Tip No.1 – Don’t release your album on cassette

As expected my tweet about not releasing albums on cassette got an immediate response from others extolling its virtues. I don’t know anybody who remembers cassettes first time round that looks back on them fondly. From the quality of the sound to the rather limited artwork cassettes had nothing going for them except the convenience of their size. No point saying any more so let’s fast forward to the present. Cassettes are cheap and easy to produce for anybody with next to no budget but then so are CDRs and put in the right packaging they can look great. Even the CDRs themselves now look good. More importantly assuming artists are hoping people may actually want to pay for their music nobody outside of musicians, labels, some bloggers and all their closest friends think the cassette is a format with any merit at all. Now clearly as a vanity project artists and labels are free to do as they wish but in the real world of trying to promote and sell music to those left still wishing to invest in physical product cassettes are simply a daft way to go about it.

Others have compared the resurgence of cassette with the resurgence of vinyl. However there are at least two important differences. Firstly vinyl is a hugely superior format to listen to music on than cassette and many would indeed say the best of all the available formats. Secondly while its popularity waned it was still a viable format while cassettes became obsolete. Even now if an artist is only going to release one format then the advice I would have to give would be to do so on CD. I would never advise against vinyl except on the financial basis that the label/artist might lose a lot of money.

I have to work on the premise that artists and labels are looking to maximise the number of customers who buy their releases. If that is the case then the best possible combination of physical releases is a vinyl with a free CD and a CD available to buy separately. The added advantage to this is that if you are pressing 500 vinyl and CDs then the extra 200/300 CDs (assuming you are confident buyers will mainly want vinyl) aren’t a big extra cost. A vinyl with a download cuts out all the customers that just want a CD and a vinyl with CD combination only leaves the customers choosing between paying more than they would wish for a CD (and having a vinyl they have no use for) or not buying it at all. There isn’t an artist Avalanche sells that I would be confident was more popular on vinyl so a label would need to be sure of strong vinyl sales elsewhere to press say 500 vinyl and 800 CDs.

So if all you can afford is to make up a few CDs there is at least the consolation that you will still be appealing to the largest part of the market. Your peers may not approve but the customers will !

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