Cassettes Are Making a Comeback: Total Sales Jumped 35% Last Year In the US, and 112% In the UK

Don’t expect cassette sales to slow down anytime soon, according to a new report.

With the meteoric rise of streaming music over the past few years, digital downloads and physical sales have sharply declined.  In fact, both formats may soon go the way of the dodo.

Apple will pull music downloads from the iTunes Store by early 2019.  Amazon Music has also shut down support for MP3 imports.  Best Buy will stop selling CDs altogether on July 1st, with Target reportedly the next big chain to follow suit.

In a surprise twist, vinyl record sales accounted for 14% of all physical album purchases in 2017, a record high.  Now, another format long presumed dead has enjoyed an unexpected resurgence.

Welcome back to the mainstream, cassettes.

In the UK, the physical format enjoyed explosive growth.  According to The Official UK Charts Company, sales of cassette albums more than doubled.  Thanks to high-profile artists releasing their latest albums on cassettes, sales rose 112% over 2016.  Last year, over 80 albums were released, driving almost 20,000 sales.  The format last reached that mark in 2006, when UK music fans purchased 21,019 units.

In the US, the story is also surging.  According to Nielsen Music, cassette album sales grew 35% last year.  Thanks in large part to Guardians of the Galaxy, sales rose to 174,000 copies sold, up from 2016’s 129,000.

Nielsen Music noted that the format remains relatively niche, comprising only 0.17% of all US album sales in 2017.  Yet, it noted that numbers have more than quadrupled in the past several years.  Combining 2009, 2010, and 2011 statistics, cassette album sales only numbered 34,000.  In the UK, the Official UK Charts Company tracked 3,823 cassette purchases in 2012.

As in the US, Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life, Taylor Swift’s Reputation, and Jay Z’s 4:44 helped to drive the uptick in cassette sales.

Speaking on the seeming resurgence of the format, British songwriter and guitarist Serge Pizzorno told,

It’s about fan loyalty, I think.  It’s about having a physical object.  One of your favorite bands has put out an album and you want it on a different format that you can hold in your hands.  It’s nice to see the sleeve and the artwork in a different way as well.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix 2 topped the UK charts.  Arcade Fire, Jay Z, Kasabian, and Creeper rounded out the top 10.

Serge added that he doesn’t expect the resurgence to stop anytime soon, thanks to consumers’ nostalgia for owning physical products.

“It’s just nice to have physical things, isn’t it?  As amazing as the digital world is, where everything is floating in the air and you can have what you want at any point, you pay for something but you don’t have any possession of it.”

You can check out the top cassette sales here.


Featured image by Brian Pennington (CC by 2.0)

4 Responses

  1. Stoyan

    good my Technics SE-CH610 will be happy and buying more vinyl record at very low prices at spring book sales.

  2. tentwing

    “It’s just nice to have physical things, isn’t it? As amazing as the digital world is, where everything is floating in the air and you can have what you want at any point, you pay for something but you don’t have any possession of it.”—So why not buy CD’s ?

    • Anonymous

      because they’re not as robust as cassettes. throw a cassette across the floor and it’ll play fine. throw a cd and it’ll get scratched and while they’re very resilient to scratches its not a good thing for a light reflective media to recover from.I’m not suggesting we purposely throw them but the implication is that accidental damage is less likely with cassettes.

      They’ve got retro appeal that goes back to the mid sixties and they can sound as good as CDs with dolby S.

      • subhasis

        Cassettes were always my choice to listen to now I don’t listen because of digital music.