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

How reliable are these Recordex duplicators? Out of convenience and maintenance fear I ended up getting a new Tascam 202MKVII for listening and dubbing direct from master to two tapes at once. A bit spendy, but I wanted to learn to master for cassette before doing larger duplication runs. These look interesting though.

Where are some of folx favorite places to get tapes made in the US? Thinking of putting out a few releases this year

Are you in the U.S.?

Yes, sorry updated original post.

Nice. I’ve done 3 tapes w these folks / can recommend.

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If you have a load of type II tapes then save them to use in a cassette 4track, or sell them to someone who does

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Might be the wrong place to ask this, but what services/companies are everyone using to print inserts and buy blank tapes? Also what machines do you use to record to the tapes? Thinking of making my own. Thanks!

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thank you very much, super helpful!

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I have a preference question for all of you tape makers and tape listeners out there :slight_smile:

I’m considering not getting/doing Norelco cases for an upcoming release, and just doing an O card over the tape, but it occurred to me that maybe this would be annoying / deterring for folks who have a collection to not have matching cases.

Part of this is me thinking about reducing the plastic footprint of the process, part of this is thinking about Norelco cases breaking so often during shipping.

so…

  • Norelco cases only for my collection!
  • I dont care, other cases are fine!

0 voters

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I just wrapped up a small cassette release of 25 tapes to give as gifts for a group of friends that helped with an unexpected move my partner and I had to make at the beginning of the year. I ordered custom length tapes (14 minutes per side for this run) and cases from Delta Media and recorded each tape at home on an old sony tape deck. I designed, printed, cut, and folded my own 5 panel j cards, bought cassette mailers from Uline, and shipped them all via US media mail. I think it came out to being around $6 USD for each tape to make it to their intended recipient. The only downside I felt in going this route was that the tape themselves were bare. I didn’t want to go the route of printing label stickers for them so I just wrote on each tape with permanent marker, but it would have been nice to have a cleaner image on the tapes themselves. Something to explore with the next release.

Making each copy of the tape was the biggest time sink, but like someone said above (sorry can’t remember or locate who it was!) it’s easy to just do chores or something that you can step away from in between swapping tapes. I cleaned, read, made music, ate, played with the cats. It was a nice process to add into a typical day at home. As it was my first attempt at doing a cassette release I think the quality of the copies could be better (there’s a notable difference in levels between the two sides on some copies,) and it mostly came down to me not being as thorough as I should have been and spreading the duplication process out over too much time. I think I took about a week to duplicate them all in three or four sessions. I also didn’t really master the tracks at all, and though it doesn’t detract from the release too much I think I’d like to take a swing at that next time.

I think for my next cassette release I’d like to do the duplication myself again and shoot for better quality. It was a really nice process and it felt really special touching and interacting with each tape and thinking about each person that the tapes were going to, and the challenge of improving seems like it’ll make going through the process again interesting and engaging. I like the sound of the setup @Gahlord describes, I’ll probably keep my eyes open for some extra decks to try this.

Cutting and folding the j cards was a nightmare. Designing them only took 20 minutes or so, but from printing to slipping them in the cases took around 3 hours. Overall I’m very pleased with the aesthetic of the release, but oh my it was tedious cutting them out and folding them all just right and it seemed like every one needed some individual adjustments. I think next time I’ll include clearer guide points for folding and invest in a trimming board to keep the edges straight and uniform. If the tedium persists I’ll probably look for a service that’ll do them.

Hope that’s some helpful insight for anyone considering doing it all yourself! I have a few extra copies at home, I’ll snap a picture of them when I get the chance.

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I’m working on getting a small number of previously used cassettes ready for a self dubbed release and had a few thoughts I wanted to share:
The Bible on cassette or lecture series are good sources for lots of cassettes at once that are often all the same length (if it doesn’t bother you to erase something like that.)
If you want to remove the silk screened labeling on a clear cassette with white print, isopropyl alcohol works great. On a white cassette with black printing, try a white vinyl art eraser. Paper labels need a bit more work but the adhesive residue can be softened with isopropyl and then scraped up with a dull razor blade.

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Was the Bible on cassette one of those box sets with the whole thing? How many tapes at what length a piece?

40 or so 90 minute cassettes for $2.99 :slightly_smiling_face:. A few were missing and this was at a Christian resale shop so keep that in mind.

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A word about tape lengths:

If you are stuck with tapes that have too much length, and you are creative, there is a way to make the most of any length of space that may be at the end of a cassette after you’ve already recorded onto the tape.

  1. Look up and study John Cage.

  2. Come to the realization that the space at the end (or even somewhere in the middle) of a cassette it’s a gigantic opportunity to insert dynamic breadth and relief into your recording.

  3. Study other forms of art for comparison (especially sculpture) to understand why space and relief are important.

  4. Record a tiny piece of noise, music, or whatever, to put somewhere into that space.

I made a mix tape for a girl one time, and there was some space at the end of the tape. In the movie Pulp Fiction, there is this moment were Vincent asks Mia:

“So, was that an awkward silence?”

and she responds:

“I don’t know what that was”.

…so I put this at the end of the tape after about three minutes of silence.

That girl raved about that tape for years. She had a tape player in her car, and she listened to the tape and that part at the end of side two came out of nowhere while she was just driving around. Even after she was married and had kids, she she saw me once and claimed that she still had the tape.

