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News January 18, 2023

The Cassette Comeback Is Real

Senior Journalist, B2B
The Cassette Comeback Is Real

It’s official: cassettes are staging a comeback.

Those plastic cartridges that unspooled their magnetic magic and ruined your day, and which lost audio quality with each play, before dying a miserable death when left in the car for a few hours during summer, are back from the dead in the United States.

The return of the tape is just one picture of growth presented in Luminate’s Year-End Music Report on the U.S. recorded music industry, the world No. 1.

While streaming predictably dominated the music economy in the U.S., with on-demand audio streams hitting the trillion mark for the first time in a calendar year last November, it’s the growing appetite for the physical stuff that leaps off the pages.

Americans are digging their cassettes, again.

Last year, 440,000 units were sold, up from 343,000 the previous year, a 28% rate of growth.



The best-seller on cassette? The honours go to Marvel franchise “Guardians of the Galaxy” with Soundtrack Vol. 2. Superhero fans bought 17,000 copies on cassette, collectables that look (and sound) just like Star-Lord’s most-prized possession.

Though the base is small — roughly one cassette was sold for every 100 pieces of vinyl in the U.S. last year — few industry analysts predicted a return for a format that, in the 1970s and 1980s, allowed music fans to listen to tunes on-the-go for the first time, before losing its sheen to the CD.

Meanwhile, vinyl, another format that, during the digital download revolution, appeared to be out of time, continues to spin its happy tune.

More Americans bought more vinyl (43.5 million units, up 4.2%) than CDs (35.9 million units down 11.6%) for the second consecutive year, with Taylor Swift’s Midnights (945,000 units), and Harry Styles’ Harry’s House (480,000) particularly popular on wax in 2022.

With last year’s result, the market for vinyl has grown each year in the United States for the past 17 years.



Luminate, which powers the Billboard charts, also explores the connection between Gen Z and their fave acts.

Youngsters are found to spend more time listening to music than any other generation (21% more), they’re attached to Spotify, TikTok and the other streamers, and they’re willing to fork out in support of their heroes, especially on merch (30% more spend than the average listener).

Overall, on-demand song streams (audio and video combined) grew by 12.2% to 1.268 trillion, with R&B/hip-hop the most popular genre (29%).

Luminate’s report busts out analysis on genres, consumer habits, syncs, best-sellers, international music consumption, with its 52 pages illuminated by case studies, graphs, data and more.

Several Australian acts appeared in Luminate’s year-end charts, including Sia, whose “Unstoppable” was the No. 10 best-selling digital song (143,000 units); and The Kid Laroi, whose “Stay” collaboration with Justin Bieber, came in at No. 3 on the Top Radio Songs tally, and was a top 10 digital song and music video.

Download the report here and read Billboard’s analysis.

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