Cassette tapes are back, kind of
Add the surprise return of the cassette tape to the long list of why the last couple of years have been some of the strangest in recent memory. After a number of strong years for the vinyl record, the media’s successor had a good 12 months, as sales in the US rose a solid 35-percent, according to Nielsen Music.
The cassette tape doesn’t appear to be on track for the same kind of romantic renaissance vinyl has been undergoing over the past decade, but a few pop culture milestones have driven its numbers back up. All three top spots were dominated by Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks, marking the format’s best year since 2012.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe film and its 2017 sequel have helped foster a newfound romanticism for the once mighty media, along with hit Netflix series, Stranger Things, which got its own cassette soundtrack release this summer. Those retro soundtracks monopolized the top four spots, with a Hamilton Mix Tape hitting number six. Some era appropriate albums also make the list, including Prince’s Purple Rain and Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Total U.S. sales hit 174,000 units this past year — that’s up from 129,000 the year prior. That, in turn, was up a whopping 74 percent from the year prior. Of course, that’s just a fraction of vinyl sales for the year, which hit 14.32 million — a nine-percent bump over a year prior.
Still, that’s all just a drop in the bucket compared to the 169.1 albums sold in 2017. Naturally, the numbers are all rosy for the music industry. That number was down 17.7 percent from a year prior.