Happy Cassette Store Day!

It came to my attention earlier this week that there’s such a thing as Cassette Store Day. And it’s today! Yep, September 27, 2014 is the second annual day devoted to the celebration of cassette tapes.

To mark the day, stores all over the U.S. and the U.K. will be selling special cassette releases by artists ranging from They Might Be Giants to Townes Van Zandt, from Weezer to Best Coast.

Founded in London by three independent labels, Cassette Store Day is kind of like Record Store Day except that it’s more about celebrating the format itself than supporting the businesses that sell it.

Apparently, last year’s inaugural event was a “runaway success.”

So why would anyone want to celebrate such a rattly old obsolete recording format?

Lots of reasons.

According to Cassette Store Day’s UK website, Bobby Gillespie of Scottish rock band Primal Scream loves cassettes. 

“Cassette is a cool medium to listen to music on,” he’s quoted as saying.

“Warm and fat. Good bottom end.”

I’ve got no opinion on the bottom end, but there are plenty of reasons I loved cassettes back in their heyday. They were cheap. Easy to customize and share. And they gave off that wonderful dusty/sweetish smell when you opened their hinged plastic cases. Remember cassette tape smell? Mmm.

These days I mainly love cassettes for the nostalgic pang they give me. They remind me of the days when I had to press my cassette recorder up against the radio speaker to catch snippets of my favourite songs. Of lazy days spent filling those long strips of magnetic tape with songs to give to friends or lovers. Of carefully lettering a tape case insert to make a song list fit elegantly onto that little paper rectangle.

Back when I was first learning how to make radio, I produced an ode to the cassette for CBC Radio 3. It was called The Lost Art of the Mixed Tape. It analyzed the keys to creating a perfect mix and lamented the demise of the culture of the cassette tape.

But Cassette Store Day seems to indicate that it’s not dead after all.

This NME article from last year’s Cassette Store Day offers some compelling arguments for why the cassette format might be on the verge of a rebirth. It points out that you can’t sell MP3’s at a merch table and that cassettes are the cheapest and easiest format for young bands to produce. It insists that Cassette Store Day isn’t just hipster nonsense.

I’m not fully convinced. I still think cassette tape appreciation is going to remain a music nerd niche. Like vinyl collecting, only less pretentious and kinda crappy.

But whether they make a real comeback or not, to me cassettes will always represent thoughtfulness and effort, beauty in imperfection, and the act of listening hard.

How’s that for a good bottom end?

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