Like most people, we’ve heard lots of chatter about a cassette comeback over the years, but zero evidence of any actual cassette sales. Now, that could be changing, with a nostalgia wave potentially lifting the left-for-dead format.
Something’s happening this time around, and artists are responding. Just last week, LA-based artist Transviolet mysteriously started sending cassettes in the mail, and even dropping a copy to the personal home address of a DMN writer. But this is going way beyond simple publicity stunts, with artists like Arcade Fire, Metallica, Green Day, Method Man, Born Ruffians, Foals, Sebadoh, and Mac DeMarco tossing smaller-run cassette releases into the mix.
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Those releases will further boost Cassette Store Day, which happens globally on October 17th. Which sounds a lot like another once-tiny event, Record Store Day.
“There’s the nostalgia of holding the audio cassette in your hand.”
Keep laughing, because there are actual numbers this time around. National Audio Company, one of the last manufacturers of cassette tapes, sales of cassettes crossed 10 million last year. In a discussion with Bloomberg earlier this month, National president Steve Stepp also noted that sales are up 20 percent this year. “Probably the thing that has really enlarged our business at a faster phase than anything is the retro movement,” Stepp said. “There’s the nostalgia of holding the audio cassette in your hand.”
Here’s where this gets even more interesting. Stepp pointed to production contracts with major labels Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, with the rest coming from various indie artists. Overall, 70 percent of the cassettes being produced by National are dedicated releases, with just 30 percent blanks.