Sunday, 8 September 2013
Could tapes follow vinyl and make a comeback after Cassette Store Day?
If the crunch of a TDK FE90 gets your hair standing on end then the first International Cassette Store Day was a treat. The celebration of the magnetic reel in plastic casing followed swiftly on the heels of the large-scale Record Store Day celebrations in April across the globe.
Tape day is an event on a much smaller scale, not least as most consigned their tape decks to the attic in the early 2000s, but contains much of the same spirit. The desire to support independent music and look a little different and cool at the same time has driven the creation of both days while guilt over the torrent of free music enjoyed by fans is possibly also a factor.
There are a handful of great events worldwide. A plethora of great shops across the country - from Pie & Vinyl in Southsea to The Music Exchange in Nottingham sold exclusive tapes from the likes of Los Campesinos! and Bonnie Prince Billy. Labels including 4AD, Transgressive and Wichita re-released classics from the likes of At the Drive-In and Deerhunter on tape which were sold across Europe, North America and the UK. In Brooklyn, US there's a tape fair while Tokyo hosted live music.
In London, Rough Trade East and West sold the tapes and the former hosted a couple of live bands. A cluster of tape fanatics quickly surrounded the limited wares on the shop's counter as soon as they went on sale and pawed over their carefully put together casing and beautiful artwork.
Personally, I love the format. As described in Tom Bonnett's beautifully put together interview with me earlier in the week, tapes offer an honest and enticing way to release music. Homemade tapes - which, it appears, did not kill music - can be used to convey everything from romance to pure serendipitous sharing of music while artists' releases can soundtrack a car journey perfectly on tape. At the day, I picked up a couple of crackers - an exclusive mixtape by Jeremiah Jae and Teebs and a special Lex release of JJ Doom's Key to the Kuffs which sees MF Doom team up with the likes of Thom Yorke and Beck. Glorious.
The resurgence of vinyl over the last decade has been driven by a number of factors including more people DJing at home, a desire for a product worth paying for in a digital music world and the popularity of 7"s for indie bands. For tapes too, the use of them as something different to offer fans by cultish bands has become increasingly commonplace and has sparked a mini revival.
However, with many tape decks on the scrap heap, their traditional home of the car glove box now dominated by a Sat-Nav and the fact even staunch musos can't say the quality is better on tape will make this a much harder battle. For now, let's be happy that the nerdy part of our desire for music to feel authentic is appeased by this celebration of a much love format.