Contrary to reports, the resurgence of the tape cassette has, it seems, been greatly exaggerated – tape sales are still far too low for the RIAA to measure.

The vinyl resurgence in recent years has been well-documented, with vinyl sales rising from 205,000 copies in 2007 to in excess of 2 million in 2015. 

With part of the vinyl boom attributed to the fashion for retro tech, as illustrated by retailers such as Urban Outfitters selling turntables and vinyl, it was perhaps only natural that trend-setters would look to other 'retro' audio formats. Enter the cassette tape - and recent reports of its rise in popularity.

The Daily Mail this week reported that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the body in charge of certifying gold and platinum records, was investigating ways to track sales of cassette tapes due to an apparent surge in popularity and sales.

Buoyed by the success of niche underground releases on cassette tapes, the report suggested mainstream acts would soon be following suit. A cassette tape resurgence beckoned. Even Justin Bieber was on board, with his latest album already available to buy on cassette.

Alas, the RIAA has moved to quash any building excitement. The RIAA's VP of communications, Cara Duckworth Weiblinger, told Resident Advisor that they had not been notified of any noticeable uptake in cassette tape sales. 

More after the break

"We regularly check with our music label members to see if they are reporting any change in the sales of cassettes, but there hasn’t been for quite some time," said Duckworth Weiblinger.

"It’s such a small number it doesn’t meet the threshold of sales requirements for us to report it (we report sales by category on a scale of millions of dollars and cassettes just haven’t broken that threshold). So there has been no increase in sales of cassettes or a proactive effort to look into tracking this further."

Looks like you can leave that Nakamichi in the attic, then.

That being said, we do know more tapes are being sold - but it's clearly an increase on a very small number. Record Store Day 2015 reported growth in cassette tape sales, while a survey by ICM in April last year revealed 5 per cent of music fans had bought a cassette tape that month, up from 2 per cent the previous year (even if they weren't even listening to it). Perhaps that's why we have seen new portable tape and CD players released this year.

Nevertheless, for now at least, it seems the cassette tape won't be making a miraculous return to favour.

MORE: From CRT to VHS - the tech that got left behind


Graham Luke's picture

Quinoa fritter, anyone...?

Who other than than a style-obsessed, bearded and 'sleeved' hipster could possibly find ANY value in listening to music on cassettes?

Oh, and you can take your fixed-gear, 8 inch handlebarred piece of junk 'bicycle' an' throw it in the canal an' all.

Joe Cox's picture


...but fair Wink

Graham Luke's picture

They don't like it up 'em,

They don't like it up 'em, Joe! ;O)

Gregorivich's picture

Me. Because you can generally

Me. Because you can generally get a cassette album on bandcamp for £7 including flac download in comparison to the best part of £20 for an album on vinyl.   There are also plenty of good things that only come out on cassette (of the physical formats).    It's the record companies that like vinyl as they can remaster and reissue all their old stuff put a few demos and b- sides on it and flog it for an absorbitant sum.

robroy's picture

Hi Graham , I got a beard

Hi Graham , I got a beard mate but I ain't obsessed, just very old and decrepit and longing for the past ! Not in use now but I still own and have in my possession the Original 1958 Tannoy first magnetic Stereo Record Cartridge ever made for sale in the UK. It weighs upwards of a quarter of a tonne and plays both sides of a vinyl disc at the same time it's that solid ! Linked to a Dynatron preamp and thence through two monbloc Quad 10 watts per channel power amps into Quad Sofa Sized Electrostatic Loudspeakers, a quarter turn on the volume control removed any wax you had in your ears. Those were the days. Peace and love, mate, best wishes, Roy.


Graham Luke's picture

And in all humility....

I would like to thank both robroy and Gregorivich for firmly putting me in my place. No one likes a smart-alec, do they...?

