Hifi News

Cassette Tape Sales Soar: from Major Artists To Underground Electronic Music

Vinyl shmynl, the real analogue story of this year (ok, it’s only February) is the growth in sales of the cassette tape

Apparently, cassette album sales in the USA grew by 74% in 2016 with 129,000 copies sold (up from 74,000 in 2015) according to Nielsen Music.

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Don’t get too excited folks. If you look at the total album sales in the USA alone then you’re looking at a little over 200 million so the cassette figures are a speck on that score. Even vinyl has past the 13 million figure. But look, cassettes were supposed to have been dead and buried for years – everyone said so, didn’t they? – so this latest figure is pretty incredible on that basis.

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So what’s going on? Well, there’s been several ‘speciality’ releases of late including cassette issues via Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Eminem and Prince (well, his estate, at any rate). The new cassettes typically come with a code for a digital download of the album, for those consumers who don’t own a cassette player. But look, 25 albums actually exceeded 1,000 cassettes sold last year which is pretty good going while the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack, actually reached 4,000.

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Urban Outfitters has been a major force behind cassette releases (they’re responsible for 21% of cassette sales alone) releasing a swathe of titles such as the soundtrack to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Kanye West’s Yeezus and The 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. Most cassette albums were sold through Internet and web-based direct-to-consumer and independent retail.

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Cassette Store Day, which took place on 8 October 2016, also helped sales due to a number of exclusive items on sale.

With vinyl pressing plants under major strain to fulfil orders, some observers believe that cassette may play a part in taking up the slack for some artists.

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While we’re on the subject, take a peek at the mini-documentary on how the tape-based experimental electronic scene was created. The documentary was created by my chums at Vinyl Factory.

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Denny
    19th February 2017 at 1:09 am

    I’ve been a dinosaur for decades with a few friends of mine who comprise the World Tape Pals, our mission was to keep the humble cassette medium alive. We don’t do much in the way of prerecorded tapes, opting to make our own mix tapes which we send to each other three times a year. We were lucky enough (depending on how you decide to view it) to obtain pretty respectable gear that has held up very well such as Tandberg TCD 3014, ReVox B 215, Luxman K-03, and my humble Nakamichi CR 5. The tapes we make are stellar and the process is reverent. When people hear our recordings the usual reaction is stunned approval. Others don’t care for cassettes and that’s fine, I just don’t need people telling me that they are inherently inferior.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      19th February 2017 at 10:02 am

      Brilliant! And more power to you Denny. I myself have a Dragon plus a Studer and love them both to bits 🙂 Keep up the good work!

      • Reply
        Denny
        19th February 2017 at 9:57 pm

        Thank you for taking time to respond, Paul. Keep up your good work with the site. Many blessings.

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          19th February 2017 at 10:05 pm

          Thanks Denny and thank you too and, if you ever get the time, be interested in your thoughts on those machines you mentioned in terms of relative merits, etc. They are, in their own way, specialist and niche machines. For those people looking for quality second hand kit, it’d be great to know your thoughts on the pros and cons of each for interested readers who might want to grab a machine for themselves.

          • Denny
            19th February 2017 at 11:11 pm

            That’s very generous, Paul. I do not own all of the decks that I listed, they are the property of the respective members of the World Tape Pals. However, I would be happy to give my impressions over time as my recollection improves and/or I get to visit my friends. One deck I did get a personal demonstration of was the TDC-3014. I was dumbfounded. It was so unlike any cassette unit I had ever seen that it took me a while to fully grasp it. It was a different kind of awe than when an audio dealer acquaintance of mine put a Dragon through its paces for me.
            If you would indulge me with something slightly off-topic I would like to know your opinion of Dolby S please.

          • Paul Rigby
            19th February 2017 at 11:27 pm

            Hi Denny

            No problem – as I say, take your time. And there’s no pressure either. If life means that you’re busy, then no problem. Nevertheless, I would value your comments. By all means discuss it with your colleagues, if that will help. As for Dolby S? Hmmm. I’m firmly against the manipulation of original sound in any way. I would rather ‘get it right’ originally then have to deal with it later on, down the chain. Even if the original sound is less than perfect, I would rather face that than, again, listen to any processing.

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