Since 2007, Record Store Day has celebrated and promoted independent record stores in the United States. Now Matt Flagg hopes to emulate its success for the humble cassette tape.
Flagg, a musician and cassette label founder, helped launch the first-ever Cassette Store Day, slated for Saturday, Sept. 7. It will be marked by by events in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Argentina, and a couple dozen new tape releases (including some from recognizable names like Animal Collective, Los Campesinos!, and Deerhunter).
If you're thinking of breaking out some old Boyz II Men and Amy Grant, stop right there. The cassette tape format is "alive and kicking," says Dazed Digital's Zing Tsjeng. Yes, folks, cassette tapes have cache these days.
In an interview with Tsjeng, Flagg makes the case that the cassette tape revival is more than "pointless nostalgia."
It is affordable in a climate where vinyl costs so much to make. Small runs are easy to do and cost little and weird releases that may not warrant the £1000 to invest in a release can be put out for £100 or less! I have released demos, live and compilations of unreleased tracks that didn’t make the cut. I love these songs, but most labels cannot afford to get them out in normal means and an mp3 or download is a hollow format, it literally has no substance. For many, a physical format is still the way to enjoy music.
Flagg also points out that tapes are a very democratic medium — anyone can record on them or make their own mixes.
"Imagine a world without tapes, and I wonder if the world would have seen Daniel Johnston, or Grandmaster Flash or Guided by Voices?"
And the possibilities for cassette packaging and design make them attractive to both makers and collectors. They're more customizable than CDs and more DIY than albums. They're the 'zines of the music world.
If you'd simply told me that indie kids were into cassette tapes, I'd probably have rolled my eyes. But an ex was way into noise music, where cassette tapes are huge. He had bunches. Seeing the creativity that went into these tapes, I couldn't dismiss them as nostalgia-mongering or pointlessly twee.
Photo via Sub-Culture