A few years ago, small indie labels starting making their new releases available on cassette tape. In the age of digital downloads and streaming services, the chance to buy a physical, playable object from a band was an attractive offer. Plus, it was cheaper than vinyl. But now, as reported by Rolling Stone, there’s a new archaic music format in town: 3.5” floppy discs that are preloaded with the only music suited for such a low-tech vehicle of nostalgia—vaporwave.
“Floppies are cheaper than cassettes, they don’t have to be tediously dubbed, they look appealing, they’re available in lots of colors and have cool designs that people like,” says Matthew Isom of the vaporwave label Power Lunch. Of course, these thin plastic disks can only hold about eleven and a half minutes of highly compressed music, but that doesn’t seem to bother dedicated vaporwave fanatics. The spacey, sample-heavy genre has always been associated with outdated physical media, and the move to floppy disk releases seems like a natural one.
No doubt some of you are thinking: Where do you even get floppy disks these days? Producers have tried different avenues—eBay, classified ads, shady dudes in alleyways—and some have managed to get their hands on hundreds of usable diskettes. “You find some interesting stuff on them,” Sterling Campbell, founder of Canadian floppy disk imprint Strudelsoft, says to Rolling Stone. “Pictures of I Dream Of Jeannie and Gilligan’s Island. People’s family photos and stuff.”
While Campbell admits that he thinks most people don’t even play the disks and just want something cool to put on their shelf, it’s the low price point that appeals to most producers. For under $20, a vaporwave fan can get a used floppy drive and a handful of three-song disks from their favorite artists. They may not be the most practical collectors items, but they’re certainly some of the cheapest.
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