June 26, 2024

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Music: Cassette tapes are back and artists are following them – The Financial Postman

Music: Cassette tapes are back and artists are following them – The Financial Postman

When Breakaway Records opened nearly 16 years ago in Austin, the vinyl revival was just beginning. It wasn’t long afterward that analog media fans began clamoring for another ancient format: cassette tapes.

For kids of the 70s and 80s, cassette tapes had a huge place in their lives. But these tapes, which have spent years in drawers at best, may have a useful second life. Cassette tapes are making a comeback, as evidenced by the number of new portable players that have hit the market in the past year.

Britain: Air fryer and vinyl records in the inflation “basket”.


Despite the fact that one would expect this new trend to spread to today’s fifth graders and above, it is Generation Z that is pulling the strings and putting contemporary artists in the game. In its first week of sales, Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets” sold 1.64 million units according to Billboard: 759,500 CDs, 859,000 vinyl records and about 21,500 cassette tapes.

Bloomberg also reports that during a conference in the UK, Blur drummer Dave Rowntree said his 2023 album, The Ballad of Darren, sold 3,000 cassette tapes in its first week, versus “tens of millions of streams on Spotify alone — but tape sales were greater Impact on our chart position.”

There’s another, more important reason why Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar continue to release music on cassette tape, which is to satisfy the insatiable desires of their super fans. When Dua Lipa posted animated GIFs of herself holding the cassette tape of her album Radical Optimism, she was targeting her die-hard fans, who are willing to spend more than the average listener to get albums in physical formats.

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At CES 2024, manufacturer FiiO — known for its headphones and digital audio players — appears to have taken a leap into the past with its first portable cassette player, the CP13. FiiO wasn’t the only company, in 2023 We Are Rewind released its own version of the Walkman, which also supports Bluetooth. In addition, both record companies and artists reproduce tapes.

Given the continued success of vinyl, could this be the beginning of another boom in analogue formats?

The role of CDs

When CDs were introduced in the 1980s, they were marketed as “destructible.” Of course, in the years that have passed, this prediction has been refuted.

But what happens to cassette tapes and their weak point when the device “eats” the thin magnetic tape. The straps are very easy to untie, but We Are Rewind honors the timeless “pen repair” by including one of their “writing utensils” in the box.

Debuting as the Philips Compact Cassette in 1963, the humble cassette became the most popular format in the 1970s and 1980s. Estimates vary, but the amount of tapes still in the world is likely in the billions. This makes tapes a great way to discover new (old) music.

Where can you still buy tapes today?

According to cnet.com, the first answer is on Amazon. You can find titles, new and old, with a huge selection, including Taylor Swift recordings. Second answer: Bandcamp. The third answer is record stores, especially those that deal in used records.

Likewise, cassette players—both high-definition and portable—are available on auction sites like eBay for prices starting around $40. Of course, there’s no guarantee and many of these players are decades old, so the quality will likely vary widely.

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the cost

Low production costs also play an important role. New releases on vinyl often cost up to $35, while cassette offers a similar analog experience for just $10. It may be less precise, but it’s also more fun and easier to move around.

“It’s a great price point for young kids who want to collect a physical item to support their favorite artists, but don’t want to buy a $30 or $40 record,” says Shelley Worsel, CEO of Secret Distribution. “One of our best sellers last year was Phoebe Bridgers because she tends to have a younger audience.”

The trend toward tapes began with shows and movies including Stranger Things and Guardians of the Galaxy, which have an extended track featuring the Sony TPS-L2 Walkman owned by the main character, Peter Quill.

Last year, music industry sales tracker Luminate Data LLC measured cassette sales at 436,400 units, about the same as in 2022. That’s a far cry from 1988, when 450 million units were sold in the U.S., but it’s higher than 81,000 Sales in 2015.

New cassette players

With the proliferation of cell phones and Bluetooth headsets, it was inevitable that a new cassette player would include some of the latest modern conveniences. The biggest change from older players is the inclusion of USB power and/or a rechargeable ionic battery.