This past weekend, people in a handful of countries celebrated the third annual Cassette Store Day. Inspired by the format and success of Record Store Day, Cassette Store Day is an annual event set aside to celebrate compact cassette tapes, release new and rare items on compact cassette for collectors and appreciators of the medium, and promote a specific medium of musical creation and consumption. Unlike Record Store Day, however, Cassette Store Day is not designed to highlight the importance of local record stores (though it may in some cases accomplish this as well), but rather is primarily focused on promoting the cassette medium.
While I look forward to Record Store Day every year and plan out my whole day to catch musical performances, look for interesting releases, and enjoy the sales and conversations that take place in the crowded shops throughout the day, I have barely noticed Cassette Store Day for the most part. This might be because I am less interested in compact cassettes than I am in other (i.e., vinyl, compact disc, and digital) music mediums, but it might also be because – as I learned this past weekend when I accidentally stumbled into Cassette Store Day events while taking an unplanned trip to a handful of record stores I go to regularly – there is not as much promotion or as many elements to Cassette Store Day offerings in my area.
As I walked into one of my regular destinations the other day, for example, I noticed a very small set up out front offering cassettes and playing music. At this same spot, the sidewalk is packed with merchandise, performers, people, and signs every year on Record Store Day. Inside, the store looked like a regular day, and if the workers had not said it was Cassette Store Day I don’t think I would have known. In comparison, on Record Store Day it is hard to move in the space because of how packed it is with people, and it often feels funny to see the store so crowded. Finally, I noticed that the merchandise (or releases) for the day only took up one small space and only took me about five minutes to look through. In comparison, on Record Store Day the merchandise takes up most of the space and has to be sorted throughout the store to fit. For someone not all that concerned about cassettes, it simply seemed like a normal day in the store.
This observation became even clearer when I arrived at the next shop I wanted to visit that day. On Record Store Day, the next shop often has food trucks, live performances, and even space where one can make their own t-shirt. On Cassette Store Day, however, the place appeared mostly empty, did not seem to have any of the special releases for the day, and best I could tell, was not even participating in any real way. This made me wonder about a few things throughout the day as I continued to notice much less activity tied to Cassette Store Day than I am used to with Record Store Day.
On the one hand, I wonder if the disparity is tied to the age of the events. While I wasn’t at any Record Store Day events in the first couple years, it is possible that they were just as low key and this is just how an event looks before it really takes off in a given market or area. On the other hand, I wonder if the disparity is tied to the focus of the day wherein record shops got behind Record Store Day in a big way since the focus was on saving local record shops, but have less concern for Cassette Store Day thus far since its focus is not really about the record shops themselves. In either case or any other possibility, I think the disparity speaks to the meaning of the events in the minds and lives of sellers, buyers, and others involved.
In my case, for example, the two days mean very different things. Even without any interest in a given set of vinyl releases, Record Store Day matters to me because I rely on the shops themselves throughout the year for my (possibly obsessive) music collection endeavors. I also understand the usefulness of vinyl releases beyond simple sound difference (i.e., part of the driver in vinyl and cassette sales is that analog recordings sound different than digital (i.e., compact discs and downloads) recordings) because the size of the packaging is rather useful for artistic, decoration, and other purposes. I cannot, however, say the same thing about Cassette Store Day (i.e., since its not geared toward promoting record shops explicitly and since Record Store Day is so successful, I’m not sure recognizing this day does much for the record shops at present) or about cassettes as a medium (i.e., they are even smaller in packaging and format than compact discs, and I can’t think of other uses for them beyond listening to analog recordings). As a result, the days mean very different things to me – as do the mediums released on said days – and my guess is that such meanings influence how I respond to the two days.
This makes me wonder how others interpret these days and other widespread (in this case internationally recognized and celebrated) events concerning music. How do our meanings for certain events and mediums influence our engagement (or lack there of) with specific events and mediums? As someone who actually likes cassettes (I have a few myself), it would have been logical to expect me to find interest in Cassette Store Day when the idea emerged. Yet, I have yet to really care about it at all. At the same time, I’ve met people who never owned cassettes before who are now enthusiastic celebrators and collectors of the medium as a result of Cassette Store Day. It might thus be sociologically interesting to tease out – as has been done at times with some music festivals – the meaning making and interpretation that exists within people’s reactions to varied musical events, celebrations, and mediums over time.