6 Reasons to Release Your Music on Cassette and CD

Unlike vintage instruments and gear, most audio playback mediums get little love outside of rare or very popular recordings. Besides vinyl, most people consider formats like CDs and cassettes very much disposable. And there are some convincing reasons: CDs are easily scratched and have a highly compressed sound; cassettes have “lower fidelity” than vinyl, can warp and lose their clarity over time.

But what if you’re an upcoming musician? Someone who needs to release music to a wide audience but doesn’t have the pull to convince a record label to risk money on you? Or maybe you don’t even care about record labels. Should you settle for uploading your music to Bandcamp, YouTube and Spotify, or pay to get on iTunes, or spam your friends on Facebook with links to your audio, all the while thinking this will somehow take your music career to the next level?

Much like a tree falling in the woods, if no one hears your music, did you make a sound? The answer — in today’s oversaturated music scene — is usually no.

Some musicians will be so haughty as to think that their music should never be released on any outdated format, barfing out narrow-minded thoughts like “who still buys CDs?” and “cassettes are still a thing?” or “why would you ever release your music on a format no one listens to?”

Trust me when I say those phobias and biases against these mediums are not based in reality. You may not favor these mediums, but if you want your music to get into the ears of as many people as possible, then releasing your music across as many different mediums is essential to your success.

Open your mind, and I'll share six reasons why releasing your music on cassette and CD is more important than ever:

Cassettes and CDs Offer Instant Availability

Unlike vinyl, which is in demand for the first time in decades, CDs and cassette tapes have largely been deemed obsolete, dramatically reducing their cost. This gives musicians two very powerful options:

  • The ability to self-release your music on these mediums

  • A greater chance of attracting the attention of a label specializing in these mediums

Due to their low cost, there’s simply less risk in releasing music on these formats. Google “cassette tape record label” or “CD record label” and you will find a plethora of articles and websites about small record labels devoted to releasing music on these formats. Why is that? These formats are still very much in demand. Why might that be?

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Cassettes and CDs Offer Broad Accessibility

It’s easy to think that everyone is hanging on the edge of their seat waiting for the next advancement in technology. But outside of most major cities, vinyl records, reliable internet, MP3 players and streaming music from a smartphone are a luxury or just unavailable. And not everyone has moved on from CDs and cassettes — and it's not just people over 30. For example, your car probably doesn’t have an AUX jack to plug in a smartphone, but there’s likely a CD or cassette player because that’s where most people listen to their music.

Going on tour, I’ve seen first-hand that cassettes and CDs are still very much in demand. People want to listen to music when and where they want to, and many people still want to own music. The myth of the disposable music culture caused by streaming is just that: a myth. Show up to your gig with your music on every available format and watch the copies fly off the table. If they aren’t, it isn’t because of the medium. Adele’s newest album, 25, just sold a million physical copies, mostly CDs, in each of the first two weeks it was available. Jack White’s last album Lazaretto sold 40,000 copies of vinyl in its first week. There’s nothing wrong with these mediums; it’s all about the music.

Cassettes and CDs Help You Control Your Destiny

Releasing your music on CD or cassette gives control back to the musician. Instead of blindly releasing your music into the world via Spotify or iTunes or waiting for a record label to find you, releasing your music yourself or through a label on CD or cassette gives you a tangible thing to show the world that you are in fact an actual musician. It’s simply a standard that anyone serious about music acknowledges. Most record labels these days won’t even consider a band or musician unless they’ve created a buzz on their own through the sales of their physical media. If you want to put your band on the map, you need a physical release, unless you have immense financial backing or industry connections.

The power of sharing a physical copy of your music is huge; it gives you the opportunity to show, give or sell people your work. Think about it: what good does it do to tell a record label agent, who you finally convinced to show up at your gig, to go home, log into Spotify, search for and find your band and then actually listen to it? Instead, offer the chance to purchase your tape or CD for $5 — or give it to him for free, if you have any business savvy at all. Then they can play it on the way home. Other people in the car will hear it and get to ask, “Who is this?”

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Cassettes and CDs Offer Better Fidelity

You’re kidding yourself if you think potential fans are hearing you at your best through a streaming service or download. The likelihood that your fans have decent speakers hooked up to their smartphones or laptops is slim. I have terrible speakers in my laptop and no dedicated laptop speaker setup. I use streaming to hear the essence of the music. If I like what I hear, then I buy a tape, CD or vinyl and crank it through my hi-fi stereo. You’re shooting yourself in the foot thinking that digital media will let your fans hear your music correctly, and you'll be throwing all that practice, studio and mastering time and money right out the window.

Cassettes and CDs Offer Revenue Generation Opportunities

Unfortunately, being a musician or in a band is a business. That means embracing business-like methods and attitudes to encourage the growth of your business. Having merchandise to sell, especially copies of your music in any format, is mandatory if you want to thoroughly promote your band and generate revenue. Because CDs and cassettes are cheaper to manufacture, and have a faster turnaround time than a vinyl release, working with labels that specialize in releasing these formats can be a good way to quickly get some merch on the table.

Most of these labels, if they are interested in working with you, will foot the bill for the actual manufacturing costs. In exchange, you will usually receive a certain percentage of the total copies manufactured while the label keeps the rest to sell for themselves. That means you get, say, 100 professional copies of your release out of a 300 copy pressing. This can be a cost-effective way to save money by paying only for the production of the music while receiving legitimate copies of your music that can be sold at shows for 100% profit.

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Cassettes and CDs Convey Legitimacy

A common argument against releasing music on a physical format is that it’s easier than ever to take advantage of streaming and downloading online. But, a strong case against releasing music solely online is that anyone can do it, thus watering down the overall quality. People who really care about music still care about the way music sounds, the packaging, presentation and cohesion of a release, and the musician’s ability to represent themselves as a legitimate musical entity.

Yes, there are people who have had success strictly through the internet. If you’re planning on selling your music to people only under the age of 17, then you can ignore this entire article. For everyone else, making real fans and connections through the distribution of CDs and cassettes is the fastest way to develop success.

Photo by Paul Hudson

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