Cassette Store Day

By now, you’re familiar with Record Store Day, the annual event that celebrates independent record stores and vinyl records. Now, we can celebrate another special music format: the cassette! The first Cassette Store Day will be held tomorrow, Saturday, September 7th.

You may (very reasonably) wonder whether such an event should exist. Are there enough stores selling tapes? Are there enough labels releasing tapes? Are there enough consumers buying tapes? As it turns out, the answer to all of those questions is yes. At last count, there were about 100 stores participating in the event, spanning Europe and the Americas. Participating stores include: Rough Trade (London), Resident Records (Brighton), Vox Box (Edinburgh), Love Music (Glasgow), Rundgång (Sweden), Balades Sonores (Paris), Insula Music (Denmark), Burger Records (Fullerton, CA), Landlocked Music (Bloomington, IN), Music Millennium (Portland, OR), Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles (Chicago, IL), Skully’z Recordz (New Orleans, LA), The End of All Music (Oxford, MS), Omega Music (Dayton, OH), The Corner Record Shop (Kalamazoo, MI), Kim’s Music & Video (NYC), End Of An Ear (Austin, TX), Sonic Boom (Toronto)—basically, all of the coolest places on earth. (I apologize if I didn’t mention your town. It, too, is awesome.)

Participating labels include Sexbeat, Kissability, Suplex, Transgressive, Bella Union, Burger, Night People, Domino, 4AD, Wichita, Kanine, Fat Cat, Jagjaguwar, Erased Tapes, Polydor, (and many more)—these are great labels!—with releases from Fucked Up, Peter Broderick, Los Campesinos!, Fair Ohs, At the Drive-In, Let’s Wrestle, Suicidal Tendencies, the Flaming Lips, Deerhunter, the Pastels, Gold Panda, Haim, Animal Collective, Xiu Xiu, Volcano Choir, Efterklang, Mum, (and many more)—these are great bands!

It seems crazy, I know, especially when set against the recent buzz surrounding high-resolution downloads (the future of music distribution), that we should celebrate the analog cassette (the dirty past of music distribution), but, as we’ve discussed here and here and here and here, the cassette format is still very much alive and necessary.

The percentage of music enthusiasts invested in cassettes is undoubtedly small, but their passion for music may be unrivaled. If you’re interested in some of today’s most adventurous and exciting underground music, look no further than those stores, bands, and labels celebrating Cassette Store Day.

But, really: Why cassettes? Over at Billboard, there’s an interview with Cassette Store Day co-founder Steve Rose, in which Rose explains:

I guess partially because we’ve grown up with them throughout our lives and partially because they are affordable and effective—which makes them still an important medium. However, I’m not really sure if this is an object-light world. Consumerism is huge, as is popular culture and the consumerization of this; and everyone around me seems to be buying way more stuff than most people that I know who spend their money on buying and collecting music. In addition to this, I would say that I am in no way desperate to take to tactile things; I’m as quick to take to something like Netflix as I am to be seeking out something more analogue. This day/event is more about celebrating the continued existence and usefulness of a predominantly overlooked—yet still current—format, rather than fetishizing something obsolete.

For more info, including in-store events and complete lists of participating stores and labels, visit the Cassette Store Day website.

Patrick Butler's picture

dear god, no.  i lived through cassettes once, and they sucked.  but that's all we had.  it was high school.  now it's just a bad joke, like lo-fi recordings.

John Atkinson's picture

Patrick Butler wrote:
dear god, no.  i lived through cassettes once, and they sucked.

Totally agree. But . . . record a live concert with a pair of good mikes straight into a good cassette recorder with something like TDK Super Avilyn tape and the result can sound superb, much better than any prerecorded cassette.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Glotz's picture

I still have my inexpensive Nak DR-3 I bought in the mid 90's, and I've fooled a lot of non-audiophiles into thinking there was a cd playing.  

If I own 1000 cassettes of stuff I don't want to re-purchase, why not listen to what I own? 

