Sales of Cassette Tapes Have Quietly Grown 136.1% In the Past Year

Stack of Cassette Tapes
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Stack of Cassette Tapes
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photo: InspiredImages (CC 0)

In today’s digital age, where streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music reign supreme, it’s hard to imagine anyone buying physical music formats like vinyl records or cassette tapes anymore. However, the past few years have seen a surprising resurgence of these classic media formats. While vinyl records’ comeback has been talked about for years, the cassette tape’s growth has gone relatively unnoticed.

According to media metrics firm BuzzAngle, cassette tape sales have increased by 136.1% from 2016 to 2017. This growth is part of a multi-year trend that has seen cassette tapes make an unexpectedly resilient comeback. BuzzAngle also reported that cassette sales approached 100,000 units in 2017, accounting for just 0.1% of total physical album sales. This may seem like a small number, but it’s a significant increase from the near-zero sales numbers of just a few years ago.

While vinyl records’ resurgence is driven largely by nostalgia, the cassette tape’s growth is driven by cultural events and milestones. For example, the release of the soundtrack of the popular Netflix series “Stranger Things” on cassette tape spurred a renewed interest in the format. Similarly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe film “Guardians of the Galaxy” and its sequel also helped to nourish the once-dead cassette tape.

Despite their modest sales numbers, cassette tapes have become an unexpected source of revenue for artists and record labels. In 2017, during the holiday season, 69% of albums purchased were physical albums (CDs, vinyl albums, or cassettes), with 26,699 cassette tapes sold. This represents an increase of 130% since the 2016 holiday season.

Why I Still Buy Music in the Age of Spotify

But are cassette tapes just a fleeting fad? That’s a difficult question to answer. While the vinyl LP’s resurgence seems to be a lasting trend, driven by a deep-seated nostalgia for physical music formats, the cassette tape’s growth may be more short-lived. However, the format’s recent sales growth suggests that there may be a market for it, especially among collectors and music enthusiasts.

In addition to “Stranger Things,” other popular albums that have seen an influx in cassette tape sales include Hamilton, Prince’s Purple Rain, and Nirvana’s Nevermind. These releases indicate that the cassette tape’s growth is not just a quirky one-off, but the beginning of a trend that could continue to gain momentum in the coming years.

While it’s unlikely that cassette tapes will ever surpass the popularity of digital music formats like streaming services or MP3s, their resurgence is a reminder that physical media formats still hold a special place in the hearts of many music fans. The tactile experience of holding a cassette tape or vinyl record and enjoying the artwork and liner notes can’t be replicated by digital formats. For some, the resurgence of cassette tapes and vinyl records is a way of reconnecting with a bygone era of music.

In conclusion, while the cassette tape’s comeback may not be as strong as the vinyl LP’s, it’s still a remarkable trend that’s worth paying attention to. Only time will tell if it’s just a fleeting fad or the beginning of a lasting trend. Regardless of its fate, the cassette tape’s growth is a testament to the enduring appeal of physical media formats and their ability to evoke powerful memories and emotions.


5 Responses

  1. Nicky Knight

    I’ve always said here at DMN that the Phillips compact audio cassette is bouncing back because it’s a physical artifak, a souvenir, a heirloom, a mementos, something you can hold in your hand and marvel at.

    • Chris E

      Also there is definitely nostalgia around cassette tapes for 80s kids, especially alongside Sony Walkmans.

  2. Buffetboss

    I would like to know if 30 to 40 year old bluegrass and country music cassette tapes would be wanted by that genre’s fans.

  3. Sal

    I recently pulled my Sony TCK-611S cassett recorder out of storage. These were high quality machines with Dolby “S” noise reduction. My car doesn’t even have a cassette player but I’m hooking it up to my stereo system anyway. There’s just something cool about the way the deck (and cassettes) look. Ya, you can make a perfect CD with your PC but it’s just not the same as a cassette. Maybe it’s the subtle “pink noise” on the cassette (despite Dolby) that gives cassettes (and vinyl) their appeal. Who knows, perhaps reel-to-reel decks will also make a comeback.

  4. jmaier

    I have around 100 cassette tapes that I would like to donate to ?–mainly classical, some jazz. Help!