An old format that keeps on giving

Image by Stas Knop

The compact audio cassette tape was first introduced in the late 1960’s, ultimately replacing the 8-track tapes rendering them obsolete. Now more than 50 years later it continues to be popular, mostly among collectors of vintage and rare audio recordings. On the other hand most people do not know that a few companies continue to produce high quality cassette tapes, one of them being National Company, Inc. which not only produces pre-recorded cassette tapes but also makes blank tapes for recording, you can purchase them on their Amazon store online. And you may ask yourself, why are several companies still producing cassette tapes?

The product still seems to be popular as a medium in which to record interviews, even when our smartphones can do it. It also remains popular among musicians to record their demos, in fact in a 2019 interview country music legend Dolly Parton revealed she buys cassettes tapes off eBay because she still uses it them for her song-writing process we can hear on Miley Cyrus’ 2017 song “Rainbowland” that featured Dolly Parton. And yes, when most people think of these tapes the first thing that comes to mind are of those whom collect old or rare ones, our minds doesn’t really understand the interest when new music isn’t released on these compact plastic cartridges. Well that last statement is completely false, today several artists release limited edition tapes that are also limited in number of units, usually remaining under 1,000. The latest artists that have released tapes are Bishop Briggs with her album “Champion”, Bad Bunny with “YHLQMDLG” and BTS with “Dynamite”. These considered collector’s items are bought for under $30 and are then put on websites where the bidding begins leading with a sale that often surpass hundreds, and in some occasions, thousands of dollars.

It’s not to say that you have to wait for these artists to release something in order to get new music on your cassette deck or player, there are now a hand full of companies that have named themselves “Cassette Labels”. Some of the companies under the category of cassette labels include Sanity Muffin, Lost Sound Tapes and Blue Tapes. These are companies that release music not through CD’s, but use cassette tapes to bring attention to rising and indie musicians. Most of the tapes under these labels can fluctuate from $5-$7. Sanity Muffin focuses more on the re-release of of past tapes, they do on occasion release music from independent artists and carry vinyl records as well. Meanwhile Lost Sound Tapes located in Seattle, Washington and Blue Tapes, located in the United Kingdom, mainly carry music from independent artists from a variety of genres. Interestingly, Blue Tapes besides signing and producing cassettes for indie artist, they also have an in house band called “The Blue Tapes Band” and have a few cassettes available online. It is also important to note that some of these companies don’t restrict your purchase to the compact cassette and sometimes, depending on the album, may send you something called a “Download Code” included with your purchase, which assures you that besides having your physical product you also get it in digital media, in case something happens to your tape or you don’t have access to a player at a specific moment.

Whether you’re a collector, a big fan of someone like Bad Bunny and BTS or trying to find new music to listen to, don’t underestimate this old formed. With old and new artists swearing by it, affordable music and improved sound quality it’s no wonder these compact audio tapes continue to thrive even in a digital age and don’t show signs of stopping.

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