Cassette tapes never went away. Sure, their function has changed in the almost four decades since the introduction of the Walkman, but tape culture is alive and well. They’re a cheap way for young bands and labels to put out a physical release and, with vinyl production so prohibitively expensive and time-consuming nowadays, it’s becoming a much more appealing alternative form of distribution. It’s no surprise, then, that bigger bands are starting to put out tapes as well, and they’re seeing some great results.
Get this: Billboard reports that the best-selling Record Store Day release was a cassette tape of Metallica’s No Life Til Leather, which sold almost 3,000 copies. (Coming in at No. 2 was The White Stripes’ vinyl reissue of Get Behind Me Satan.) The big sale numbers can be attributed to the fact that Metallica is a huge band, and the concept behind the release is cool — it’s a replica of the demo tape that would eventually land them their first record deal — but some other possible factors are that tapes are a really easy impulse buy, and they are cheaper to ship in bulk to stores than vinyl.
I think it would be pretty safe to predict that we’ll see even more cassette-only releases for Record Store Day next year. (Cynically, bigger labels will probably be able to snag high profit margins.) And if you’re wondering if there’s a Cassette Store Day in the works — well, it’s already existed for a few years, and it’s pretty cool.