THEY are a nostalgic item for those who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s.
Users of cassette players will remember tediously recording songs on chart radio shows, desperately trying to hit the pause button before the DJ cut in over the music.
If you failed, you could always rewind with a pencil stuck in the reel-hole, splice the offending segment, then make good with sticky tape.
But cassettes were unreliable — often getting stuck and spewing out shiny brown tape — and it took forever to find your favourite track.
So when CDs took over in the early Nineties, few music lovers missed them.
But now the clunky music player is set for a revival thanks to hit film Guardians Of The Galaxy, which saw Chris Pratt’s character listening to his favourite tracks on a Sony Walkman.
The blockbuster’s marketers released the film soundtrack on a cassette that looked like the one in the movie. And now several high-profile artists including Robbie Williams, Coldplay and Liam Payne are releasing albums on tapes.
Record label association the BPI predicts fans will buy 100,000 cassettes in 2019 — double the figures from 2018. And it’s not just nostalgia driving sales. Many customers will be aged under 25.
Retailers including Argos, Tesco and Urban Outfitters are cashing in by selling budget boom boxes starting at £15.
Tony Boothroyd, a manager at online rare record shop Vinyl Tap, says there is “definitely more interest” in buying cassette tapes, with artists such as Kylie Minogue selling particularly well.
He said: “They are cheaper than buying CDs. While some people look at it as nostalgia, you also get a lot of younger kids buying them who weren’t around when tapes were big.
“I think there’s a bit of hipness around it too.”
Around 36,000 tapes had been sold in the UK by June this year, according to the BPI and the Official Charts Company. Karen Emanuel, the chief executive of music firm Key Production Group, said UK-based companies have been “scrambling” to find supplies of tape to meet the number of orders.
But this sales boom remains relatively humble compared with the cassette player’s glory days. In 1989, 83million albums were sold as cassette in the UK.
Sun on Sunday columnist Tony Parsons, who worked as a music journalist at NME magazine, told of his shock at the news.
He said: “I strongly suspect the nostalgia is for lost youth rather than clunky old cassettes.
“Cassettes were — and remain — the worst possible way in the world to experience music.
“It’s true that vinyl scratched, CDs bent and streaming online takes away sonic detail.
“But nothing was ever as naff as cassettes.”