The cassette tape was recently removed from the Oxford English Dictionary, marking the defined end of the old music format. Yet in the small studios of indie labels, cassettes are making a comeback.
The cassette gave small-time artists the ability to easily record their own music—something that helped ignite hip-hop and independent music from the last 30 years.
Yet the value of the cassette went beyond this. When the world switched to the digital format, music became less personal, and the idea of joining in to create music with the mixtape was lost.
“For anyone like myself, who loves music but could never quite master an instrument, the mixtape was incredibly powerful,” said Zack Taylor, who is creating the upcoming film “CASSETTE: A Documentary Film about the Cassette Tape,” alongside Seth Smoot.
“When I started making tapes either for myself or for friends, I was suddenly not just the listener, but also the creator,” Taylor said. “The songs may not have been mine, but the album was: I made it. Your tape was like your fingerprint; it was a product of your own unique tastes.”
Taylor said a key part of what cassettes offered is having something physical. It was the broader experience of music—which went beyond just listening to songs.
“Historically we’ve always been able to pore over an album’s artwork, to smell the paper and the ink of the packaging, and to touch a tangible medium,” he said. “These things have all been pushed aside in recent years. These are also the things that cassette tapes, especially mixtapes, offered in excess. After all, making a tape meant you had to make artwork as well, and challenge your own creativity in order to make a personalized collection of music.”Taylor said he and Smoot wanted to create a documentary on the cassette tape mainly to ensure its place in history is not forgotten, and while interaction of music has now switched from mixtapes and into playlists, “This freedom was first given to us by the tape.”
They are currently funding the project through Kickstarter, and hope to travel the world meeting artists who are bringing back the old school format.