NDAs, Obsessive Buyers, and $400 for Sublime: Inside the Baffling Revival of the Cassette Tape – Rolling Stone

Taylor Swift titled one of her albums  1989 , but when  the girl new record Midnights   arrived this week, it really did feel like that year: Fans were able to buy it on LP, CD, and —  find that old boom box —  a cassette . But don’t ask Steve Stepp, owner from the Missouri-based National Audio Company, if his in-demand firm is manufacturing all that tape. He won’t tell you.

“I can’t say that will, ” Stepp says, of both Swift’s album plus last week’s cassette version of Billie Eilish ’s  Happier   Than Ever . “We sign NDAs with the labels. I don’t know why. Some companies are that way. We have done Billie Eilish tapes before, put it this way. ”

Welcome to the unexpected, ongoing , and sometimes baffling world of the cassette revival.  

For much of the Seventies in addition to Eighties, fans happily took to the particular cassette. Thanks to the arrival from the Sony Walkman in 1979, listeners could run, or, yes, walk, to their own private soundtrack for the first time —  and could also make some pretty cool and even personal mixtapes. But along with the onset of the CD, sales associated with the cassette format peaked in 1989; in a symbolic death knell, Sony stopped making the Cascos in 2010. With that, typically the cassette seemed headed the way of this 78 rpm, the 8-track, and other relics from the 20th century music-listening experience.

Nostalgia for the audio cassette would seem to be a stretch. Few could possibly miss tangled tape, cracked cases, together with audio quality that can sound like someone had thrown a blanket over a speaker. But at this point, its resurgence is undeniable. In addition to Swift and Eilish, Lady Gaga, the Weeknd, Maren Morris, and Sturgill Simpson, in order to name just a few, have made some of their albums available on often the format. Next month’s Record Store Day will include tape versions regarding recent records by Alanis Morissette and additionally My Morning Jacket.

That trend — major pop artists joining indie bands in the tape renaissance — partly explains why sales of the format have jumped in the last few years, from 173, 000 in 2020 to 343, 000 last year, according to be able to Luminate. As of this writing, 306, 384 cassettes have been sold in 2022, which means sales are on track to in least match last year’s. “It reminds me from the early days of the vinyl revival, ” says Scott Register involving ThinkIndie Distribution. “I’d go to conventions and speak about vinyl not to mention laughter would ensue. I’d go back the next year and report higher product sales percentages, and also there would be less laughter. ”

The music industry isn’t chuckling. Sensing a new profit avenue, the French company RTM Industries, known for its reel-to-reel mp3, jumped into the cassette market in 2018. According for you to CEO Jean-Luc Renou, their firm has made the equivalent of “more than 2 million miles” of new tape — three or even four times the amount of just four years ago. His company also makes its own portable player, inspired by the Walkman, for $99. Newly produced boomboxes (from Crosley, among others) and other quasi-Walkman devices can end up being found in electronics stores, while companies like TEAC continue to make those home-stereo cassette players with regard to living-room cranking. And cassette decks were being installed in many cars up through 2010, so the respectable road market still exists.

The slowdown in vinyl fabric pressing plants during your pandemic offers also stoked the cassette revival: Compared to the months it can take to press an VINYLSKIVA, companies like RTM can be handed music, artwork, as well as cassettes and have finished tapes ready regarding artists to help sell within two weeks.

So who exactly are buying the cassettes, even if 3, 500 copies sold of an Avett Brothers cassette isn’t massive? Millennials and Gen Z may be tempted to view them as souvenirs, another type of merch that, like vinyl, bonds them to their favorite artists. According to Luminate CEO Rob Jonas, “Millennials in the U. S. are 42% more likely to buy cassette tapes compared to listeners from other generations” as a way to support their own faves. There’s also Gen X nostalgia at play: Pearl Jam, for instance, reissued their particular hit song “Alive” last year —  on the exact even more obscure “cassingle. ” “They buy things you’d never think anyone might buy, ” Chris Holt of Young Ones Records in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, says of Style X customers. “They’re such as, ‘Wow, man, Paula Abdul! ’”

Yet along together with the revival comes all sorts of quirks. One indie act decided this wanted in order to include a 12-panel insert, which measured about a foot and a new half long when unfolded. “We had to find real thin paper, ” says Stepp.

For shops, pricing, which is controlled simply by the labels, can be confounding. Certain tapes sell for between $8 plus $10, while others go intended for upwards of $20. Some new editions, like the brown version connected with Eilish’s Happier Than Ever , have different-colored packaging, which usually can become its own issue. “The color with the shell is starting to end up being a thing, ” says Holt. “People come in looking for a certain color and occasionally they won’t buy that because they want that colour. ” 

Surely to be able to the annoyance of some diehards, special-edition cassettes from the last few years can also fetch jacked-up resale prices online. A limited-edition recording version for Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia can go for $249 on eBay, and the 25th  anniversary cassette about Sublime’s debut 40oz. for you to Freedom can set you back over $420. “It’s a little bit insane, ” says Carrie Colliton of the Record Store Day group. “But people just love what they love. There are people who buy plastic and do not listen to help it; these people just like having a physical artifact. And cassettes are even easier to collect. We can’t underestimate the human love of things that are fun and cute. ”

For some acts, there’s even old-fashioned analog appeal at work. Virginia’s country-rock blasters 49 Winchester just rolled out 300 cassette versions of their very own latest album, Fortune Favors the Bold. “There’s some sort of little bit of warble and hiss on the idea, ” admits bassist Chase Chafin. “But it honestly makes our record sound a little more just like it’s within a time capsule. It has a good life in its personal. ”

To commemorate the release, all six guys in the band decided to autograph the particular cover, which often presented another challenge. “Yeah, some from the signatures are smaller, ” Chafin says. “It’s very hard to indication those. ”


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