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Sales of cassette tapes hit a two-decade high as music lovers turn to traditional formats

First a vinyl revival, now a cassette comeback… Sales of tapes hit a two-decade high as music lovers turn to traditional formats

  • Cassette sales have now hit a two-decade high, following a resurgence in vinyl
  • Some 195,000 were bought in 2022 – up 5.2 per cent in a year

For anyone who remembers using a pencil to painstakingly rewind an unspooled cassette tape, news of their comeback may come as a surprise.

Along with the irritating hissing in the background, it was all too easy to accidentally record over your favourite tracks – and leaving one on your car dashboard on a hot day would end in disaster.

But sales have now hit a two-decade high, following a resurgence in vinyl as music lovers turn to traditional formats.

Some 195,000 were bought in 2022 – up 5.2 per cent in a year and the tenth annual consecutive increase, according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

The Arctic Monkeys had the year’s biggest-selling cassette with The Car, followed by Harry Styles’ Harry’s House. Florence and the Machine came third with their album Dance Fever, which sold more cassettes than vinyl when it debuted at No 1 in May.

(Stock Image) The cassette tape was developed by Philips in the early 1960s ¿ but its heyday came two decades later when the popularity of the Sony Walkman helped to drive sales in the UK alone to a peak of 83million in 1989

(Stock Image) The cassette tape was developed by Philips in the early 1960s – but its heyday came two decades later when the popularity of the Sony Walkman helped to drive sales in the UK alone to a peak of 83million in 1989

On ten occasions last year, cassettes accounted for more than 10 per cent of the chart sales of the No 1 album on the weekly Official Albums Chart

On ten occasions last year, cassettes accounted for more than 10 per cent of the chart sales of the No 1 album on the weekly Official Albums Chart

On ten occasions last year, cassettes accounted for more than 10 per cent of the chart sales of the No 1 album on the weekly Official Albums Chart. And more than a fifth of each album’s first-week chart sales were in cassette format.

The cassette tape was developed by Philips in the early 1960s – but its heyday came two decades later when the popularity of the Sony Walkman helped to drive sales in the UK alone to a peak of 83million in 1989.

Cassettes led the UK album market between 1985 and 1992 before being overtaken by CDs. By 2012, annual sales had dropped to below 4,000.

On TikTok the hashtag ‘cassette’ now has over 343million views, with ‘Gen Z’ youngsters using the vintage format. Sophie Jones, chief executive of BPI, described the revival as ‘heartening’.

‘Like vinyl, a number of contemporary artists are warmly embracing the cassette as another way to reach audiences,’ she said.

‘While streaming is by far the leading format, the renewed popularity of cassettes and vinyl highlights the continuing importance of the physical market and the many ways fans have to consume music.’ Last year Taylor Swift propelled UK vinyl sales past CDs for first time in 35 years after shifting 80,000 copies of her album Midnights.


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