Day 6

The cassette tape's comeback

This month marks the 37th anniversary of the Sony Walkman and a technology many had left for dead is in the midst of a major revival. Cassette tape sales are rising rapidly in Canada so producer Michelle Macklem set out to investigate why so many people seem to be coming back to cassettes.
A customer looks through a collection of cassettes in Brooklyn, New York during the second ever Cassette Store Day. ( William Edwards/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen8:48

Cassette tapes are making a comeback - and with this month being the 37th anniversary of the Sony Walkman's introduction in 1979, we sent Day 6 producer Michelle Macklem to investigate what the deal was.

Ashly Gatto-Cussen is a customer service and sales rep for Duplication.ca, Canada's largest tape duplication company. And if you've bought a tape in recent months, it's likely been duplicated there.

"In 2008 we sold a total of about 3,700 tapes and now we're doing about that much production every day." That's a 30,000% increase! So who's buying these tapes?

Large companies like Urban Outfitters are responsible for the largest tape orders, but they they're far from being a harbinger of the cassette's return. Smaller labels and bands have been steadily releasing tapes with the support of local record stores, like Toronto's June Records. Patrick Grant is a music specialist at the store and explains why tapes are a popular choice for bands who want to leave their mark with audiences.

"People who want to support their bands but actually are more digitally inclined can buy what is essentially a good looking business card and bring home an object from the show you can put in your pocket."

Cassette tapes are a cheaper and faster way of getting music out to fans, but there's something more at play. Professor Paul du Gay from Copenhagen Business School co-authored the book "Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman" which uses the Sony Walkman to talk about our cultural practices and symbols.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: A 1980 Sony Walkman 'Stowaway TPS-L2' is pictured during a press preview for the Victoria and Albert Museum's new Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art on November 2, 2015 in London, England. The gallery will officially open on November 4 and features items including a Hello Kitty! rice cooker, toaster and kettle and the first ever portable Sony Walkman. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images) (Getty Images)


"[The Walkman] is about a kind of lost past...something that required more work to know about bands, different types of music and it kind of symbolizes an age that's gone."

That age may be gone, but for now, cassette tapes are here to stay.

Listen to our Day 6 documentary to hear Ashly Gatto-Cussen, Patrick Grant and Paul du Gay reflect on why they still listen to tapes and why you may be inclined to pick up a couple.

And... because we had some fun reliving our many, many, many mix tape stories we decided to create more (tape and story).  We've offering a Talia Schlanger original, hand-made, old-school, fully decorated mix-tape to the one listener.



Here's the deal: think up your favourite mix-tape story - making one, giving one, getting one - and e-mail it day6@cbc.ca. Remember to include your mailing address. We'll pick one winner and send out a one-of-a-kind  cassette that may or may not include Shaggy.

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