The rebirth of cassette tapes

Cassette tapes see a revival as sales are expected to hit 100,000

2003. The year two brothers formed what is now Seven Integration. Dido had the number one album Life For Rent and it was also the last time that the sale of cassette tapes exceeded 100,000... until now.

It seems that our hunger for retro products and nostalgia exceeds logic as sales of the humble, flawed cassette format is once again expected to exceed 100,000 units. Cassettes still only represent about 0.2% of albums sold in the UK this year, but showing growth of 112% year on year. The growth is suggested to be due to younger consumers buying them for their collectable appeal as is the case with vinyl, along with that, the retro-eighties appeal, which artists such as Dua-Lipa, the 1975 and the Weeknd have spoken about as influencing their music have also had an impact.

The Revival of Cassettes

Another key factor behind the revival of cassette tapes could be the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy. In the film and it’s equal the main character owns a Sony Walkman and plays a “mix-tape” to remember his time on Earth and connection to his lost mother. As part of the marketing for the movie the soundtrack was released on cassette and did surprisingly well and may well have started the trend.

Flawed Format

The cassette tape is one of the few formats where the sound quality actually degrades over time whether it is played or not, so buying a cassette as a collectible is a strange concept. I can’t think of another “collectible” that you might buy which over time, even unused, degrades to a point of being useless. Perhaps it is to do with the memorabilia. Nowadays we store our music (if at all) as digital files that are unseen. It is no longer the case that your music collection is on display on a shelf in your bedroom, it’s all in the cloud.

Death of The Cassette Tape

British record labels began releasing cassettes in October 1967 but they really took off after the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979. Tapes became the most popular audio format in the UK between 1985, when it overtook vinyl, and 1992, when it was eclipsed by CDs. Sales collapsed at the end of the Nineties and most music labels abandoned the cassette in 2003.

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