Unspooled: How the Cassette Made Music Shareable

Duke Univ. Mar. 2024. 220p. ISBN 9781478025597. pap. $26.95. MUSIC
Drew (communication, Saginaw Valley State Univ.; Karaoke Nights: An Ethnographic Rhapsody) explores the creation, use, and pop-culture context of the cassette tape, beginning with its use as a medium for recording music in the indie rock scene. Do-it-yourself recording on cassettes allowed for a small batch release of songs, useful for debut artists who lacked the capital to produce a full vinyl album; some artists created a limited-edition cassette first, followed by a vinyl release later, if their songs proved popular. Drew traces the power of the mixtape through grunge, the indie scene, Calvin Johnson’s creation of K Records, and hip-hop, where it served as a major tool for the discovery of new artists. As cassettes transformed home audio recordings, the record industry attempted to pass legislation that would prevent piracy, Drew writes, with parallels to today’s conversations about streaming and royalties. Drew acknowledges that the cassette’s history is predominately filled with white men, but any readers who has ever received or created a mixtape will appreciate this narrative.
VERDICT A solid blend of history and nostalgia about cassette tapes that’s perfect for Gen Xers and older readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing