How do I produce and self-release music on cassette?


#1

Following on from Cassette releases, I would pay good :heart_eyes_cat:'s for any of you to write a “how to release your own cassette” post. I’ve pestered some of my favorite self-releasers on bandcamp, and they’ve been really helpful, would love to hear from you all. Things I wonder about,

  1. How do you get stuff printed on the tape?
  2. Where do you get jcards printed?
  3. Have you ever self-dubbed a small release? Any tips?
  4. If you self-dub, where do you get your blanks from? National Audio Company? Any other sources worth looking into?
  5. What’s a realistic budget per release if you’re targeting a pro-dubbed, printed shell, nice j-card (assuming self designed), nice case - 50 tape run? 100? etc?

Thanks!

(edited to remove the mastering questions, feels like a separate topic)


#2

I just used https://www.duplication.ca for my forthcoming release. They do short runs, and will print j-cards, etc. They will also print onto the cassettes themselves. Prices are upfront (fill out a form, you get a quote as you add/remove options–, but a run of say 20 cassettes is like $5 a tape, more for printing, etc. Prices go down as quantity goes up),
they have good customer service. I’m DIYing the covers and such, because I think it makes a more ‘fun’ release.

I handle my own mastering etc, so I can’t speak to that.


#3

i’ve done a small self release all by myself - mastering, duplication one-at-a-time on my sony deck (on NAC chrome), custom printed & cut j-cards, sharpie tape labels, recycled cases. the demand was so low that i could make the tapes to order - each one felt personal and the process was fulfilling. if demand was higher i probably would have had someone else (NAC) manufacture everything.

if i were to do another tape release without the support of a label/distributor i’d budget in postage and mailers upfront - that can add a lot of cost to the project. i’d also consider cardstock o-cards as they can be mailed with less padding. the norelcos are classic but they always crack.


#4

I’m releasing a tape next week and I used National Audio Company for shell imprinting, j-card printing, the whole deal. A run of 50 (the minimum, I think) with pro-dubbing, imprinting, will probably cost you between 180-200, depending on options. You can get that price down quite a bit if you do some of it yourself and I think they also have discounts if you mention them on your packaging. With that being said, that’s based on my recent experience and the best thing to do is get a free quote from them.

As @shellfritsch mentioned, definitely factor in shipping. Materials aren’t tooo expensive individually, but it adds up. After looking around and from personal experience receiving tapes, it seems like the consensus is to use bubble mailers and perhaps some cardboard shielding, although I sent out some tapes without cardboard to friends and I’m waiting to hear back (fingers crossed!). :sweat_smile: I’ve never once received a tape that was cracked, so maybe I’m lucky? Additionally, I’m planning on using Endicia since it should make it much easier to buy shipping and keep track of everything, especially since you can fill out customs forms for international shipping without having to go to the post office.

The other big thing that I rely on when shipping things is scheduling a free pickup with USPS… I hardly ever have to go to the post office anymore and I ship things out super fast. Of course, this really depends on your mail situation - if you can drop things in a mailbox or if you feel comfortable leaving things on your porch.

Anyways, looking forward to sharing the results of this project next week! :slight_smile:


#5

We also used https://duplication.ca for all the NEWBODYALLIANCE releases. Very good customer service and the tape quality is very good. We weren’t very happy with the material quality of the j-cards so we just ended up making our own sleeves out of heavy card stock. We just had them printed and cut to size at Minuteman Press and then did all of the folding and taping of the sleeves ourselves.


#6

i run a small tape-label (by the name of MMODEMM) – roughly every 2 months, we release tapeboxes which hold 5 cassettes à 5 minutes, each with one track from a different artist :slight_smile: … “cassingles” we call them. occasionally we release EPs…

the process isn’t really complicated (which is the great things about tapes!), but there’s no rule by thumb i’d say.

there’s a variety of ways to print on tape… if you have your tapes dubbed, the service usually offers to do this for you. there are also different printing techniques if you want to go DIY – google will help you. last, there’s the option to use stickers, of course. this is generally the simplest route to go in my opinion.

any printing store will do this for you. you’ll find layouts online. if you want your jcards cut, you’ll have to pay a few bucks more. depending on the strength of paper, it’s very important to crease the jcards correctly, else the paper may break

often self-dubbing! the "pro-"route is to have multiple tape-decks of the same model, ideally with a syncing option. this way you can pop 10 cassettes in and press “rec” on one of the decks. we’re often using TASCAMs (302), which work very well but need occasional maintenance. when self-dubbing, be sure to do a test-run and check that the levels are to your liking. this is something you’ll want to play with and not necessarily utilise “by the book” – it’s what makes tapes neat in my opinion :slight_smile: also, be aware that you’ll most probably loose high-ends and get a boost in the lows … prepare your mix for this.

i’m from germany, so i probably can’t help you on this… although we often order from the UK (tapeline is a good spot!).

generally, there are two common types of cassettes – the ones with the brown (ferro) tape and the black (chrome) ones. black ones sound better – i’d use these.

depends on the route you go, but per se (esp. compared to vinyl) it’s SUPER cheap! rather vague number, but you’ll make a small batch (~100) for around 150€ i think.


