Cassette Store Day is the Dumbest Thing Ever
Record Store Day is quite possibly one of the greatest things young music fans have ever come up with. Every third Saturday in April, music fans around the world flock to real deal music stores and purchase sweet, beautiful vinyl records from all of their favorite musicians. There are exclusives, reissues, special releases, and there are just old marked down records for fans to cherish. It's like Christmas, but for music nerds.
Somewhere along the way, though, we fucked up. Fans lost track of the fact that Record Store Day was invented for two reasons: records are awesome - well preserved vinyl sounds marginally better than digital recordings - and independent music stores need our support to stay in business due to competition from major retailers and online markets.
From that fuck up, somebody decided that what the real point of Record Store Day -- what the point of the whole "vinyl revival" was -- was to celebrate the kitschy pleasure of owning antiquated technology, i.e. they turned it into hipster bullshit. Enter Cassette Store Day, the dumbest thing ever.
Here's the deal: September 7th is the first annual Cassette Store Day to celebrate the revival of cassettes as a media format by, well, hipsters. Big name indie bands like Animal Collective, At the Drive-In, Guided by Voices, and the Flaming Lips are participating and releasing special editions of their albums on cassette.
The problem with this is that cassette tapes are garbage, plain and simple. Maybe it's the fact that many young hipster music geeks were born in 1995, and they just don't remember what it was like to deal with these things, but I remember, and it sucked.
Why were cassettes a thing to begin with? We had vinyl, we had CDs, so what was the point? The point was that they were a budget-priced alternative which you could play in your car, when most cars didn't come with built-in CD players, and an iPod was years away. They were quick, convenient, and easy. Plus, you could use them to tape songs off the radio, or to make mixtapes for your friends and family.
The trade-off was that cassettes sounded like shit. For every joke that's ever been made about scratched, dirty records that hiss, pop, and skip, cassette tapes were a hundred times worse. The sound quality inherently sucked, no matter what sound system you were using, and it was even worse when you had recordings off the radio, which are poor quality, even before being copied to a tape.
Audio quality was not our concern though. Convenience was. Well, guess what? In 2013, cassettes are now actually less convenient. Most cars are no longer even built with tape players. For convenience's sake, we have CDs. We have iPods. We have iPhones. We have iPads. We have fucking Zunes. Cassettes are actually an oxymoron. They're a modern convenience that is now more inconvenient than any other format.
The Cassingle - the somehow even stupider version of the CD single.
Cassettes were also a great way to share music. Mixtapes, right? Not anymore. Now you can make a public Spotify playlist for your friends to listen to. Don't have Spotify? There's YouTube. Don't have a Google account? Do you live in the Stone Age? Okay, well, then you can burn a CD.
Same goes for bands. Almost every modern computer has a CD burner built in now. In "ye olde" days, bands had to record their demos to a cassette so they could share it with people because making a CD was too expensive. Not anymore. Now you can record directly to a computer and burn as many CDs as you want. It's actually easier and less time consuming to do than making tapes.
Cassettes also sucked because they had a tendency to be fragile. You think vinyl is easy to mess up? Don't even get me started on cassettes. There's a reason Nas famously rapped, "don't put me in your box if your shit eats tapes," in "NY State of Mind."
Even if you did everything properly with your tapes and took good care of them, your player might just randomly eat the thing and refuse to ever come out. Now you've got a ruined tape and a ruined player. Either that or you'd pry it out forcefully and the tape would be forever strung out of its casing.
You'd have to get a pencil and manually turn the gears on it, trying to run the tape back into the case where it would sit properly, but it hardly ever really worked. You might be able to save one in ten tapes from this horrible fate. With all those problems, what's the point in even owning cassettes?
Cassettes are a glorified novelty item in 2013. I still own the first album I ever bought by myself on cassette. That picture to the side is my own cassette of Black Sabbath's Paranoid. I bought it from Walgreen's and it was where everything musical started for me. I keep it for nostalgia, for the novelty, and for the fact that it held such significance to me.
But I don't play it. With so many other options, why would I ever reduce myself to listening to a cassette tape, an inherently inferior format to just about anything else? Yes, I keep the tape, but that doesn't mean I want to go back to the days when tapes were something we really had to live with.
Cassette Store Day implies that cassettes are a thing people really want to come back. It makes absolutely no sense. It's the ultimate in hipster kitsch appeal, and that's just stupid. There's nothing particularly cool about cassettes. They were something that sucked and were improved upon. End of story.
Nevertheless, the phony nostalgia bait crowd is going to put this thing on regardless, and I have to admit, a lot of my favorite bands are in on it. I'll even cop to it: I'm probably going to go to the store on September 7th and buy some fucking At the Drive-In cassettes. And the whole time I'm going to be thinking about how stupid I am for doing it, though, because this is truly the dumbest holiday ever.
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