Where Have All the Cassettes Gone?

Retro media is making a comeback, but why haven’t cassette tapes joined it?

My personal tape collection, mostly inherited from my parents or purchased at thrift stores

My personal tape collection, mostly inherited from my parents or purchased at thrift stores

Ella Whalen, Staff Writer

As I type this article, I’m listening to some dirty rock I burned to a cassette tape, feeling like a teenage fossil out of the 80’s. I’ve had a sort of passion for these tapes ever since my church cleared out its storage and let me keep a tape deck. As such, seeing the return of vinyl records as a common way to release music, I feel cheated, left out. I see no reason why tapes can’t make a similar return outside of plain and simple chance.

In terms of audio quality, both vinyls and tapes have a similar draw—yes, they aren’t pristine, but their grain has a certain quality that makes hipsters go wild, even ones that don’t have nostalgia for the source. Tapes have the upper hand in terms of portability, though, with a Walkman player being able to fit in a pocket, and a single tape fitting in one’s hand, over a vinyl’s small pizza with pepperoni. While I have seen vinyl covers (and even the discs themselves) get very artistic, similar can be done with a tape if the effort is put in. The only advantage I perceive in vinyl’s favor is being able to hang one’s album sleeves on the wall in a pleasing manner, but that doesn’t seem enough to disqualify tapes from the race entirely.

That is not to say tapes are an entirely dead art. Both tape decks and blank tapes are available on Amazon (among others), including tape decks that record from USB, and I’ve personally bought a professionally produced tape as recently as last year (namely from that Des Rocs concert I mentioned a few months back). It’s more that vinyls are immensely more popular, to the point of being an entire category on said Amazon. Perhaps tapes will have their own boon once they become properly ‘vintage’ rather than ‘retro’, and maybe I’ll be among the leaders of demand for them in my adulthood, but for now, at least the hipster in me has something to gripe about ‘liking before it was cool again.’