The Strategist

Audiocassettes are making a big comeback to the market

11/09/2017 - 14:25

Black Friday in the US is around the corner, and retailers and record labels are planning to release new music albums on cassette tape. This audio format came from the 1980s and 90s. Now, its popularity has reached such a scale that superstars like Metallica, Eminem and Justin Bieber have long included cassette tapes in the media for their albums, and some, like the White Stripes, have just announced re-release of their early albums on tapes.

At the end of October, participants of the "Music Store Day", namely, stores and record companies that produce and sell music on physical media, have announced a full list of releases that will be on sale in the upcoming Black Friday, on November 24. In addition to new releases on CDs and vinyl records, cassette tape albums will also be on sale. Experts of the music market note that along with vinyl, whose sales have been growing for several years, audio cassettes again became interesting to the mass consumers. In 2015, Metallica released a demo tape "No Life 'Til Leather", the original version of which was published in 1982. Last year, rapper Eminem announced re-release of his 1999 album The Slim Shady on audiocassettes. In the same year, a 23-year-old pop singer, Justin Bieber, announced a release on tape as well.

Experts note that fashion for the 1990s, which spread among the digital indie generation, brought to life not only vinyl, but also cassette tapes. Nielsen says that sales of audiocassettes in the US grew by an average of 30% in 2014 and 2015. However, their share in the overall market is still meager - 0.2-0.3% - even though in 2016 US sold 129 thousand cassettes, and a year earlier - 74 thousand. According to Steve Stepp, head of the largest producer of audio cassettes in the US National Audio Company, the growing interest to audiocassettes was recorded back in the late 2000's, when their sales were growing at 10-20% per year. But in the last two or three years, this trend has become so massive that even his company has caught off guard. "We expected a return of interest in analog music, but we did not think that it would happen so quickly," says Mr. Stepp.

The trend continued in the first half of this year: research company BuzzAngle reported that the most popular audio cassette was the soundtrack for the movie " Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" - there were almost 4 thousand pieces sold. This year, the international Cassette Store Day was held for the fifth time. In 2017, it took place on October 14 and was attended by music stores and sound recording studios from the United States, Britain, Japan, China, Australia and Indonesia. About 300 bands and record labels presented their new recordings on cassettes and re-recordings of old albums. Among Cassette Store Day-2017’s most notable events was presentation of the first three albums of The White Stripes, which fell apart several years ago. It is noteworthy that albums "The White Stripes", "De Stijl" and "White Blood" became the first albums of this group, released on cassettes.