Producing cassette tapes is easier, quicker and less expensive. Pressing plants such as Duplication.ca or National Audio Company ask for lower or no minimum number for cassette orders. Cassettes can be recorded at home and the artwork for their paper inserts, so-called j-cards, can single-handedly be printed on a consumer printer or at a copy shop. However, for many cassette tapes are not an audio format per se anymore. Have you ever brought a beautiful seashell home after a trip to the beach? Cassette tapes function in a similar fashion for concerts. They are material mementos that people can pick up at a local gig to support an artist they liked. Compared to vinyl records, cassettes are much cheaper and smaller and so the threshold for picking one up is lower. Like the seashell, they often end up as decoration on people’s shelves especially as many people do not own cassette players anymore.
Cassette tapes produced during the 1980s and 90s by the likes of TDK, Maxell and Sony where utilitarian, had high-grade magnetic chrome tape inside them and were not necessarily pretty to look at. Cassette tapes nowadays in contrast are produced in vibrant colours such as neon green or gold glitter and feature elaborate artwork – they look nice on shelves, Instagram posts and TikTok videos. However, most of them are equipped with sonically inferior ferric tape. In a nutshell, high fidelity audio is out, and premium visual appearance is in which means the cassette tape has experienced a so-called visual turn. As most music consumers don’t own cassette players anymore it is common for cassette releases now to come with a piece of paper that features a download code that can be used to download the Mp3 version of the music or get streaming access. The majority of independent music releases on cassette are distributed on the website Bandcamp that allows artists and labels to upload and sell their music digitally as well as merchandise such as t-shirts, tote bags and cassette tapes.