Cassette tapes were pretty great, right? I think we can all agree on that.
Without cassettes, the sheer joy of winding cheap little spools of plastic tape back into their shoddy plastic cartridges would’ve been lost on an entire generation of music lovers. Without cassettes, few of us would’ve come to know the characteristically insufficient fidelity that muddied the sounds of our favorite artists.
Okay, in truth, cassettes weren’t all that great. In retrospect, they were actually pretty awful. Though they spent roughly three decades as a popular format for audio, their heyday is long behind them. The term “cassette tape” was even removed from the Oxford Dictionary earlier this year on the grounds that it was “outdated.”
Of course, try telling alternative rock group Dinosaur Jr. that cassettes are outdated.
On December 13th, 2011, the still-alive-and-kicking band – whose heyday ran parallel to that of cassettes – released a limited edition box set of their first three albums exclusively on the defunct format.
Well, as with most strategies that musicians employ these days, “Why not?” is most likely the reasoning. And hey, “Why not?” is arguably as good an excuse as any. That may be oversimplifying things a bit though.
From a financial standpoint, “making tapes is relatively cheap. Blank tapes cost as little as 20 cents each and tape duplicators are sometimes available at thrift stores.” And as we’ve discussed in the QLP Blog before, nostalgia can be a potent element in any marketing endeavor. When an individual feels emotionally connected to a brand or product, the financial investment is more justifiable. If nothing else, cassettes are rife with nostalgic value, and Dinosaur Jr. clearly knows it.
More importantly, this band knows its audience.
Then again, they’d have to. They’ve been professional musicians since the mid 80s and were highly influential throughout much of the 90s, with nine albums and numerous hit singles to boast. For example:
The group understands that their music belongs primarily to the same Gen-Xers that attended their shows and purchased their albums back in the day – in cassette form, mind you. They realize that their fanbase is emotionally grounded in an era that they helped define musically.
While they’ve certainly gone on to enlist newer and younger fans in recent years, they know who’s supported them since the beginning: the same demographic that they’re targeting with their ultimate “thank you” gift – a cassette tape box set.
So really, why not?
Why not offer long-time followers a compelling throwback collection that calls to mind the glory days of both the band and the cassette format?
It’s a unique move, and one that fans will no doubt appreciate. And at the end of the day, one has to appreciate a band so in touch with its roots. Let’s just hope, for their sake, that the fans held on to their cassette decks.
What say you? Is Dinosaur Jr.’s box set a compelling example of retro marketing? Or is this just another way to move a few more albums?