Why Cassette-loving Radicals are Raging Against the Machine…or Not


On my 14th birthday, Mom and Dad gave me two 10-packs of Maxell XLII-S cassette tapes.


Greatest birthday gift ever. 

Back in the early 80s, before CDs or MP3s were a thing, cassettes were THE thing. 

Affordable. Portable. Swappable. Indispensable. High-fidelity cool

I raided my friends’ record collections and taped my favorite albums.

I made dozens of mixtapes to play at parties, gift to girlfriends, or keep to myself as my life’s secret soundtracks.

I had hundreds of tapes, stored in cases big as microwave ovens. 

And now…

…all those cases and all those tapes are rotting in a landfill. 

CDs replaced taped albums. MP3s replaced CDs. And Spotify playlists replaced  mixtapes.  

But yesterday I learned…

…Maybe I should have kept those tapes. 

Cassettes are making a comeback. 

The Today Show said so. 

Cassette sales increased 98% from 173,000 in 2020 to 243,000 in 2021, according to Carson Daly. 

Other media also have reported the trend. 

Big-time artists (Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Dua Lipa) have released cassette versions of their latest albums. 

I have one question: 


I loved the 80s. But that doesn’t mean I want to return to big hair, clothes with shoulder pads, or TV shows like “Alf.” 

Yeah, cassettes were THE thing in the 1980s.

But in the 2020s, with 20/20 hindsight, I say: 

Cassettes suck! 

The sound quality is rotten (hissssssssssss)  – and it gets worse with every play. 

You have to rewind and fast-forward to find your favorite song (good luck finding the beginning of the song on the first try). 

They wrinkle, crease, and unravel. (If you’ve ever spent hours fishing unraveled tape from your car’s tape player, you know what I mean.) 

So I ask again…

…Why all the love for cassettes?

The media speculate. 

Carson Daly says it’s all about “nostalgia.” 

I saw one article that claimed hipsters drive the trend. Something about “ironic cool.” 

Another article said consumers copy what they see on TV or in movies. See: Guardians of the Galaxy, Baby Driver, and Atomic Blonde for leading characters who love their cassettes.

And the LA Times radicals in our midst…

There’s also something about the tape revival that recalls the radicalism of the 1980s cassette culture: Tapes were cheap, and people used them to copy and share music from expensive records, an early form of piracy. In the Soviet Union, when I grew up, the state record company wouldn’t put out the music we listened to — so bands and underground entrepreneurs distributed them on cassettes.

“Today’s cassette culture, by eschewing contemporary media forms for more esoteric ones, is building on the older cassette-culture tradition of rejecting dominant industry formats,” audio producer Craig Eley wrote in a 2011 essay.

from “Cassette tapes are making a comeback” (LA Times, 2019)

Maybe I missed the revolution. But when I was part of the “older cassette-culture,” I didn’t identify as a radical, raging against the machine. I wasn’t making some statement to reject the “dominant industry formats.”

I just wanted to play Talking Heads’ “Remain in the Light” in my car…

…which leads me to a marketing lesson.

Every piece of media speculation I read or heard did not include a single quote from someone who purchased a cassette in this century.

No one bothered to ask a real buyer, “Why’d you buy?” (HINT)

Instead, the media dished out…

Theories. Informed speculation. Educated guesses. 

That’s what lazy reporters collect and dish out. 

Same goes for lazy marketers. 

If you want to create content that captivates prospects, you have to discover what makes them tick.

Most marketers do this by pulling from their head what they think makes their prospects tick.

They outline their “prospect personas” on a white board or fill out a one-page worksheet.

And they think they’re finished. 

Sure, we know something about our prospects and customers. 

So we might get something right when we pull all of this from our heads.

But that gives us only a glass half-full, half-empty…

…half-right, half-wrong…

…some facts, but lots of theories, informed speculation, and educated guesses. 

And that’s why most dish out content that doesn’t connect with prospects. 

The story is incomplete at best — flat-out wrong at worst. 

You captivate prospects and inspire them to buy when they see themselves in your stories. 

That happens when you dig deeper, when you go beyond theories, informed speculation, and educated guesses. 

That’s why I teach a simple, three-pillar approach to story discovery…

…so KNOW (note guess) why your prospects buy…

…so they see your content and say, “Yes! I can relate…” 

…so they say, “You really get me…” 

…so they say, “Tell me more.” 

When you get story discovery right and assemble content with the pieces you discovered, you fire up prospects and inspire them to hire you. 

When you get it half-right or wrong, prospects tune out and move on. 

If you want to get it right, see p.s. #3 below. I’ll show you a simple, scalable, delegate-able way to discover prospects stories. 

p.s. Coaches, consultants and other business leaders turn to me to power-up their stories because most dish out the same old boring, "blah, blah, blah" content, turn off prospects and then feel frustrated and stuck. So I help them transform content from boring to brilliant, turn the marketing process from frustrating to fun, and convert results from pitiful to profitable. Bottom line, you can fire up prospects and inspire them to hire you with story-powered content that's simple to create. I'll show you how. Whenever you're ready, here are several ways I can help you land more clients without pitching and prodding:

1) Connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook and (if not subscribed already) join our email list.

2) Watch the free, 7-minute Micro-Training: “The 3 Most Important Storytelling Keys to Captivate Prospects and Inspire Them to Act -- Without Pitching and Prodding.”

3) Become a Story Power VIP in the Content Transformation Academy: Master how to discover, assemble, and deliver business-building stories. Weekly masterclasses. Members-only content. One-on-one feedback and consulting sessions. And more… If you'd like to learn more about our VIP program, just reply to this email and put "Story Power VIP" in the subject line. I’ll contact you with more details.

4) Work with me one-on-one: If you’re interested in working directly with me -- to discover, assemble, and deliver powerful, business-building stories -- simply reply to this email and change the subject line to "Private Client." Tell me a little about yourself, your business, and what you'd like to accomplish, and I'll reply to discuss options.

5) Invite me to speak at an event: I can tailor a presentation that meets the specific needs of your organization. Informative. Entertaining. Virtual or live. Potential for continuing education credits when applicable for your group. If interested, reply to this email and change the subject line to “Speaking Engagement.” I’ll circle back to discuss the possibilities.

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.