You're probably familiar with Record Store Day. However, did you know there's also a day celebrating every '80s and '90s child's favorite musical medium: Cassette Store Day?
Technique Records, the only South Florida outlet known to be participating in Cassette Store Day, will have some fun with the other analog medium this Saturday, October 13. Expect exclusive releases by local labels Noir Age, Never Normal Records, Cheap Miami Records, and others; the full list is available on the CSD website, but not all will be in stock at Technique. Plus, hundreds of new and used cassettes will be available for purchase, and mixtape trading is encouraged.
"The cassette was the first medium that I bought music on, that I was actually able to purchase on my own," DJ/producer and Never Normal Records founder Suzi Analogue says. "I was able to buy the newest tape of whatever artist's single was out that week. We are so used to the digital era and 'Oh, the new stream is coming on Friday.' But before that, it actually used to be on cassettes."
Analogue says the cassette single's low price point — usually $1 to $3 depending upon the popularity of the song — made it an affordable option for young music fans. Also known as a "cassingle," the medium was small enough to carry around in your pocket and pop into a portable cassette player at a moment's notice.
But cassettes were already on the way out by the '90s thanks to the rise of the CD and its superior digital audio quality. Napster and the CD-R were the final blow to the cassette's usefulness because they superseded the format's primary function: making mixtapes of your favorite songs. By 2003, all major record labels had discontinued releasing music on tape.
Like the rebirth of the vinyl record, the cassette tape is making a comeback. However, unlike vinyl, which audiophiles claim is superior to today's digital format (that depends upon many factors) and provides a "warmth" lost in the digital conversion, can the same be said about the cassette?
"Most of the first records released until the '80s we recorded on a high-bias tape format — there's a long history there," Analogue says. "When it comes to personal cassettes, that pop and that hiss may not be as warm as vinyl, but there is still a warmth there. When you press play, you can hear things clicking and the wheels turning — it's a whole listening experience in itself. It's different from vinyl, but it's very familiar."
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The cassette revival is banking on the same feeling vinyl provides: a tangible music experience that was lost when MP3 and streaming took over. It's something listeners can hold in their hands. They can also read liner notes and analyze cover art for hidden meaning. Then there's the act of sliding a tape into a player and pressing play.
The cassette's resurgence began as a way for indie acts to release music as a special — and gimmicky — method of delivery to fans. Vinyl's newfound popularity had already been co-opted by mainstream acts, so indie acts used cassettes to set themselves apart. However, today even popular acts are doing it. Jay-Z released a limited-edition version of 4:44 on cassette, and the Guardians of the Galaxy movie franchise, which arguably reintroduced the medium into popular consciousness, has used it as a clever marketing ploy.
Gimmicks aside, without the cassette tape, who knows where the music industry would be. "Cassettes are very integral to hip-hop and DJ culture... That's where the mixtape got its name from," Analogue says. "Cassettes were the first medium to personalize music culture."
Press Play: Celebrating Cassette Culture. 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, October 13, at Technique Records, 853 NE 79th St., Miami; 786-717-6622; techniquerecords.com. Admission is free.