January 23, 2019

Cassettes Are Dead? Nope, Sales Up 23%

It’s funny how music formats long left for dead keep reappearing with new-found sales vigor. That’s the case with the lowly cassette, a format that was often denigrated even when it was hot. Believe it or not, sales last year actually grew by 23%, and not from indie bands selling their wares in clubs. These sales came from mainstream major label acts.

According to Nielsen Music, cassette album sales rose to 219,000 copies in 2018. To put that into perspective, in 2014 sales were just 50,000. To put it into more perspective, in 1994, sales were 246 million!

Not surprisingly, 3 versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack were included in the top 10. In fact, for the 4th year in a row, the original soundtrack was #1. Twenty One Pilots, Brittney Spears, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Elvis, and Wu Tang Clan round out the top 10.

RArtist, TitleSales
1Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy:
Awesome Mix Vol. 1
2Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2:
Awesome Mix Vol. 2
3Twenty One Pilots, Trench7,000
4Soundtrack, Stranger Things:
Music From the Netflix Original Series
5Britney Spears, …Baby One More Time4,000
6Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy:
Cosmic Mix, Vol. 1
7Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction3,000
8Metallica, The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited3,000
9Elvis Presley, Where No One Stands Alone2,000
10Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)2,000

Cassettes are still a small blip on the music industry’s overall radar, but they do make a difference when it comes to total album sales, which have dropped across most other formats. The numbers for cassettes aren’t huge when it comes to mainstream releases, but they’re still surprisingly healthy in general.

There’s still a big market for the things, and for many indie artists they’re a preferred format for merch, since they’re relatively fast and inexpensive to purchase and duplicate.

It just goes to show that you should never say never about a music format.

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