TOKYO – With world-famous artists such as Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift releasing new songs on cassette tapes, the old way to listen to music that was widely used in the 1970s and 1980s is back in the spotlight, especially among younger generations.
At Design Underground Shibuya-Base in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, a shop that sells new and used cassette tapes, a mixture of people from different generations can be seen.
“I miss these,” one customer said. “I used to have a lot of cassettes.”
Another said, “This is my first time seeing them, but the retro design is so cute and stylish.”
Junichi Matsuzaki, 60, an electronic appliances collector and the store’s operator, said: “The unique shape of cassettes and boom boxes is something we don’t have today. I think young people are interested [in them] as a fashion item and gradually become addicted to the great analog sound.”
Although the used cassettes are empty, their original recordings erased, they are sold along with handwritten title and index cards. Buyers can freely record new music on the cassettes and enjoy them.
Some stores specialize in cassettes of new releases from around the world. Waltz, in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, which opened in 2015, sells more than 5,000 cassettes, used boom boxes, and Sony Walkmans. Its clientele is mostly young people, including uniform-clad high school students.
In recent years, with the advent of flat-rate music distribution services, it has become easier and easier to listen to music at any time. Why are cassette tapes suddenly back in fashion?
“Subscription music has no physical form, but when you pick up a cassette tape, the music feels tangible,” said Taro Tsunoda, 51, the manager of Waltz. “That’s what attracts some young people.”
The act of listening to music by going to the trouble to prepare a cassette tape and a boom box also provides an opportunity to feel gratitude toward the music, he said.