#7

+1 for tapeline. also used duplication.ca in the past (ooh, purple).

for cards/sleeves ACDSleeve is highly recommend and will do custom jobs as well (see e.g. here)


#8

Also very interested in this! Can anybody recommend a good one over here in EU? I had a list of addresses… but kind of lost it.


#9

Tapeline (above) are uk based and are great.


#10

oh great! Thought they were in the US. Thanks a lot!


#11

Slightly off-topic but honest question : where does the recent attraction to cassette tapes as a release medium come from ? I’ve used cassettes when it was the main option to listen to (and copy) music and I don’t have such fond memories of them. Too many ended up eaten/destroyed over the years…:slight_smile:

Is it nostalgia or some sort of idealization for those too young to have used them at the time ?
Or is it because of the object itself ?
Something else ?


#12

For me it’s Nostalgia


#13

I feel similarly… I don’t have any attachment to cassettes, and was really happy with they ceased being the primary means of getting music.

Based on my experience in Toronto, the cassette resurgence is for a few reasons:

  • tape players are cheap
  • tapes are easy to make at home
  • tapes are cheap to make in bulk
  • they are novel and fun to buy/sell/trade
  • there is definitely some idealization/fetishization by those young enough to not have dealt with them as a commercial product
  • they offer a physical media that’s more fun that CDs and much easier/cheaper than vinyl
  • computers don’t have CD players any more, and many people don’t have any other type of CD player, so home made CDs are not as popular

#14

I have different reasons for going with tape as a listener than I have for my music-release plans.

As a listener: I don’t buy tapes because of tapes, but because of the music that’s on it. A lot of interesting music gets released on that format. While I feel that high-quality mp3s are fine as well tbh, if I can get anything else I’ll go for that first (see last point).

To release music on: I do like the idea of releasing something physical, mostly because I’m a designer and because I like to work with physical stuff a lot more than virtual ones. If we exclude more creative ideas (which I’m thinking about as well) CDs are nice and work well, you get a lot of choices for booklets, digipacks etc. But they are in the medium range when it comes to production cost and people wonder why you have to listen to a CD if you have more convenient digital formats (like mp3s). Vinyl is nice, but is most expensive. Tape is a nice cheap alternative to those and there’s people interested in buying them (and as as @emenel pointed out, players are also cheap). Also, I admit that I’m in for the nostalgia as well.

But more for the making as for the listening. Reminds me of my mixtape days.

This of course is very much linked to “why I’m not a fan of non-physical-media-based music”, but that’s another topic, and we’re hijacking this thread already…


#15

Don’t use A-Z Duplication, they will mess up your order


#16

The physical medium seems more alive to me, and my music seemed to warm up a little when it was duplicated. Most people are surprised at how good chrome tape can sound. Also, picked up a used Nakamichi for listening, which is way better than another deck I used to have.


#17

This is my main reason for purchasing tapes. Most tapes on Bandcamp come with the digital version anyway, so why not get something physical to remind me that I like that EP/Album.In a sea of endless tracks on Spotify and iTunes physical objects can be a great reminder.

Second reasons is nostalgia.


#18

The first couple releases that I ever did were on hand dubbed cassettes and hand screen printed o-cards. The choice to go with cassette for me was purely an economic one at the time. I think cassettes now represent an aesthetic that came from bands and musicians wanting to self release music and that being the cheapest and most “diy” way to do it. But additionally I do love collecting and listening to cassettes for the vibe.

You can get 100 cassettes dubbed, j cards printed, and shell print/labels for under $300 if you go through a site. If you do it yourself you just need a lot of time and a double cassette deck. It does take a lot of time, but you will save around a hundred bucks probably. :smiley: (that being said, finding a good deck that is calibrated relatively well and can dub accurately is easier said than done now a days)

duplication.ca, like some others have mentioned, is my favorite site and i’ve always had good results from them whether it’s just buying blanks or having them do the whole thing. A friend of mine also does dubbing and packaging - he is very affordable and really knows what he’s doing! - https://store.crypticcarousel.com/collections/cassette-manufacturing

Good luck and have fun!! Cassette releases are a joy…


#19

I remember I talked to him a while ago for a project that never got off. He seemed a very nice and trustworthy guy!


#20

+1 for all of these. I also think that trading them makes them a more interesting ‘business card’, of sorts.

For anyone in the UK, Infinitely Duplication are worth looking at. Friendly guys and very reasonable prices.