After the vinyl revival, artists are turning to cassette for a physical object fans can cherish
Young consumers born after the Walkman era are driving a surprise renaissance in sales of cassette tapes, according to one manufacturer of “obsolete” music formats.
Karen Emanuel, founder of Key Production, told i that while the vinyl renaissance has been driven by a wide range of customers, cassettes are enjoying a revival courtesy of a generation that missed out on tapes the first time around.
“Vinyl is all ages,” she told i. “It was older but now it’s come back there’s a whole new demographic.
“Cassettes have been the younger demographic, who have nostalgia for something they’ve never had.
“There’s a whole market of people finding things in second hand markets and stores.”
Things that stay with you
Ms Emanuel’s creative agency specialises in manufacturing for the music industry, making CDs, DVDs, vinyl, records, bespoke packages – and cassettes.
Earlier this year physical music sales data showed a surprise surge in tape sales, pushing the format to its highest level in a decade.
Ms Emanuel said she expects the trend to continue for a number of reasons, as shoppers fall back in love with physical music.
“There are things that stay with you and they get handed down or handed across from friends,” she said.
Some fans are also buying bundles of their favourite artist’s work across multiple formats, with even recent releases from the likes of Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber appearing on cassette and vinyl.
Cassettes in numbers
83 million Number of tapes bought by UK music fans by the end of 1989, a after the release of Sony’s Walkman portable cassette player.
100,000 Number of cassette tapes sold in 2019, double that sold in 2018.
0.2% Proportion of albums sold in UK in 2019 that were on tape rather than CD, vinyl or digital.
“When you stream now, you just stream a track,” said Ms Emanuel.
“Whereas artists write albums to tell a story and they like their albums to be listened to in the order that they’ve put them. It’s very artist-dependent.”
“It always gets a bit tricky with Christmas. The retailers don’t always plan as well as they could or we get a rush on certain products.
“You just have to plan in a little bit better.
“Music is a lovely gift, it’s very traditional I think – certainly the bigger artists always used to release around Christmas.”
Not all doom and gloom
This time last year was a dark period for physical music sales, as high street entertainment chain HMV went into administration. The business was rescued by Canadian operator Sunrise Record, but closed several shops as a result.
However, as results show, it is not all doom and gloom. New data recently released by Kantar points to a boom in independent record stores, which are benefiting from the vinyl renaissance and spending shifting away from big chains.
As one decade passes to another, it seems even in the fast-moving world of tech we can’t quite kick some 20th century habits.
Official Charts Company data shows that 2019’s best selling albums on tape were Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, The Balance by Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Madonna’s Madame X.