Mixed Media

Raising a Dead Format

Why Randall Taylor made cassettes the foundation of his record label

Randall Taylor (BA ’07).

Randall Taylor (BA ’07). Photo: Jacqueline Turner

By Michael Flatt

“I loved all these small, indie labels, and I was like, ‘Man, one day I’m going to start a record label.’”
Randall Taylor (BA ’07)

In the era of cloud-based, streaming audio services, music today can feel a bit, well, intangible. Randall Taylor (BA ’07) is doing his part to counter that trend.

Taylor is founder of Graveyard Orbit, a small, indie record label in Austin, Texas, that specializes in cassette tapes. A Web designer for a textbook company by day, Taylor runs the label out of his home office in his off-hours, doing everything from transferring the audio to cassette, to packing orders with stickers and thank-you notes.

A lifelong music fan, Taylor played guitar and synths in Buffalo-based bands after graduating from UB with a degree in media studies. After moving to Austin for work in 2011, he began looking for an affordable way to release music for his new act, Geodesics. He eventually met Chris Gelpi of Ritual Tapes, which operated on a shoestring budget with micro-runs of hand-recorded cassettes. After Gelpi helped him put out his Geodesics album on tape, Taylor realized he could run such a label himself—and Graveyard Orbit was born. Since 2013, it has released 26 LPs, EPs and compilations.

Cassettes today come in an array of dyed colors and appeal to the nostalgic sensibilities of many millennials and Gen-Xers. They’re also much more affordable to make than records. “Pressing vinyl is not something you can do yourself,” Taylor explains. “You have to send it out to get pressed. You have to pay hundreds of dollars, if not thousands. And that’s not really feasible for a lot of people.”

This DIY ethos spurred Taylor to organize the inaugural Austin Cassette Fest in 2014; his plan is to make it an annual event that brings together cassette labels and fans. Whether or not this retro medium makes a large-scale comeback, a small but dedicated community is emerging in indie music’s savvier pockets, both in the U.S. and abroad.

“It started out when I was just a kid, thinking, ‘I love Drive-Thru Records, I love Vagrant, I love Suicide Squeeze,’” Taylor recalls. “I loved all these small, indie labels, and I was like, ‘Man, one day I’m going to start a record label.’ And now I’m here, and it’s all because of tapes.”