Saturday, July 09, 2005


We missed this when it first broadcast a couple of weeks ago, and it's nothing you won't have noticed: the tape cassette is in its last few days.

Last year, sales of prerecorded tapes in the UK fell below a million units - and we'd imagine the only thing keeping them even just about alive is the number of cars which still have tape machines in them; audio books are also keeping the little spools spinning, but the sole reason for taped books remaining popular is, apparently, the place you switch off is the place you switch on again - but that's a slim advantage compared with the risk that your Agatha Christie is going to chew itself up before you find out whodunnit; even in the audiobook world, two thirds of sales are on CD now.

Low CD penetration in poorer countries means that, for example, 50% of music sales are still on tape in India - and, interestingly, that rises to 80% for Saudi Arabia, which shows how poorly shared the wealth is there, doesn't it?

America's main tape manufacturer has closed; and Third World demand will not last forever. Tape - the stuff that sustained us while we were waiting for digital music to be invented; the comfort to Tracy Barlow while her parents were fighting - is having its last dance.

Memorial Gift shop item:

Thurston Moore's Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture