If you've ever made a mix tape, just the mere mention of the words "mix tape" probably has you reminiscing about the best one you've ever compiled. Did you make it for your best friend? Your girlfriend? Somebody you wanted to impress? A member of your band?
Those of us who love the hiss and crackle of vinyl also love rewinding a cassette tape with a Bic pen or piecing together the chopped tape with nail polish remover. Vinyl has been making a comeback for years. And now it appears that cassette tapes are making a comeback as well.
While some of us might be looking for a little nostalgia, others are looking to save a few bucks. Cassettes sell for $2.00 - $3.00, a significant savings over cd's.
Last year, Joe McKay founded his own record label, Spring Break Tapes, that releases music solely on cassette tape. Mr. McKay must be pleased that cassette sales have risen 46% over the last year.
We chatted with Joe about his recent endeavor.
What was the first cassette tape you ever bought?
RUN D.M.C.'s Raising Hell back in 1986. I was a hip-hop kid for sure.
What did you do before you started Spring Break Tapes?
Not really anything different than what I do now. Having a label was always kind of a dream, and I just did it. I make art and try to enjoy my life.
How did you start Spring Break Tapes?
It was pretty simple. I discovered that people were still releasing new music on cassette so I did a little research on the process. I became good friends with Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene (after working with him on the album art for Forgiveness Rock Record). He had music he wanted to release, so it was kismet really. Within a few months we released Tape One under his moniker Junior Pande.
Why did you decide to work with cassettes?
When cassettes were the main format for the music industry you basically had to listen to the whole tape unless you wanted to fast forward through it which is a pain. You had to really invest yourself in the music as a whole. CDs killed that.
So this cassette culture is for music fans and collectors. All the tapes out there are limited to a certain number and when they are sold, that's it, there's no more.
Are there any drawbacks to working with cassettes?
I don't think so, no. I mean cassettes have a lifespan, but that's kind of their beauty also. A lot of cassette labels include mp3s with the tapes. Most new vinyl releases these days come with a download code also. As funny as that might sound it makes sense because you have a digital backup now. Those are much easier to travel with also.
Who are some of the artists you're working with now?
Junior Pande is working on new tracks for Tape Two. West Widows, who is featured on the Greetings mixtape, is putting together a tape for me. I also don't want to stay confined to any one sound and the previous releases are beat oriented or hip-hop. I'm working with Ali Helnwein who's a composer and hopefully Drawlings this year. I want to noise things up a bit and keep the label diverse. Too much of one thing can get stale.
What qualities do you look for in an artist?
On a personal level, I look for people who really take pride in their music. Musically, it just has to be good, ya know? I like the avant-garde side of things and that fits well with cassette culture but I wouldn't turn away a regular three-piece band either if they were great.
What do you hope to accomplish with your company?
I want to have a great roster of artists and sell out of their cassettes consistently. It would be great to expand to vinyl also. Ultimately jumping into that level where the lines of indie and major have sort of blurred would be great. I don't really think of 4AD and Sub Pop and labels of that ilk as indie really anymore, but they are not Warner Music Group either, right?
What's up next for Spring Break Tapes?
I'm hoping to release another four or five tapes this year. There's an idea floating around to split a 10 inch record with another label. I want to make t-shirts and zines for sale on the site as well.