Cassette tapes may be dead. There may be no nostalgists who lyrically pine for the days of tape, no audiophiles who swear by the purity of the format. But tape still has its place in the world. There are perks to the obsolescent format.
For one thing, unlike CDs, the money in cassette tapes is not plummeting because of audio downloads. According to Bob Paris, owner of North Hollywood’s Pack Central, a mail-order business exclusively dedicated to selling cassette tapes: . “[Five years ago], people thought I was nuts when I invested tons of money in analog prerecorded music on tape.” Now? Paris’ business steadily brings in a million dollars a year.
But who is buying Paris’ cassettes? America’s 2.3 million prisoners. Which brings us to the second advantage of tape over compact disc: a tape can’t be broken apart and used as a shiv. Prisoners are allowed to have them. 60% of Paris’ business is in cassette tapes.
Paris’ excited conclusion: “[By selling cassette tapes] I have dodged every conventional bullet that has hit most music retailers,” Paris says. “I don’t have to worry about downloading, legal or illegally. The beauty of it is that prisoners don’t have Internet access and never will.”
I hope the “never will” part isn’t true, but the full piece over at The New York Times shows how even a dead format in a dying industry can make a millionaire out of a canny businessman. It also includes a list of Paris’ perennial best sellers: Michael Jackson’s Thriller and a “best of” compilation by The Stylistics make the grade. A fantastic read.