Let us take you on a visit to one of the last audio cassette factories in Europe. At its peak, back in the Eighties, it sold around 400,000 tapes a year – in 2014 the figure was down to 2.000.
The revival of the audio cassette
However, in the last couple of years, audio cassettes have been making a comeback, with global sales growing faster than any other medium in the music industry.
Last year, the factory sold 15.000 tapes.
It belongs to 36-year old Thomas Baur.
“Hello My name is Thomas, I’m the owner of the last cassette factory of the Netherlands and I’m going to show you how to make audio cassettes. This is a cassette loader and I’m going to switch it on right now.”
Turning a passion into a job
Thomas bought the factory more or less by accident. When he saw it was up for sale, he contacted the owner out of curiosity. He found out how the machines worked, and ended up buying the whole thing for the price of a nice new car. What started out as a hobby – Thomas has always been interested in music and electronics – has become his job.
Thomas Baur: “Ten or eight years ago, I decided to make this a business and to repair vintage audio equipment. And that is a profession that in the current society is dying out, nobody does it anymore. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m having quite a success with it.”
Just like vinyl, the cassette is experiencing a revival. Some true cassette enthusiasts never ditched it, like Thomas’ core clientele from the metal and hard-rock music scene. For others, it’s a trip down memory lane, and for the younger generation, it’s a curiosity.
Thomas Baur: “It’s a piece of nostalgia, it’s not buying a cassette because it’s the only way to acquire the sound, because you can download, you can buy a CD, you buy a record. But the cassette combines music with emotion and nostalgia.”
Cassettes are cool again
Thomas explains that bands now throw in a cassette as a gadget with a download link when promoting an album. They’re convinced the audience will be seduced by the physicality of a cassette, rather than just another album on an online platform. The quality doesn’t have to be poor, as long as you look after the equipment – and handling a 25-year old machine can be quite a challenge, he tells us.
Feeling like McGyver
Thomas Baur: “When the machine is feeling really happy it can produce 400 cassettes in an hour. But yesterday it took me all day to make 800. There were some problems that I wasn’t able to fix at short notice. It messed up some cassettes so I had to make new ones, and I had to stop production, open the machine, see what was wrong, try to fix the problem, test it again…
“Parts of the machine are no longer available. That means I have to find alternatives. Sometimes when I’m repairing the machine I use things like rope and plastic, and I feel a little like McGyver because you have to solve a problem with materials that are no longer available.”
Using modern technology to enjoy the obsolete
As for the future, “You have to use modern technology to enjoy obsolete products,” says Thomas, “reach out to people, let them know the cassette is cool again”, and that’s exactly what he is doing to promote his business and his passion.