Wrong About Tapes, Right on Metaverse
A Walkman Mea Culpa
Wrong About Tapes, Right on Metaverses
A few weeks ago I met a young man at a talk here in Toronto named Brahm.
He was a fan of analog, he said. Such a fan that he was actually leaving his job for the dream of starting a cassette tape music production company.
"Seriously?" I asked Brahm."Tapes?" Yes, tapes.
I was wrong about tapes. Back in 2016, when The Revenge of Analog came out, I did dozens of interviews talking up vinyl records, film cameras, books, and bookstores. Inevitably I'd be asked about other analog technologies, like video cassettes and tapes. I'd laugh, reflect nostalgically on my old Phish bootlegs and worn copy of Spaceballs, and dismiss the return of tapes as too impractical, because the technology was too flimsy, too disposable, compared to records or movie theaters.
I was wrong. Tapes grew out of the vinyl revival, as record pressing backlogs and costs increased, and musicians, labels, and fans sought out a way to create, sell, and listen to music beyond ubiquitous streaming. Now tapes are booming. New suppliers are emerging, new portable players are selling, old Walkmans are going for good money, and young music fans are pulling out pencils to rewind that delicate ribbon back into place. Even old Disney movies and Rambo VHS tapes are hot items on Ebay. It's only a matter of time before video stores reemerge.
I was wrong about tapes because I made assumptions about the future that were lazy and simple. I extrapolated my own experience with tapes and judged new tape consumers, and couldn't imagine a future where tapes would thrive again.
In a way, I did what Zuckerberg and others did with the now dead idea of a VR metaverse as the technology of the future. Remember that, from back in late 2021?
The future of everything was supposed to be the metaverse: brands, school, games, music, sex, social, you name it. Billions were spent, hype was shed, but no one showed up. Zuk assumed the future was what he envisioned, but the future doesn’t belong to one man or company or idea. It's something we all shape with our choices, Zuk, Brahm, and even me. The future contains all of it, and yeah, tapes too. I really wish I still had my old yellow sports Walkman and my tapes, but I gave them away years ago. Who can foresee the future, when you're cleaning house?