Tooslow's picture

The numbers don't add up

Sales by medium adds up to about 33%, sales by source to about 67%. So what mystery medium, that accounts for two thirds of all sales, are people buying and where (accounting for one third of all sales) are they buying it from? 

wilsonlaidlaw's picture

I would be pleased not to

I would be pleased not to have to search around on Fleabay for unused chrome tapes to use on my Nakamichi BX-2. I have tried digital recording methods like Audacity but with less than ideal results. For capturing audio streams or broadcasts, little beats a high quality cassette recorder with chrome tapes for results and convenience. B&W in Worthing still services Nakamichi. 

robroy's picture

Unsung cassette tapes

I have three large boxes of cassettes recorded by YT from many years back which have not seen the Son Et Lumiere of day for yonks. So I unearthed my ageing Aiwa 1250 AD sloping top panel desk-top tape machine and powered it up hoping to relive found memories of yesteryear. Not yet connected to amp or speakers, just to see if all the lights lit up ! Alas terrible noises were the result with the two L&R channel signal needles going haywire and red signal overload indicators flashing like Fire  and Rescue on emergency call-out !

Oh dear, drive belts or gears knackered ? Mouse droppings in the works ? Looks like a screwdriver job and strip down to see if I can make repairs and adjustments to same. At least it's analogue mainly and mechanical I hope, so perhaps no chasing invisible electrons round the kitchen table like modern tech ???

robroy's picture

What's a Watt ?

A watt is a measure of 'electrical work done' in any given electric circuit. However an 'acoustic watt' is now for something completely different. Hence the discrepancy between say, a 100 watt power output from an amp and the few measly acoustic watts needed to make your ears bleed.

Phil Spencelayh's picture


Who in there right mind would want to use casettes. In the old days I had to select a source then pop in a casette and press record. When finished I could leave it in the HIFI and listen to it or pop in the car or the walkman. An absolute nightmare! Now all I have to do is Switch the computer on and find a website with a decent stream. then start Audacity. Then I have to change formats and output the resultant to the local storage so that I can later connect via an asio or dac to the hifi to play it, and then plug in mp3 players and/or phones to transfer files for use when portable. If I want it in the car I have to transfer to a flash drive . Of course I could buy a streamer for the house and a car radio with bluetooth to stream from the phone. I cant wait for the next developments to make all of my current tech obsolete!

Andrew Dutton's picture

Nostalgia, baby!

I'm now well into middle age, and like most of my ilk, trying to recapture great moments from my youth in small ways.

One is cassette.  I always had the best kit and media available, so the recording and playback quality was actually pretty good.  There's a ritual involved in making a good mix tape for self or a loved one that is utterly lost with the advent of digital copy and paste, and receiving a mix tape you know that some effort was involved in its preparation.  And the tense excitement of waiting for your loved one's response to the tape you prepared for them is something that never grows old.

Sadly, my ex put all my tapes onto a hot, sunny windowsill whilst cleaning, and then forgot to put them back in their original place (an event now simply referred to as "THE INCIDENT").  I didn't dsicover what had happened for a few days, by which time the tapes had all been destroyed - some had physically melted, and with the rest the recordings were all now duff.  Goodbye thousands of pounds worth of investment into a cherished collection.

I can't imagine buying a new album on tape again, but I certainly enjoy making a mix tape every now and again on the vintage tape recorder I lovingly restored.

And I have an old 8 Track deck awaiting restoration too, along with about three hundred albums (all of which will also need some work to replace the perished foam guides).  Something for the long winter evenings...

jim lewis's picture

So what you're saying is

So what you're saying is there was a factual error in a story run by the Daily Mail.

Surely that's a story in itself... oh wait.

Julian Stevens's picture

Tape Cassettes

I'd love to see a renaissance of MiniDisc, a brilliant format, in which recordings are virtually indistinguishable from the original (be it CD or vinyl).  Martin Colloms reported many years ago a very slight diminution of P.R.A.T. but you have to listen very closely to notice it.  I have several (Sony) decks, all acquired via eBay for very little money.  For even better quality, most have a digital output that can be fed into your outboard D:AC.