I haven’t seen audio cassettes in use in over a decade, so it’s pretty shocking that a company is still making a profit manufacturing them. In fact, National Audio Company (NAC) – the last audio cassette maker in America – has had its best year since it opened in 1969!
The tapes are apparently high on nostalgic value, and that’s why they’re still flying off the shelves. And NAC’s stubbornness in not quitting when the other manufacturers did has finally payed off. “You can characterise our operating business model as stubbornness and stupidity,” NAC president Steve Stepp said. “We were too stubborn to quit.”
“Probably the thing that really enlarged our business at a faster pace than anything is the retro movement,” he added. “There’s the nostalgia of holding the audio cassette in your hand.”
Almost every other manufacturer switched to CDs in the late ’90s, but NAC refused to budge. They continued to produce tapes for spoken-word performers and people who buy blank tapes. So they actually bought their competitor’s equipment. Stepp says he always foresaw that tapes would be back in vogue. “[We were] preparing ourselves to pick the music market up when it came back, and that’s exactly what happened.”
NAC production manager Susie Brown explained that musicians still love audio tapes as well. “There was a drive from the independent bands to get that warm analog sound again, and it just continued to grow and grow,” she said.
“There’s the under-35 age group who have learned now that life is not comprised of mp3s and earbuds. They like the sound of analog, and that has really helped us a lot” Stepp added.
About 70 percent of the company’s sales are from music cassettes – they have deals with major record labels like Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, and smaller contracts with indie bands as well. They’re even making tapes for Metallica, for a special release of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. The rest of the sales are from blank cassettes.
“We intend to be the last cassette company operating, and right now, we are,” Brown said. Perhaps it’s time to blow the dust off your old walkman?
Source: Bloomberg Business