While the continued return of vinyl rightfully draws a lot of attention, there’s another format that’s on the comeback trail: the cassette. Cassette album sales grew by 74 percent in 2016 with 129,000 copies sold (up from 74,000 in 2015) according to Nielsen Music.
Certainly, 129,000 is a tiny figure compared to the total number of albums and vinyl albums that were sold in 2016. Overall album sales totaled 200.8 million (down 17 percent), while vinyl albums sold 13.1 million (up 10 percent). But, considering that cassettes were effectively a dead format that had little love from audiophiles (unlike vinyl aficionados, who are devoted to the warm grooves of the LP), selling any cassettes at all is a pretty major feat.
Cassettes have seen growth thanks to specialty releases of recent albums, including Justin Bieber’s Purpose and The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness (each sold nearly 1,000 in 2016), along with reissues of classic albums like Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP (3,000) and Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain (2,000). 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.