Cassette Store Day: Indie Artist Shares Passion For the Forgotten Format (Q&A)

Cassette tapes aren't completely on the comeback trail, but the semi-forgotten format has recently been making inroads. This year alone, artists like She & Him, MGMT and Rilo Kiley have issued cassette releases -- albeit in very limited quantities.

Those cassettes represent a tiny fraction of the overall album sales market in the United States. So far in 2013, cassette sales amount to just 0.02% of overall album sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Comparably, the resurgent vinyl LP has a 2% share of the album market. Still, there is enough support of the niche format from indie-minded acts that a new holiday celebrating the 3”/4” piece of plastic has been launched: Cassette Store Day.

Cassette Store Day Co-Founder Steve Rose on Top 5 Exclusive Tapes, 'Cassette Stores' (Q&A)

Like its unrelated big brother, Record Store Day, the cassette-focused festivities on Sept. 7 will take place around the world at many independent music retailers. Most of the retailers are located in the United Kingdom and United States, but there are are couple participating stores in such countries as Sweden, Finland, France and even Argentina.

More than 50 cassettes are being released for Cassette Store Day, from acts including Haim, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, At the Drive-In, Volcano Choir and Bright Light Bright Light.

Billboard.biz spoke to Bright Light Bright Light (aka pop singer/songwriter/DJ Rod Thomas) for his views on Cassette Store Day, the format in general and why he's releasing a special gold cassette edition of his album "Make Me Believe In Hope."

Billboard.biz: Why are you releasing "Make Me Believe In Hope" (Blueprints Version) on cassette?
Bright Light Bright Light: I'm a huge fan of cassettes; they're how I first started buying music. My friend Jen Long is one of the people who started Cassette Store Day, and when I heard about it I really wanted to do something for it. My album came out on cassette when it was initially released and the cassette run sold out on pre-order, so it was nice to do a special cassette reissue.

What's the appeal of cassette tapes? Do you own a cassette deck?
For me, as you can't really skip through a cassette with any ease, I love how the format encourages listening to an album right through. It's nice to draw attention to continuity of a record and the order of tracks. And yes, I own four cassette players.

Do you have any fond memories of cassettes from back in the day? Any favorite cassingles?
I have very fond memories of buying "All That She Wants," by Ace Of Base, with my pocket money. And very happy memories of taping songs off the radio making compilation albums of my favorite songs, and making mixtapes for friends. What I love now is that Goodwill and thrift stores are usually well stocked with really cheap cassettes, so you can get some amazing bargains.

Have you talked to other artists about cassettes? Have any of them weighed in with thoughts on the format?
I know a lot of people who love cassettes, but it's mainly indie artists I know who still use the format. A U.K. journalist said it was interesting I make pop and still use cassette, which I hadn't really thought about. I like the warmth a cassette tape adds to otherwise clean production.

What's your preferred format for consuming music? Streaming? Digital files? 8-tracks?
Cassette for playing something right through, and vinyl for sound and the actual process of starting-and-stopping play. I find that digital files leave me cold. They're so useful for immediate needs, but I forget I have songs or albums if I have to buy them digitally.

You're playing Festival No. 6 on Sept. 14 in the U.K. What can we expect of the show, and do you plan on tracking down Nile Rodgers, who plays the next day?
Sadly, I have to leave the same night, so I'll miss Nile, which is almost unforgivable, isn't it? The shame when you're a touring band is you rarely get to see anything beyond your own set, especially at festivals, where you don't often get to stay for other days.

 


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