When I told my parents I was writing about cassette tapes they actually laughed at me. My dad is always very calm so his jokes tend to land hard: “I can go out to the garage and dig up your old Raffi tapes – you could write about that.” I admit it’s probably perplexing for hip baby boomer parents, who feel like it was just yesterday they bought you your first CD burner (remember those?). Growing up, I was either cherishing their beaten up vinyl collection or too busy spending their money on inkjet cartridges for custom CD-R labels to covet any real cassette tape collection. For me, tapes were just the lo-fi, unsexy middle period that I was born into. The cheap way to do storytime. And now that I think about it, Baby Beluga is probably among the last cassette tapes my parents ever bought. As teenagers we used our car tape decks, but only to plug in our Discmans or mp3 players. So what gives? Why are we talking about tapes again? And how is it possible that last month, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry released their report of 2 million cassette tapes sold worldwide? Sales in the UK alone tripled last year.
Everyone who, like me, all but abandoned cassette tapes more than a decade ago, harbors several conceptions about tapes which, really, are misconceptions: Tapes are “lo-fi”; Tapes are clunky and ugly; Tapes are hinky and outdated; and bands who use tapes are pretentious and/or still in their “demo” stages. Well, guess what – all this conventional knowledge is wrong, and now that I’ve figured that out, I’m hoping to dispel these notions for you, too.
Let me take you first to the heart of Oakland, California, to a little urban cabin dwelling in a back lot off of 29th Street. This is where D Vikram Babu lives, in quiet comfort, with his stash. On the wall above his desk are more than 100 cassette tapes that he’s amassed just this year. Vikram calls himself Tape Famous, and has become an avid tape collector, as well as manager of a corresponding reviews blog. The rest of his collection is in storage in Ann Arbor, Mich., but he fancies the idea of starting from scratch. His room is tidy and impeccably organized, and there the tapes sit, in clean presentation, in a large pine wood storage display from the Napa Valley Box Company. [Read More…]
Cool article on the resurgence of the audio cassette tape as an alternative media for releasing and enjoying music.