February 23, 2024

Cassettes Are Back Again, But In A Big Way In Japan

I’ve written in the past about the imminent revival of the music cassette tape, and a mini-boom seems to come around every 7 to 10 years or so. Well, it’s happening again but this time things might be different, thanks to what’s happening in Japan.


It appears that Japanese youth have taken quite a shine to pre-recorded cassettes to the point where there are even cassette-only music stores opening up. At the ever-present Tower Records there (yes, it continues to thrive), both new and used cassettes are demanding more and more space at the store as the number of titles continue to grow.

Tell Me Why Again?

By now you’re probably wondering, “But why?” If you’re under 30 years old, then you’ve never experienced the format before so it all seems brand new. After listening to years of crappy compressed music online, the sound of a cassette can be a revelation with its new (if you haven’t heard it before) analog warmth. And yes, in Japan it can even be considered a status symbol, and, at around $7, it’s much cheaper than vinyl.

In the United States the cassette seems to be under a continuous revival, as we keep getting reminders that the format is not going away. For instance, yesterday I received a press release about a new “reinvented” portable cassette player from a company called We Are Rewind. Toshiba also is said to have a new player coming out called “Walkie,” a nod to the original Sony Walkman that started it all back in the early 80s. You can’t have a cassette revival without more players out there, so this is a must-have addition.

While the major labels aren’t exactly jumping on the format, they’re not ignoring it either. Major artists like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and Billie Eilish now routinely release all of their latest material on multiple physical formats, including cassette.

The point is that no one ever thought that vinyl would make a comeback, yet alone continue to grow as it has. The same thing could happen to cassettes as well.

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