Good old cassettes going the LP way

"The cassette business is more or less finished...it's not even worth talking about," Bhushan Kumar, chairman and managing director, T-series, told reporters. Kumar Taurani, managing director of TIPS, said: "Until a few years ago we used to come out with close to 45 million units a year, now it's down to just a million units. The situation of cassettes is really bad."

According to the spokesperson of music retail chain Planet M, the convenience of storing data in more compact formats has led to the downfall of cassettes. "Cassettes as a format have been hit earlier, but now they have hit rock bottom. The convenience of storing data in a compact form has mainly contributed to this. Limitations like the magnetic coating of cassettes wearing off and problems due to moisture have also worked against them," said the spokesperson.

The other obvious reason is the advance of technology. "With advancement in technology, cassettes are getting phased out. In fact, music is now being sold on pen drives as well," Rajnigandha Shekhawat, singer and ex-brand manager, marketing at Times Music, told reporters. "The second reason is the physical sale of music per se is declining in India, even though music is being consumed more than ever."

People in the big cities are going for internet radio, online music and iPods. Audio cassettes that took over the LP (Long Playing records) generation in the 1970s have now been relegated to the small towns. "The use of audio cassettes has reduced drastically in the metros. It is still looked forward to in small towns, but big cities have long forgotten it," Kumar said. Many feel audio cassettes will soon become a thing of the past.

"Cassettes and CDs cost nearly the same amount of money to manufacture and with an increase in CD manufacture, the cost is only likely to drop. So, yes, there is a good chance that just the way the old LPs and gramophones made way for cassettes, it is now time to bid adieu to cassettes," said Shekhawat. Added Kumar: "The time of cassettes is over. Very soon their manufacture will stop."

Manish Sharma, a Planet M floor supervisor, told reporters: "We don't deal in cassettes any more. We deal only in CDs. Earlier, we used to sell cassettes but due to no demand, we shifted to selling CDs about a year ago." Ravi Shankar Sharma, assistant manager (Operations), Music World at Ansal Plaza, said: "Cassettes have almost been discontinued from the market. One can find them only with local shopkeepers or in rural areas now. "It's been almost two years now that music retail chains shifted to CDs because that's the trend now. CD players are cheap and and easily available."

According to a BBC report in 2005, globally cassette sales peaked in the mid-80s, when 900 million cassettes sold represented 54 percent of total music sales. Turkey sold 88 million cassettes a year at that time, India 80 million, and cassettes accounted for 50 percent of sales in these countries. In Saudi Arabia, it was 70 percent. A recent FICCI-KPMG report puts the size of the Indian music industry at Rs.830 crore ($1.7 million) in 2009, up from Rs.730 crore ($1.5 million) in 2008. Old timers do wish that cassettes would find a small place in it.

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