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Cassette-Tape Comeback: Past Tech Is The Future For Mexican Record Label Cintas

Fernando Treviño, Ernesto Vidal and Oscar Aguirre
(Photo by Rodrigo Cervantes - KJZZ)
Mexican entrepreneurs and music fans (left to right) Fernando Treviño, Ernesto Vidal and Oscar Aguirre partnered to found Cintas, a record company that produces cassettes for indie rock bands.

MONTERREY, MEXICO — Digital music and streaming keep growing, but some music lovers still bet on old-school, analog formats. Such is the case of a Mexican company that wants to bring cassettes back.

A year ago, a group of friends wanted to try something different to connect new bands with their fans. What they created was a new company with an old idea: cassette tapes.

The label is called Cintas — tapes in Spanish — and is based in Monterrey, Mexico.  It started copying 20 cassettes for Pura Crema, a local indie rock band with songs such as “ Ya mero caes.” In fact, one of the founders of Cintas plays in the group.

Since then, Cintas has recorded 18 bands, most of them from Mexico, and has produced over 1,000 tapes.

Cintas uses tapes imported from factories in the United States and Canada and the artwork and recording are made in Mexico. One of their policies is to give absolute creative freedom to the artists.

Ernesto Vidal, founder of the company, explained that Cintas is part of the growing scene of independent artists and labels in Mexico, and they are producing music with inexpensive supplies.

“The thing with cassettes is that it’s a very low-cost format, and for us being in Mexico, we were like, ‘Well, we can’t really do vinyl, because vinyl is very expensive.'”

For Oscar Aguirre, one of his partners, the comeback of the cassette is a worldwide phenomenon that is gaining popularity, even though it competes with other formats.

“It’s not profitable right now, but we hope so in the future,” Aguirre said while he laughed. “But we do it more for supporting the bands and, as they grow, we also grow with them.”

Cintas itself is a project funded with the savings of its founders, and it took a year to finally get some returns of investment.

The Mexican company is trying to corner a slice of a nostalgia market that is actually growing. The National Audio Company, one of the largest manufacturers of audio cassettes in the United States, produced more than 10 million tapes in 2014 and sales are up 20 percent every year.

Right now, Cintas is looking for indie bands in Mexico and the U.S. to record, as well as for stores in both countries to sell their tapes.

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Rodrigo Cervantes is KJZZ’s bureau chief in Mexico City, where he was born and raised. He has served as opinion writer, contributor and commentator for several media outlets and organizations in Mexico and the United States, including CNN, Georgia Public Broadcasting and Univisión. Cervantes previously worked as the business editor and editorial coordinator for El Norte, the leading newspaper in Monterrey and a publication of Grupo Reforma, Mexico’s premier news group. In Mexico City, Cervantes served in Reforma as a reporter, special correspondent, editor and special sections coordinator. Cervantes also held the editor position at MundoHispánico, a division of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia’s oldest and largest Latino newspaper. He also participated as one of the first members of the Diversity Advisory Group for Cox Media. In 2012, Cervantes was appointed as fellow for the Leadership Program of The New York Times/Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, as well as for the "Líderes Digitales" program from the International Center for Journalists. In 2010, he was awarded with the Poynter-McCormick Leadership Fellowship. Cervantes graduated with honors in communication sciences and journalism from the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM), Mexico City Campus. Later, he was granted the Fundación Carolina Scholarship from the Spanish government to obtain an MBA degree at San Pablo-CEU School of Business (Madrid). Other awards include: the Power 30 Under 30 Award for Professional and Community Excellence in Atlanta, the Outstanding Alumni Medal from ITESM, and several José Martí Awards for Journalism Excellence from the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP). Cervantes enjoys music, books, travel, friendship, good mezcal and the occasional company of his guitar.