Nielsen Media Research released its annual Music Year-End Report for 2017. It found that audiences are increasingly turning to on-demand streaming to get their music, while sales in physical media is declining. But some formats are experiencing a boost: sales of cassette tapes have increased, hitting their best year since 2012.
Cassette Tapes are in the midst of a revival: Nielsen reported last year that sales rose 74 percent to 129,000 units sold. That uptick was led by albums such as the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, which featured the classic cassette tape prominently in the 2014 film. This year, those numbers rose further: Nielsen says that retailers sold 174,000 units, up 35 percent from last year’s numbers.
Nostalgia seems to be leading most of the charge: Billboard says that the three Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks led sales in 2017, which were followed by the Stranger Things, Volume 1 soundtrack, which hit stores last summer. Those projects were wildly popular with audiences, due in part to their reliance on nostalgia for the music and objects of the 1980s. Other popular albums include Eminem’s 2002 album The Eminem Show, Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind, and Kanye West’s 2013 album Yeezus.
Despite those gains, cassettes remain a niche format: consumers purchased 169.1 albums in 2017 (down 17.7 percent from 2016), while 14.3 million of those albums were vinyl.