Rewind to the 80s!
Man it’s been a long time since we thought about cassette tapes. Years, in fact. It’s been so long since cassette tapes were cool that we would have forgotten about them if not for James Gunn. By the nineties, the CD had staged a hostile takeover and the cassette fell into obscurity — as all losers in the format wars do. What that means is that some people reading this article might have never encountered a cassette in their entire lives. We are dating ourselves a little with this, so let’s move on before we suffer an existential crisis about lost youth.
There are a few reasons we think you should collect cassettes. I mean come on, to start, its a lost piece of history. People tend to focus pretty heavily on vinyl as the most collectible music medium. But we have news for you vinyl heads: you can’t carry a record in your pocket (unless you have REALLY big pockets). This isn’t an an article to bash vinyl, though! We’re here to answer the question, “should I collect cassettes?” We think the answer is a resounding yes.
An entire generation hooked up bulky tape players to their belts and put on headphones. Guardians of the Galaxy got it right, chunky foam headphones and all. As soon as the cd player came out, tape players vanished as quickly as money from our wallets when we go to the record store (do people still go to record stores? Here comes that crisis again). Most people got rid of their cassettes to make room for their radical new CD collection, which means there are a lot less cassettes floating around than you might think. We’re ready to bring back big hair, big dreams, and cassettes.
Audiophiles will grumble all day long about what the digital medium has done to music. There is a noticeable quality loss when you digitally translate sound. By laying a track on tape, however, the music had a warmth and richness that iTunes can never recreate — no matter how many remixes are released. Rewinding used to be a nuisance, but who knew it was secretly protecting the quality of our favorite songs? So if you want to hear your favorite artist in a new light, first of all hope they were around before the 90’s, and then pick up a cassette… a cassette player. It’s worth the effort to experience your favorite band in a new way.
This is something all collectors care about. One of the most satisfying things in collecting is knowing how much your collection is going to grow in value. Surprisingly, cassettes can boast this just as much as vinyl. The nice thing about a cassette is that anyone could make one. Vinyl is a lot harder to produce and requires special equipment, but anyone with a tape player has a record button. This means many major bands you know today made their first demos on cassette and sent them off to labels in hopes of getting signed. These rare demo cassettes can be worth a fortune. Metallica’s drummer recounted sending out 50 to 100 tapes of “No Life ‘Til Leather” in an attempt to get signed. They re-issued the cassette in 2015 for Record Store Day, capitalizing off the growing demand for cassettes. Other rare cassettes include either of the two Boards of Canada tapes which were released only to friends and family, “A Few Old Tunes” and “Old Tunes Vol. 2.” These sorts of releases are highly collectible and worth a good deal of money to the right buyer.
No, not everyone is running to Amazon looking for casettes, but year over year more are being sold. If you want be a hipster, get in before it becomes cool. Right now you can get some pretty choice tapes for very cheap, but if the trend continues, that might not be true for long. If you love audio quality and want to actually be able to carry your tunes in your pocket (let’s face it — even a portable turntable isn’t really portable), cassettes might be the way to go. Sure, you’ll have to buy a tape player, and either use the aux slot in your car or get a retrofit system, but it will be worth it. Retro music players are on the rise, and we think you should get in while the getting is good.