The Cassette Comeback (That Doesn’t Exist…)

Latest breakdown of cassette shipments, as tracked by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
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Latest breakdown of cassette shipments, as tracked by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
  • Save
Latest breakdown of cassette shipments, as tracked by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

As amazing as a cassette comeback would be, it doesn’t seem to be actually happening in any substantial way.  Nielsen Soundscan doesn’t break cassettes out anymore, though digital albums, LPs and CDs account for about 99.93 percent of all US-based album sales in 2013.

17 Responses

  1. Jaded Industry Dude

    I see this more of a ‘cute cheap product to add to shopping carts when you’re buying four colors of the same album on vinyl and a t-shirt’ – Cause why not pay an extra 8 dollars to complete the set?

    Bands that release cassettes have a cult following, from what I’ve noticed. And because of that, they/we need to get the cassette, too, cause they/we just shelled 80 for every vinyl color, 20 for the deluxe cd edition, and 15 for the shirt, so why not 8 too?

    Yadda, yadda. Get off my lawn.

  2. Erik P

    The numbers don’t mean much since most cassette releases are small cassette-only labels and not reported to the RIAA.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I looked up the half-year numbers on Nielsen Soundscan and added. LPs+CD+digital albums = 99.93% of album sales, with everything else (including cassettes) accounting for the rest. Cassettes are not specifically broken out in the report.

      • Visitor

        But that’s meaningless if 99.9% of cassette sales aren’t reported to Soundscan.

        • Paul Resnikoff

          And what’s preventing them from being counted (leading question)?

          • Visitor

            Cassette-only labels selling directly, & not set up with soundscan. Indie stores that aren’t set up with soundscan, or who don’t jump through SS’s hoops on cassettes. DIY-types making cassette-only releases. Cassettes as bundling options not counted as separate sales. Small bands selling cassettes at shows.
            It just seems like cassette sales these days are going through a different chain than the standard album sale. I’m not saying there is a huge cassette revolution going on, or even the raw quantitiy increases as we’re seeing with vinyl, but there does seem to be more and more cassette action these days–especially on the punk/DIY side of things. Either way, I don’t think Soundscan or the RIAA are accurate measures of this niche.

          • bp

            most new cassette releases don’t have bar codes and are sold via mailorder or at shows. you need a upc number for soundscan. this really isn’t that hard to figure out, dude!

  3. Visitor

    Don’t think tracking micro-targeted small runs sold directly to fans or via independent record stores is really the RIAA’s forte…

  4. Capt. Colours

    Go talk to the guys at BURGER RECORDS … they’ve been killing it quietly on cassette sales.
    Pretty sure they dont give a rats ass about Soundscan.

  5. Meryl K

    I hate charts like this, since they don’t tell you anything about where sales are (and are not) taking place. Plus what about which genres of music, etc. that cassettes are even made for anymore? I’d personally like to see a breakdown, not just get a pretty infographic.

  6. musical android

    There is also a big omission that does not get mentioned and that is that in a lot of third world countries there is still a big market for cassettes- some have to do with the economy but a big reasion is that in tropical countries or in other extreme weather CD’s do not hold up and Vinyl being to hard to keep up also being more expensive to produce…
    In either case just that this does not seem to come into the calculations.

  7. morejadedthanthatguy

    I really hope that labels aren’t dumb enough to start investing in cassettes. I know things are bad but that would really be sad. 8-tracks areULGTFY far cooler and that would be just as ridiculous. Reel to reel?

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