Believe it or not, cassette sales grew 35 percent in 2017, and there’s already reason to believe that figure may climb even higher by the time 2018 is through. Just like vinyl before it, the rebirth of cassette tapes as a viable piece of merch for a musician to sell is something few could have predicted, but here we are!
So, as an up-and-coming musician, does it make sense for you to have tapes made when you have a new single, EP, or album coming soon? Below are three reasons it might be worth it... and one cautionary addendum that must be said.
1. It’s another item to sell
When you’re a musician, you need to also be a great merchandiser in order to survive. Sure, your main job must be creating the greatest music you possibly can and performing it live to the best of your abilities, but being a working artist requires so much more these days. People don’t buy music like they used to, so you need to find intelligent, creative ways to get people to spend their hard-earned cash on the tunes you’ve crafted.
[4 Creative Ways to Sell More Merch]
While CD sales have dropped, bundles including them are selling better than ever before. Fans might not purchase your new album on a plastic disc, but if you include it with a T-shirt, concert ticket, or something else and raise the price just a bit, that’s a different story.
You won’t find a massive population waiting for your new music to be released on cassette, but that’s not to say that nobody wants it! Sure, fans can listen to your latest wares on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, but if they see a cassette tape on your merch table at a show or in your online store, they might be intrigued, and that might be all you need to make a sale!
It’s fairly simple: the more you have to sell, the more you’ll sell. It’s not a perfect equation, but a relatively safe one.
2. It might become a collector’s itemMany artists don’t often think of creating something to sell that can be a collector’s item, but it’s never too early to keep that in mind whenever new music is on the way. You might not be a superstar just yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be one day.. .or that you don’t already have fans who love you like someone who’s sitting on top of the charts.
You should definitely be creating merchandise that will appeal to a wide audience, but you also need to go out of your way to appease your diehard fans, the ones who will purchase anything in your store as long as they see a need for it. These are the people who will buy your new full-length on several formats, and if you’re smart about how you package, market, and (as I mentioned before) bundle things, a cassette might also do well for you.
3. You’ll stand out
Everyone has a CD. Everyone is on streaming platforms. A growing number of artists are producing vinyl. So, how are you going to stand out when it comes to merchandise? Having something made that very few other acts bother with is one idea, and it’s been proven to work before.
If you really want to rise above the crowd and get some attention from your fans, potential fans, and maybe even the media, don’t have typical cassettes made, go for something special! Speak to the few companies that still create tapes and see if they can change the color, the shape, or do anything for you that will be catching to the eye.
I’ve just given you several reasons why cassette tapes might be a good addition to your growing merchandise line, but I feel I should also highlight one issue that you’ve probably already thought of before you go ordering large quantities of cassettes. There aren’t many people left who even own a device that can play a tape, and even your biggest supporters aren’t likely to buy both your music and a piece of hardware just to listen to your latest.
Hugh McIntyre is a freelance pop music journalist in NYC by way of Boston. He has written for Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, and MTV, as well as various magazines and blogs around the world. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the blog Pop! Bang! Boom! which is dedicated to the genre of pop in all of its glory.