The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Cassettes making a comeback? Time to rewind!

CAVE RECORDS, a specialist vinyl record shop in The Parade, Shrewsbury, is looking to expand its range of cassette tapes.
Hang on a minute. That sounded like a statement from 1973.
But no, it’s true. This is 2016 and they want to expand their range of cassette tapes.
What’s going on here?
Now, I’m sure I’m not alone in having had something of a love-hate relationship with this long-outdated technology. All music lovers of a certain age will well remember the way these tapes used to – every now and then – wind themselves into the machines, and you’d have the devil’s own job trying to salvage the tape without damaging the player.
Often a pencil would come in handy when it came to winding the spools on these pesky cassettes.
Yes, these cassettes were brilliant for making your own personal compilations of favourite tracks, but when they went wrong they were a complete disaster.
So I can’t quite get my head around this resurgence in interest.
Okay, let’s – er – rewind a little bit.
1983 saw the introduction of compact discs.
In 1985 Dire Straits became the first band to sell a million copies of a CD with their album Brothers In Arms.
Sales of CDs took off, the format taking over from vinyl records and also of course taking over from cassettes.
When it became easy to “burn” your own compilations onto a CD, cassettes seemed utterly outdated.
And most of us thought that in 2010 when Sony stopped producing its famous Walkman cassette player, it was all over for the humble cassette. But maybe not.
Firstly, there’s a wave of nostalgia for these things. Secondly, a simple desire on the part of artists to get back to the heart and soul of their music is driving them back to the cassette.
Sales are on the rise as fans flock back, making it clear audiences want a more tangible alternative to Spotify and iPods.
Becki Cave, who runs Shrewsbury’s Cave Records, said of cassettes: “It is not our main line but we are seriously considering it as one again, now that it has become so popular.
“We had a small record label in America offer us cassettes by new artists, and they have sold better than some of our vinyls. Cassettes are cheaper for artists to make and it is clever marketing for bands. It has a grungy, underground feel to it.”
Becki said there is now genuine belief that cassettes could follow vinyl back into the mainstream.
“People like having the product in their hand,” she said.
The fact is, sales of cassette tapes are rising so rapidly in the US that the Recording Industry Association of America is investigating ways to track sales for the first time since the early 1990s.
And mainstream musicians have started producing albums on cassette again.
What’s going to be next to make a comeback – the VHS video?
Looking back over my own music collection now, cassettes are extremely thin on the ground. But alongside my hundreds of CDs and vinyl records, I had 182 cassette tapes in 2010. How do I know this? Because I wrote a blog about it at the time.
Very soon after writing the blog, I got rid of almost all of the tapes.
My wife has always thought of me as a hoarder. Should I now tell her that I might have made a mistake in letting go of those cassettes?
I don’t think I’ll bother recording her response.


  1. It has a lot to do with audible frequencies. Tape wrapping round the pinch roller was due to not keeping it clean therefore ferrous oxide build up on the roller

  2. Hi Phil, I've heard it said that cassettes were often more popular in hotter climates because - unlike vinyl - they didn't melt!
    Best regards,