Would you believe that a company, National Audio Company (NAC), has had the best year since 1969 business-wise? What they sell is the actual reason for the surprise here; audio cassettes. The company is the last audio cassette manufacturer in America.
The tapes have a high nostalgic value and that’s exactly the company is making huge profits off of them. The stubbornness that the company showed while its competition switched to CDs has finally paid off now. The NAC president Steve Stepp said, “You can characterize our operating business model as stubbornness and stupidity. We were too stubborn to quite. Probably the thing that really enlarged our business at a faster pace than anything is the retro movement. There’s the nostalgia of holding the audio cassette in your hand.”
During the late 90’s almost every other manufacturer of audio cassettes opted for CDs but no NAC. The company refused to budge and continued manufacturing tapes for spoken-word performances and people who purchased blank tapes. In fact, the company eventually bought the competitor’s equipment as well. Stepp claims that he was always aware of the fact that the tapes would come back in business and says, “[We were] preparing ourselves to pick the music market up when it came back, and that’s exactly what happened.”
NAC production manager, Susie Brown, added that musicians still love audio tapes. She said, “There was a drive from the independent bands to get that warm analog sound again, and it just continued to grow and grow. There’s the under-35 age group who have learned now that life is not comprised of mp3s and earbuds. They like the sound of analog, and that has really helped us a lot.”
The company’s 70% sales are from music cassettes thanks to their deals with major record labels such as Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group and some other small indie bands. The company is even making tapes for Metallica for the special release of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. The rest of the sales – 30% – are from selling blank cassettes. “We intend to be the last cassette company operating, and right now, we are,” Brown said.