Dig out your boom boxes, tape decks and head cleaners because another almost obsolete music format, the cassette tape, is quickly being brought back to life. They’re turning up everywhere, being released by bleeding edge DIY hipster indie bands with a penchant for the self-released EP. Dive deep into your local indie music scene and you’ll see what I mean. Merch tables are filled with them and the frequency of the cassette EP press announcements in my inbox are quickly rising. If vinyl is the format for the high browed music snob, then the cassette is the format for the DIY, crafty crowd.
It’s been a source of great frustration for me of late to discover fabulous up and coming bands live, then realize the only option for continued enjoyment of their music is a format I haven’t owned equipment for in a good decade. Grass Widow, The Baths, Blank Dogs. These are all bands that released music on cassette that I would have liked to have in my music rotation but couldn’t do so because….I DON’T HAVE A CASSETTE PLAYER! God dangit. Who still owns a cassette player? (Besides Blogger Mike who has three. Sheesh.)
Frustration turned to anger after my third attempt to buy music from a band with a cassette only option. (Why, why, why are you making it so difficult to support you?!) Then the anger turned to action. I needed to understand the rationale these artists had for adopting a format that is clearly not widely used. Was it a cost factor? Cool factor? Sound factor? Did they want to languish in obscurity because no one could readily appreciate their music? What…what was the allure?
Welcome to The OCMD trendspotting series, “Cassettes Are The New Vinyl”, where we’ll explore the rational of artists and labels reviving this nearly dead format that so dominated my youth. Tune back in for Part 2 where we’ll get insight from a band and their reasons behind choosing cassette for their physical format.
Moonalice. Heard of them? Yeah, you and no one else outside of Silicon Valley either. Luckily lead guitarist Roger McNamee knows a thing or two about technology, being one of the Valley’s most well-known venture capitalists. TechCrunch reported that the band staged it’s first Twitter-integrated concert at a venue in San Francisco recently and logged 3000 downloads of their music using the platform. Pretty impressive for a band no one’s ever heard of and an eye opening tactic for bands to successfully leverage Twitter as a viral marketing tool.
These so-called Twitter Concerts work something like this: immediately following each live song performed, it’s digitized, uploaded then tweeted about it’s availability with a TinyURL where users can listen and download the song. It’s like a virtual live concert feed. And if a small local band can see that much success, imagine the impact if well known artists jump on the Twitter Concert bandwagon. By golly, I think we’ve just spotted a trend in the making – Twitter Concerts!
According to The Underwire, hip hop artist K’naan is leveraging the Twitter platform in equally innovative ways to promote his music as well. Here’s to Web 2.0!
I’ve noticed lately that every Indie music artist seems to release their singles on 7″ vinyl these days. I see full LPs on vinyl too but this appears to be the predominant trend. Can please someone explain this to me? I just don’t get it. Aren’t we living in a digital age and still fighting for the rights of digital music? I understand the nostalgia for vinyl, cassette tapes and 8 Tracks. But if you’re an emerging indie rock band, what is the practicality of having a merch table full of vinyl singles? I never see anyone actually buy them. I don’t own a turntable anymore, do you? And if you are a band that only has two songs, wouldn’t it behoove you to make them available for download online?
Someone, please help me understand.