If you’re a music fan old enough to have lived through the years of the Sony Walkman, the boom box, and New Order, you’re probably familiar with the shortcomings of the cassette tape. You remember that irritating hissing noise that seeped through the speakers? How about the tape jam that cut you off in the middle of your favorite Echo & the Bunnymen song? Who would ever want to bring back that horrible music format, right?
Well, it seems that we’re all nostalgic for the past, no matter how impractical and unsatisfying it may have been at the time. In some underground and indie music circles, there’s been a minor resurgence in cassette tapes in the past few years. Also feeding off this movement is an iOS app called AirCassette, which helps you bring your 80s mixtape days back to life. Based in Espoo, Finland, AirCassette provides a variety of retro tape skin interfaces that give your music collection the look of a vintage cassette. The reels spin while the music plays, the song information appears in handwritten letters on the label, and you can even rewind and fast forward using the reel holes. Although the company has been around for a few years, they’ve just recently joined Finnish Music Startups, a collective that helps give voice and visibility to the many (30+) music-focused startups here in Finland.
While using AirCassette, you can add tracks to the play queue and then save the session as a mixtape--making it a whole lot easier than the dual cassette boom boxes of the past. Once you’ve finished curating the perfect tape, you can share it with friends on Facebook or via email. And if you want to support the artists that you’ve included on the playlist, you can add an iTunes song preview and download link to each track. Though there’s nothing really innovative about sharing a playlist, the AirCassette mixtape is accompanied by the image of a sleek tape skin, which may appeal to some retro-loving niche music fans.
The app costs $0.99 to download, and while it’s definitely not something that you need, it provides a nice novelty interface for those eager to relive the 80s. AirCassette fits squarely into the category of ‘nostalgia apps’ that don’t really solve any problems or address any needs, but instead just make contemporary things look like they’re old (like the endless amount of retro photo filter apps out there). It will be interesting to see if they introduce new features that add a little more practical value for their users, but perhaps that’s missing the point: AirCassette excels at its novelty, and that’s all it’s meant to do.
Ben Norris is the Founder / CEO of The Peddle, a Helsinki-based company that provides native English language services to startups across the Nordic and Baltic regions. He moonlights as a contributor to ArcticStartup.