What do you tell a Deadhead to do with his 5,000 recording on cassette?  Not listen to them?  Right.  

There are formats we all own music on, and most times we listen for music, not for a transparent to source recording. 

Kyberwatz's picture

I miss those days when you could walk around town with a ghetto-blaster on your shoulder letting everyone around know what impeccable taste you had (it’s a bit like iPod headphones today, only a little bit quieter). But who knows, maybe for one day this year we can bring those glorious times back.

So, on this 7th of September please join me in dusting off those forgotten tapes in the attic and giving them another little play. Sure some will get eaten and others will have completely given up the ghost, but those that survive will bring back memories and leave a warm fuzzy glow in your heart. It might even make you fall in love with the humble cassette all over again. And what could be the harm in that?

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Pro-Audio-Tech's picture

I still have my Dragon and it works great!

Lots of cassettes too, they still sound great. Formats come and formats go but tape seems to stand up with great sound quality over the long haul.

I have cassettes that sat in the sun on my car's dash board forever and still play great!

shiitaki's picture

I fondly remember buying my brand new Onkyo cassette deck as a teenager.  It was a middle of the line unit, with the usualy lights that Onkyo liked to put on their stuff back then.  I used it constantly, it was superior to records which I had been using.

Michael Fremer is now writhing I'm sure.  I nver could get a record to sound good, seems it takes a record cleaner better than what you can buy at a department store, and 'audiophile pressings' instead of the 15 dollar records I had been buying.  The lack of snaps, cracks pops.  Oh, the joys of pulling a cassette out of a player and having to rewind the tape!  Even in he digital age things happen, like Linux destroying the entire contents of a harddrive for no appartent reason.  It's nice to see people who are nostalgic, but not justifying it with crazy logic.  A metal tape could indeed sound incredibly good, but then the recording industry really hasn't changed has it?   It's kinda no wonder the average consumer isn't concerned with quality when the mainstream industry couldn't care, nor has ever cared, about quality.  The cassette was a great format because it allowed the 'walkman revolution', so has a special place in history not mentioned in the article.

volvic's picture

The inventor of the cassette recently said in a Time magazine interview that he listens to CD's and while he feels nostalgic for the old format, prefers to look forward rather than back and concluded by saying "The cassette is history," he says. "I like when something new comes.".  But if you want to get a Tandberg, Luxman or Nakamichi cassette deck one of which I own, now is the time as those machines last forever, and a good qualified technician could possibly breathe new life into it.  

Stephen Mejias's picture

"The cassette is history," he says. "I like when something new comes."

The format lives as long as bands continue to release new music for it.

Et Quelle's picture

Casettes were so much fun as a kid. My favorite toy was the double cassette recorder though now nobody records from the radio. Casettes are the black and white TV. It would be cool to listen to your old ones as I will do after I rescue my 1990's player deck from my Grandma's closet. There is just no point in buying new casettes or recording from the radio.

The MP3 even outshines a casette!

Stephen Mejias's picture

There is just no point in buying new casettes or recording from the radio.

The point is music. To the person interested in a particular band that only releases their music on cassette, the cassette remains highly valuable.

Archimago's picture

"The point is music. To the person interested in a particular band that only releases their music on cassette, the cassette remains highly valuable."

But WHY would a band only release in cassette? I still have more cassettes than LP's - they've had their time in the sun when I was in high school like others around here.

For a band to purposely release only on cassette is more than just about the music. It's also more than just about "lo-fi" - that can be achieved on MP3, vinyl, CD, SACD, hi-res downloads, etc.

All seems pretentious to me.

Stephen Mejias's picture

But WHY would a band only release in cassette?

That's a fine question. I've answered in more detail here, but, in short, I think cassettes offer some simple benefits: For fans, cassettes are fun, easy, and affordable. For bands, cassettes offer a direct and unique connection with their audience.

Rolli666's picture

Somebody shud start a take a dump in a cup day. Perhaps we should celebrate that also.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Try it.