Everyone loves a comeback tale. Rocky overcame insurmountable odds to defeat Ivan Drago and avenge his best friend, Apollo Creed. A scrappy young country called the United States of America whipped up on one of the most powerful empires in the history of the world to gain its independence. Spongebob Squarepants finally earned his driver’s license. These are the kind of stories that we love to read and hear about.
This is one of those stories. It has the potential to be mentioned in the pantheon of legends like the 300 Spartans defending themselves against an army of Persians, the British rescuing themselves from destruction at Dunkirk, and William Wallace helping Scotland gain its autonomy from Britain.
That’s right; the audio cassette is making a comeback.
After lying dormant for decades, unused and unloved by anyone, the cassette tapes have been resurrected by audiophiles all over the world. As far as we can tell there are 3 main reasons why people are flocking back to these clear, plastic, magnetic ribbon holding pieces of yesteryear.
Cassette tapes are astoundingly cheap for music producers, making them an ideal medium from a margin perspective. They only cost about $1.50 to produce, making them a really strong option for labels and artists. They’re also great for the consumer, because you can pick up a new cassette tape for about $10 instead of the $25 it costs for vinyl. It’s basically a win-win for everyone involved.
Human motivations are strange. We like to stick with what we know, even if it’s not the best thing in the world. Yes, I’m openly saying that, objectively, tapes are not the best medium to use to listen to music. The sound quality can be lacking, the user experience of rewinding, loading, and flipping feels archaic, and they’re kind of wasteful from an ecological standpoint--especially considering how easily accessible streaming services are. But none of those things particularly matter when you’re talking about what makes people feel good. Putting on a cassette feels nice for people who are reminded of their younger, happier years when they do it. Nostalgia can cause some interesting motivation for folks, and the cassette resurgence is one example of that influential power.
Like it or not, hipsters are a powerful force of cultural change. Their motivations are opaque, their tastes inscrutable, and their fashion absurd. Say what you want about the hipsters, but they impact all sorts of industries, music especially. Probably because of the price and nostalgia, combined with the desire to be on the ironic, cutting-edge of cool, Hipsters are making cassettes fresh again.
Whether you like it or not, cassettes are on the up. In fact, they’re the fastest growing music media in the world right now. Whatever motivations anyone has, we can’t be completely sure. The good news is that, next time you see someone rocking a walkman on the street, you’ll know exactly why they’re using it.