Imagine a vending machine filled not with sugary sweets or sodas, but cassette tapes. The Nine, an Austin-based music company, has created just that.
Story by Megan Price
Photos by Jordan Steyer
After working at Apple for 10 years, Austin-native Brian Purvis decided to follow his love of music, live shows and Austin talent, creating The Nine in late 2016. Originally an online Etsy store selling albums with over 500 tapes in stock and gaining over 1,250 sales, the company began to expand. Given that expansion a growing desire to share his love of analog and connect with local music lovers, Purvis created the cassette vending machine. “Our first location was at Sidewinder music venue in downtown Austin on Red River Street,” Purvis says. “I thought it would be cool to start out in a music venue to connect directly with music lovers, and to potentially have local and touring bands put their music in the machine.”
With the increase in vinyl and record player sales in recent years, many artists and businesses are making physical copies of music more prominent. “There is something nostalgic about having a physical analog copy of music that you can touch and feel while getting an overall superior sound quality,” Purvis says. “I think that is why vinyl has made such a resurgence over the last five or six years and why cassette tapes are making a comeback.”
For the first time since 2011, digital music downloads made less money than physical sales. Purvis believes that a reason for this change in music consumption could be based on the different feeling each listening experience gives. “I’ve had numerous friends come over and listen to an album on compressed digital, vinyl and then cassette and they are truly blown away by how much better analog really sounds,” Purvis says. “It’s much more warm and feels as if you are listening to the band live.”
To make this idea a reality, Purvis had to consider the technical aspects of the project, like how to ensure the tapes don’t break as well as the different ways customers could purchase from the machine. “I worked with a third party vending machine company on the specs and my overall idea and in a couple months I had the first model sitting in my living room,” Purvis says. “We built in special padding so all tapes will get to you safely in the machine. It also has mobile wallet accepting Apple Pay, Google Pay, credit cards and, of course, cash money.”
The tapes range in price from nine to 25 dollars,are play tested and range from iconic 90’s artists like Sonic Youth and Nirvana to movie soundtracks such as Space Jam and Beetlejuice. There are also new tapes from artists such as Mac Demarco, DIIV and Shannon and the Clams. As more and more artists begin to release their albums on tape, Purvis hopes to soon include music from local Austin bands.
When the Sidewinder closed after six months, Purvis began to look for a different location around Austin to put the machine. The machine is currently located in Lakeline Mall, but The Nine hopes to have the opportunity to place more machines throughout the city, particularly at other music venues to support local artists. In its new location, the machine is still gripping people’s attention. “I love seeing people's’ reaction to the machine, whether it’s when I am restocking it or people tagging us on Instagram,” Purvis says. “Everyone seems to do a double take and are always interested in learning more about it.”
The invention of the cassette vending machines brings with it many positive changes to Austin. Considering it is one of the most creative ways of distributing music, through it, analog can begin to gain modern recognition, and support for local music right here in Austin can be encouraged.
The machine brings with it a different way to sell music. It also allows for analog to begin to gain modern recognition and support for local music right here in Austin can be encouraged. “Austin has such a great live music scene and I feel truly lucky to be here right now,” Purvis says. “It is so important that we continue to support and encourage local venues and artists so the scene can continue to thrive.”