The point of all of this is to insist that any space that you’re left with on a cassette has the potential to add another layer of depth that can become super memorable.

Take advantage of it.

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I just self released an album that I produced some self dubbed cassettes for and wanted to share a few experiences and tips. (Some may be repetitious of my earlier posts but I’m including them here as well.)
I had an idea that I’d like to do a self dubbed cassette release on used/reused tape while I was recording so I started combing the local thrift and resale shops. Pay attention to their sales cycle, many shops have weekly or monthly 1/2 off sales and you can get a lot for a little. Eventually, I started buying anything cheap just for the cases (see below.)
My biggest score was finding religious material in bookcase sleeves. Many of these are made as inexpensively as possible and the benefit of that is one tape length. One lecture series of 10 tapes was all 94min each (labeled on the leader) and an entire Bible was all on 90min tapes. A nicer new testament had various lengths that hover around 90 min with a few much shorter (as @Gahlord says, the tape counter is your friend in this case.) The downside is none of these came with cases, so be prepared to find them elsewhere or make O cards.
I looked for a bulk eraser nearby but couldn’t find one easily but i happened on a cheap 2 tape deck and used that to erase all the tapes. This took a long time but it was while I was doing a lot of other things and just stopping in to flip the tape. I made a red mark on each one to signify that it was erased when it came out. I used a white vinyl eraser to remove the printing on the cassettes, usually while i was waiting for one of them to finish erasing.
I recorded a master copy using my Zoom H5, which had the finished tracks, using a 1/8" stereo plug to 2 RCA adapter. I recorded pretty hot (+3db just flashing on the meter) but listened back to each track as I recorded to make sure it wasn’t distorting. These are Type 1 tapes, BTW. Once finished, I listened back to the entire tape while working a couple times through to be sure I was happy with it.
I dubbed each copy from the master tape, checking a few along the way and making sure the tape didn’t end before the recording did. I put a tiny green dot on each finished cassette.
For the cover I used some art I had previously made and scanned it with a cheap desktop printer/scanner. I used PhotoFiltre (a free simple image editing program) to adjust the scan and save it. The cover was assembled using the drawing function of LibreOffice (also free) and I printed the covers at my local library for a freewill donation. This was the biggest surprise to me: the covers look so good! I was happy with the layout I did but the print quality of this printer is incredible. Its a full color toner printer/copier but i wasn’t aware that some of this type include a varnish layer in the printing that puts a little gloss on the page and deepens the colors. They look like they were printed at a pro shop.
My layout was pretty simple but I wanted 3 panels (not including the spine and back flap) so I printed them 2 to a page and included some folding lines in the background. The 2 covers were lined up, so I scored both at the same time with a ruler and bone folder and then cut them. I did allow for some bleed on most edges since I wasn’t printing both sides at the same time and they tended to not line up exactly. The meant a little more time measuring some parts before cutting but it was minimal and meant that the images go full to all edges.
I had a box of cassette labels from long ago and found a template that was pretty close on line. A first printing on plain paper revealed that the dimensions were slightly off and I was able to adjust the spacing of my text before printing on the actual labels.
Whew, still reading? Sorry for the long post! I hope there’s something useful to some of you. :grinning:

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Thanks @Gahlord. I’m self employed so the time spent erasing wasn’t a big burden and the deck was only $7, so I considered it a deal if I only used it for erasing. I’ll have a look at getting a magnet if I do too many more than a few dozen tapes it would be nice to just get it over quickly.
It’s been ages since my Graphic Design course in college but I think I remember what you mean about the creep. In this case it was tolerances in the printer and it’s margins. The misalignment was mostly horizontal but I had accounted for that on one bleeding edge and I made both sides 1/8” taller than they needed to be to be sure I’d have full coverage. They mostly lined up but I was glad for the extra room to trim off.
Here’s the post I made in the releases category a few days ago:

There are a few download codes still available and the cassettes are on the Bandcamp page. If anyone would like to do a trade I’d be glad to swap!

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With a recent self-release, I did a short run of 10 hand dubbed cassettes and have had more interest than I expected from the UK and Europe. Most have been dissuaded from buying it by the high cost of shipping a small package to just about anywhere in the world from the US. AFAIK, the least expensive option for shipping a cassette is First class international package which is around $16 for a weight under 8 oz. Is there a service that I’m overlooking? It seems like it’s much cheaper shipping from Europe to the US.
While fretting over this, I noticed that Bandcamp allows you to give an order fulfillment partner access to your orders page. Now I’m wondering, (since this cassette and it’s cover started out as a digital file) are there small labels or companies in Europe that would create small runs of cassettes, stock them and ship them within Europe to get around the need to ship the actual cassette from the US to Europe? This would be similar to the way Peter Blasser of Ciat-Lonbarde partnered with Patch Point to make and sell his instruments in Europe.
Does anyone know of someone offering a service like this?

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From what I see everybody seems to have this problem. I usually end up buying tapes (and other physical media) only from artists or labels who are in EU, because of the shipping cost.
From Italy to the US the cost of sending a tape is pretty similar. I ended up basically not even getting my expenses back from the tape I’ve made, because of that.
Maybe there’s online shops specializing in tapes who you could contact?

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those who make copies at home: where do you guys buy your casettes these days?

I’ve used https://www.duplication.ca/ because they’re local, but they ship to both the US and Canada for free.

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