When we think of cassettes tapes, an image of a humble small box packed full of tracks and music pops up. These formats haven’t been relevant for decades. Newer, more modern formats such as discs, CDs and digital downloads became the standard for audio storage and streaming. Essentially defeating the cassettes and vinyl records in terms of purpose.
But all these technicalities and innovations, to a nostalgia lover, can’t provide the same nuanced sounds from the cassette tape compared to in a digital format.
The format itself has been practically dormant in the market until recently. With a resurgence of the cassette tape in terms of sales in the UK- quoted from BPI with over 80,000 cassettes sold by the end of 2019. But the rise didn’t stop there!
In the first half of 2020, demand for the humble cassette tape increased by a further 103% compared to the same period in 2019. That’s over 65,000 cassettes! It just wasn’t cassette tapes riding this trend, 4.8 million vinyl LPs were sold by the end of 2020.
Reasons why we think they are
With this sudden surge of attention and demand, are cassette tapes coming back? Will they become a mainstream format- the fact is compared to streaming and digital downloads; it lends itself to technical inferiority. Sounds quality, portability and accessibility are features the format can’t compete with.
As far as we can tell, technicalities are not why people purchase them.
This is a more subjective factor, but it’s no secret that there’s an emotive motivation to purchasing the format. We like reminiscing about past experiences, for many of us, the format was involved within a good part of our lives. Remember Walkmans, Boomboxes and Stereo systems with their large speakers? It’s the association of the experience, the nostalgia behind listening to those players. The odd satisfying feeling of familiarity when you pop open the plastic cover. All these accounts for the nostalgic influence that may lead to a purchasing decision.
It’s not just nostalgia but people are genuinely interested in the historical format. We can speculate what the main motivation is with this segment. It’s possible the cassette tape is heavily marketed as a form of merchandise, creating interest in the younger generation through aesthetic appeal. There is much reason people purchase cassettes. It can be a thoughtful gift or for personal leisure, maybe for as simple as a curiosity.
To produce cassette tapes is actually inexpensive. For music producers, artists, and studios this makes it more cost-efficient. Especially so if made in bulk, costing as little as £2.00 per item. There isn’t as much emphasis on artwork and design compared to the vinyl LP and their respective sleeves. This makes it an intriguing option within a budget and ideal for a return on investment.
Although pricey compared to streaming or downloadable options, for consumers it might contribute to a sense of ownership, collectivity and tangible support for their favourite artists.
Despite the reasons, we might think about why people are purchasing them and the motivations behind it. Fact is, the format is on a gradual rise and is fast-forwarding itself in the market.
If the resurgence continues well through 2021 there is a possibility of a revival of this age-old media and its reintroduction into the mainstream.
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