What is a mixtape? Today, the term is used to describe an amazing soundtrack created with minimal recording equipment. However, a little over two decades ago, a mixtape referred to a cassette tape full of different songs meant to convey a feeling. Mixtapes weren’t just a way to share music; they were a symbol of love, friendship, and adventure.
On Oct. 17, or last Saturday, hundreds of music historians rushed to their local cassette stores to remember that feeling of excitement once again by celebrating National Cassette Store Day. Finding exclusive tapes such as AWOLNATION’s Run album or The Foal’s What Went Down album, nostalgic musicians were allowed to relish in their stereo decks and remember the good old days. Alike to Record Store Day, Cassette Store Day aims to encourage listening to a vintage style of music with exclusive albums, contests, and offers. According to Cassette Store Day’s website, this is the holiday’s third year of existence with “more international partners than ever.” The website didn’t share, however, that the participating stores were sparsely scattered around North America. The hardest part of the celebration was merely finding a participating store.
Fortunately, North Carolinians had several participating stores, including the retail store Urban Outfitters. Although rather renowned for their clothing sales, Urban Outfitters celebrated the musical pastime alongside tape enthusiasts by giving out a mixtape of their own. The mixtape, as expected, featured indie music that one would probably never hear on the radio, but it was well curated in an order that gave listeners a variety of music genres to sample. Urban Outfitters even had a small selection of stereo decks and cassette players for inexperienced teenagers ready for a challenge.
Many teens don’t even know what a stereo deck or Walkman is, never experiencing this purist form of patience. Whether sold in a garage sale or simply placed in the attic for far too long, stereo decks and portable cassette players are becoming a rarity, a delight exclusive to those over the age of twenty, unlike their vinyl competitors. Of course, anyone can pay the steep fee of $60 to Urban Outfitters for a generic brand Walkman (with a guarantee of extremely low quality.) However, truly understanding what it was like to use cassette tapes requires an actual Walkman, filled with dust-coated memories.
Cassette tapes were pretty cool in their hey-day, but they came with many challenges. First of all, one could get the tape stuck in the deck, stopping the whole album altogether. The person would then have to straighten out the tape and clean the inside of the cassette player. With some stereos, one even had to flip the cassette just to get to the other half of the album, waiting approximately five seconds for the next song to play. Cassette tapes were truly a test of patience, a virtue proven unnecessary with smartphones. Nonetheless, Cassette Store Day served as a reminder that yes, cassettes do still exist, and the antique style of music, alike to vinyl, is making a comeback.