In 2022, sales of albums on cassette tape in the U.S. increased by 28% to 440,000 (up from 343,000 in 2021), according to the U.S. 2022 Luminate Year-End Music Report.
While 440,000 a mere fraction of the total album sales market (0.44% to be more precise), it’s a robust figure for a format that was mostly non-existent a few years ago. In 2015, for example, cassettes sold just 74,000.
In 2022, total album sales across all formats — digital and physical — numbered 100.09 million. Physical album sales totaled 79.89 million — thus giving cassettes a 0.55% share of the physical album market last year. (Physical albums include CDs, vinyl LPs, cassettes and other niche physical formats.)
While cassettes are now a niche offering marketed to superfans, they were once the leading format for album purchases in the U.S., from the early 1980s until the early 1990s. Today, cassette tapes are frequently sold exclusively on an artist’s web store and in collectible editions. Tapes are often manufactured in specific colors, such as Billie Eilish’s pink-colored Happier Than Ever tape or Ghost’s metallic gold-colored Impera tape.
The top-selling album on cassette in 2022 was the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, with 17,000 copies sold. Two more Guardians-related titles dot the top 10 (at Nos. 3 and 6). As actual cassette mixtapes feature prominently in the Guardians’ storyline, it makes sense that a real-world cassette album offering, mirroring those seen in the films and series, could be a solid seller. (The three Guardians tapes that rank in the year-end top 10 have sold, combined, more than 238,000 since their release a number of years ago.)
TOP 10 SELLING CASSETTE ALBUMS OF 2022 IN U.S.
1. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2 (17,000)
2. Taylor Swift, Midnights (14,000)
3. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (13,000)
4. Harry Styles, Harry’s House (11,000)
5. Billie Eilish, Happier Than Ever (8,000)
6. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Mix, Vol. 1 (8,000)
7. Nirvana, Bleach (7,000)
8. Bo Burnham, Inside (The Songs) (5,000)
9. Bad Bunny, YHLQMDLG (5,000)
10. Ghost, Impera (5,000)
Source: Luminate, for the tracking period Dec. 31, 2021, through Dec. 29, 2022.
Luminate began tracking music sales in 1991 when the company was known as SoundScan. Luminate’s sales, streaming and airplay data is used to compile Billboard’s weekly charts. Luminate’s 2022 tracking year ran from Dec. 31, 2021, through Dec. 29, 2022. Luminate is an independently operated company owned by PME TopCo, a PMC subsidiary and joint venture between Penske Media Corporation and Eldridge. Billboard is an independently operated company owned by PME Holdings, a subsidiary of PME TopCo.