NBC did a report on them, Urban Outfitters is carrying them, and there’s even a whole day devoted to them. Some might say that cassette tapes are making a comeback.
But according to a local record store, they’ve never left.
“For our store, we’ve never stopped selling cassettes. There’s always been an audience no matter what. Whether it’s because they’re cheap, you still have a boombox, you have them in your crappy car or you just love the format,” said Ryan Eilbeck, manager of Used Kids Records.
On Saturday, Used Kids — located at 1980 N. High St. — celebrated Cassette Store Day, an event that started in the U.K. three years ago and has spread worldwide.
Eilbeck, a 2007 Ohio State graduate who studied English education and is the buyer for the store, brought in close to 100 new and used tapes to combine with the 500 tapes the store already had for the event. People were also invited to swap their personal mixtapes. In the end, Used Kids sold more than 300 cassette tapes in total on Saturday.
This is a large departure from the five tapes a week they usually sell, as estimated by Eilbeck.
Raad Shubaily, an employee at Magnolia Thunderpussy, a record store at 1155 N. High St., said that their store sells even less — an estimated zero to three each week. They did not add or change anything for Cassette Store Day.
Shubaily, a 2011 OSU graduate who studied journalism, has been working at Magnolia since he graduated. He said they put out a box of old tapes they found in the store’s storage with the hope of getting a dollar for each of them.
In the time that Shubaily has worked at Magnolia, he said there hasn’t been anyone asking about cassettes until more recently.
“I don’t get it. I guess it’s coming back, or people want it to come back,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a niche thing, it’s never going to be extremely popular. The same thing is happening with vinyls, though, so you never know. I don’t think people are going to start collecting them the way that people buy records, though.”
Eilbeck agrees that cassette tapes will not overtake vinyl records.
“I can’t see it being as sustainable as the vinyl resurgence, just because the format itself and the equipment that you play it on does not hold up. It doesn’t stand the test of time,” he said.
However, Eilbeck said that he is willing to put up with the “temperamental” tapes because they have nostalgic meaning to him. It is the first format he started listening to music on. He also noted that some like cassettes over vinyls because of how they look and the fact that they are smaller and easier to store.
Besides nostalgia, some are attracted to the medium out of sheer utility. Owner of Used Kids Records, Greg Hall, and Eilbeck said that it is one of the cheapest ways for a band to release a record, citing bands like Saintseneca, the Sidekicks and Mosses as examples of local bands who have released tapes in recent history.
“It’s the new, young bands that can’t afford to put out a vinyl. It’s quick and easy and they can do the recording and duplication themselves,” Hall said.
Beyond that, some simply don’t have the means of listening to music on a more modern device.
“For a while the only thing that sustained (cassette tapes) was young people buying old cars that had cassette slots,” Hall said.
Eilbeck said that people turn in a lot of classic rock and old country tapes to Used Kids but tend to hold onto metal, hip-hop and more obscure punk tapes because those are worth more.
As the buyer for Used Kids, he said he orders according to what customers ask about. He said that people started asking about tapes around the time that the “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack came out in August 2014 in the form of a cassette tape.
“It was shocking how many people started asking for tapes and specifically the mix that appeared on that movie,” he said. “I was like, ‘Why would anyone care about that?’ and then BOOM, mainstream culture. They demand it.”
Urban Outfitters recently added cassette tapes and players to their online store. The High Street location gave away a limited edition mixtape for Cassette Store Day.
Urban Outfitters declined to comment on any plans to send more cassette tapes to the High Street location.
Shubaily said that he did not like the fact that Urban Outfitters is carrying cassettes at all, and Eilbeck agreed.
“They’re this huge corporation with endless money and one of their favorite things to do is co-opt more interesting things from a subculture,” Eilbeck said. “They died in the mainstream, but people were making mix tapes and making tapes because they were cheap. (Urban Outfitters) adopt that idea and repackage it and try to sell it as ‘vintage,’ or ‘kitschy,’ or ‘coming back,’ and I do think that ruins the magic.”