weren't a great solution, but they were the best we had with the technology of the day. However, their portability edge was surpassed by CDs and then shattered by MP3s.

        The last time I touched a cassette tape was when I found one in my old room at my parents' house and decided to show my kids how

    • Apparently those are all plusses for certain 'noise artists' (no, I'm not looking that up).

      OTOH, you don't need iTunes for it, so there is an upside.

  • percentage games (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Remember, if you sold 1 last and you sold 2 this year, you increased sales by 100%.

    I've seen this game far more than I'd care to count on the sales side.

  • Ironically, the resurgence of new retro hipster media (cassettes) that no one owns a player for is only explained by resurgence of yet another form of retro hipster media (vinyl) that has now become rather obscenely priced.

    Of course, the only thing even more obscene than paying $30 for a piece of vinyl is paying five times that amount for a concert ticket.

    I'm all for supporting artists, but perhaps we could figure out another way of doing it instead of creating another fucking AOL-era of worthless plastic m

  • Fake news? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:56PM (#53655265)

    Is this what they mean by fake news?

  • 140% (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jfetjunky ( 4359471 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:57PM (#53655287)
    So yearly sales went from 10 per year to 24 per year?

    Haha, I kid, I kid.
    • You'll have to try harder if you want parody, because you're more or less describing what is happening.
      I followed the links and deep down I found this http://www.buzzanglemusic.com/... [buzzanglemusic.com] :

      There were 11,489 cassettes purchased during the Holiday Season (an increase of 140% over 2015).

      Holiday season is one month , from end november to end of the year.
      Also

      The biggest selling album (as well as top Christmas album) during the 2016 holiday season was A Pentatonix Christmas with 712,534 sales and the biggest selling

  • I busted out some old cassettes here in the last year. Big fun. I remember a friend who was a Communications and media major in college, and he had this radio engineer professor, and he made a tape with an example of AUDIO HUMMMMMMM. When I popped in those old cassettes, AUDIO HUM. It's kind of cool when the film shoots out of the Polaroid camera. It's just another generation's fascination with the artifacts of the past.
  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:59PM (#53655303) Homepage Journal

    What could be more "retro" than 8-track tape. Imagine pulling few of these out at your next hipster party! Yeah they play continuously and have a hearty form factor to hold the curiosity and make a case for art.

    If this takes off, with my 8-Track horde I will be rich!

    • There were some kids in my high school class that drove their van into a ravine and all died. When the van and bodies were found a week later, the 8 track was still playing Stairway to Heaven.
  • by Lyle Kroll ( 4819757 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @02:59PM (#53655307)
    .....started this craze. lol :)
  • Personally for sound quality I would stick with CD or FLAC format digital file. They are both digital, zero compression and sound great assuming they were mastered properly and you're playing them on good quality speakers. If your speakers are of poor quality or you've lost your high frequency hearing with age, good luck telling the difference.

    I can understand the attraction to tape or vinyl formats however. They have a physical aspect which folks also like. It is neat to see a tape load and play or to

    • by Octorian ( 14086 )

      Except analog magnetic tape is one of those "intermediate shitty formats" that provided convenience in its day and bridged the time gap between the older "good" formats and the newer "good" formats.

  • My art is shit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:03PM (#53655347) Journal

    "Tapes were biggest mostly in noise and hardcore, where the fact that they were degraded was almost kind of an asset," says Keyes. "Because it made it sound muddier and screwed with the dynamics and the sound in an interesting way."

    Translation the artistic works are so poor and of so little value its better if you don't look or listen to closely.

  • all formats, reel to reel, 8-track, cassettes, etc...

    tapes can stretch, sooner or later something is going to hang up and you will have stretched tape, with the exception of computer files CD/DVD is the only way to go, just keep them clean & dry and always keep them in their jackets when not in use so they dont get scratched
  • Hipsterism sure, but I don't buy it that tapes are popular for any kind of economic reasons. Seriously you can create your own CD's for no more and maybe less then tapes.

  • by Scott Mitting ( 4708191 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:16PM (#53655461)
    I've been buying cassettes from local artists for some time now, simply because I like the form factor of the case better. They are a nice shape and stack nicer than the pile of CDs I also have. Most of the CDs remain unwrapped, just like the tapes remain unplayed. I buy these, obviously to support the artists, but as reminders to go online and play their free streams. That's how I actually listen to the music. The physical product (for me) is about artwork and reminders.
  • Actual Numbers (Score:5, Informative)

    by tranZent ( 224631 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @03:19PM (#53655485)
    From the actual report [buzzanglemusic.com]

    There were 11,489 cassettes purchased during the Holiday Season (an increase of 140% over 2015).

Your fault -- core dumped

Working...