The UK Perspective on the Current Cassette Revival

Why On Earth Did I Start a Tape Label?

Running a Cassette Tape Label in 2015 is like going to the school prom in a wheelchair. It’s nice that you went, people smile and pat your head, but nobody wants a photo with you. I am writing this while I sit at the Hackney Record Fair in London, with my tapes, two awesome boomboxes, a Walkman and the feeling of being judged by other record labels. VINYL record labels. You see, the rise of vinyl over the last few years has meant a lot of new labels have sprung up out of bedrooms across the UK to much fanfare. What most people don’t realize is that vinyl has a little brother called “cassette” that rides its coattails for dear life and has surprisingly cemented a place, albeit very niche, in the heart of the record buying public.

I started POST/POP out of my love for “dead” formats and the heavily romanticized idea of making and receiving mixtapes for friends and partners, because getting a tape shoved in your hand with scribbled band names and DIY artwork is akin to a getting a meaningful hug or a slightly-too-long glance from the person you fancy. Mixtapes mean something to people. It shows you have made an effort, and in this time of social networks and the ability to summon any song that’s ever been made in an instant, it’s one of the last ways to communicate your feelings to someone using a physical medium.

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Every single one of my cassette releases mean something to me in some way. It’s my mixtape to the world. It just so happens that my mixtapes are official releases from some of my favorite bands of all time (ASH, The Subways, [email protected] etc). It’s the main reason to start a record label. You love music, a particular format and specifically a bunch of bands that you want forever associated with your idea, and you go for it. If your taste in music isn’t stellar, then you have a problem.

Controversially, this is where I believe the stigma lies with current tape labels. This recent wave of Cassette Culture was born from the lo-fi noise groups, mostly in America, and mostly contained bands and music that lent itself to the DIY aesthetic of dubbing tapes in your bedroom during the day, and selling it at your gig later that night. It was cheap, and the sound quality didn’t matter so much, as it added to the whole ambience. This idea took off and spread across America and over to Europe and the UK. Again, it was mostly lo-fi bands who grasped this concept, and identified with the quirkiness and cost-effectiveness of cassettes. So what happens when Cassette Culture is saturated with bands who all have a certain vibe? It becomes isolated and disassociated with popular culture.

When I realized that my beloved format was turning into something that even I couldn’t stomach, I vowed to start a tape label that catered to bands that people wanted to hear. The bands that you hear on the radio all the time. The bands that make up the mixtapes that you make for your best friends and loved ones. The bands that define the word “Summer” for you. Bands that have sold millions of records and bands that haven’t sold so many just yet, but you really hope they do.

I feel that in order for a format to thrive, it needs to have the content, the songs, to make people part with their hard-earned cash. I’m writing this as the perusers of the Hackney Record Fair casually glance at my tape stall with looks of confusion, bemusement and a little disdain, then quickly move over to one of the hundreds of stalls selling vinyl at astronomical prices. It’s going to be a long journey, but as long as I have batteries in my Walkman, everything is going to be okay. Pop Will Prevail.

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