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Cassette Tapes Resurgent in Indie Market

October 5, 2011

Well right after record executives and music big-wigs were finished scratchin’ their noggins over the resurgence of vinyl as a popular music medium, indie loving music fans are ready to throw a new bone.

Just when you were ready to bet your life savings that cassettes would never be popular again, hipsters nation-wide have provided the spark to retrieve one of recent history's most cherished musical platforms.

According to an article on USAToday.com, cassette tapes are now seeing a resurgence in sales and production. A study by Nielsen SoundScan reveals that cassette album sales are up 46% from last year, with 22,000 units sold. Last year, that number stood at 15,000. Comparably, vinyl sales have increased 37% since last year, with approximately 2.7 million units sold; the highest vinyl sales year on Nielsen’s records, which date back to 1991.

“Considering not a massive amount of new releases are being pumped out there, that’s substantial,” said Chris Muratore, vice president for merchant services at Nielsen Entertainment. However, he added, “the numbers are still, in the big picture, ‘minuscule.'”

And how. David Bakula, the senior vice president of analytics entertainment for Nielsen, agrees, noting that while vinyl has seen a steady increase over the years, its still to early to know whether cassettes will continue to re-flourish, or merely become a fading trend.

Rob Mason, the owner of Old Flames Records in Brooklyn, New York, added to the report his recognition of more bands moving towards the platform as a cheaper way to produce and distribute their music. (I guess MySpace and Bandcamp are just too free for hipsters.)

“From a musicmaker standpoint, I love it because they are very inexpensive to make,” Mason said. “I can make 100 for not a very large investment. Especially compared to making vinyl — it’s like a tenth of the cost.” Mason also noted cassettes turnaround in production sits around three weeks, while vinyl sits at ten.

Nonetheless, the medium is bringing listeners back.

“Just having that physical copy … shows more support as opposed to buying an mp3 and putting it on your iPod,” said Chris Brown, singer/guitarist for Brooklyn band Total Babes. “There were only 100 copies of the tape made, so having one of those hundred gives you more of an intimate feeling for the record knowing you are one of very few people who have it.”

Collectors items? Yes.

Enhanced fandom? Probably.

Music market significance? We’ll get back to you on that.

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One Comment leave one →
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