Cassette: ‘Worst-ever musical format’ making a comeback?

by WorldTribune Staff, February 25, 2019

We’ve gone back to the turntable. Are we now ready again to pause, stop, and rewind?

Near the end of the 2000s, the vinyl revival began and while streaming now dominates, the demand for vinyl is rising, industry analysts say.

Between 1985 and 1992, the cassette was the most popular music format. By the early 2000s, pre-recorded cassettes were all but extinct.

“The cassette, long consigned to the bargain bin of musical history, is staging a humble comeback,” The Guardian reported on Feb. 23.

Sales of cassettes in the UK were up 125 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, the report said. Some 50,000 cassette albums were bought in the UK, the most in 15 years.

“It’s quite a fall from the format’s peak in 1989 when 83 million cassettes were bought by British music fans, but when everyone from pop superstar Ariana Grande to punk duo Sleaford Mods are taking to tape, a mini revival seems afoot,” the report said.

DJ Phin, a UK techno DJ who recently released her first Ep on cassette, told the Guardian: “It’s the tangibility of having this collectible format and a way to play music that isn’t just a stream or download. I find them much more attractive than CDs. Tapes have a lifespan, and unlike digital music, there is decay and death. It’s like a living thing and that appeals to me.”

The renewed interest led Urban Outfitters to offer four different kinds of cassette players to its primarily twentysomething audience. Hi-fi store Richer Sounds is selling two, the report said.

Peter Robinson, founder and editor of Popjustice, doesn’t see the cassette comeback lasting.

“Cassettes are the worst-ever music format, and I say that as someone who owns a Keane single on a USB stick,” Robinson told the Guardian. “I can understand the romance and the tactile appeal of the vinyl revival, but I’m actually quite amused by the audacity of anyone attempting to drum up some sense of nostalgia for a format that was barely tolerated in its supposed heyday. It’s like someone looked at the vinyl revival and said: what this needs is lower sound quality and even less convenience.”

Robinson added: “I think labels know full well that almost every cassette they sell is going straight on a shelf as some sort of dreadful plastic ornament. I don’t think it’s much different to the recent trend for pop stars adding pairs of socks to their merchandise lines, the crucial difference being that, for better or worse, socks don’t count towards the album chart.”

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