Music Business

Cassette Sales Still On The Rise

1When streaming began to dominate music consumption, many industry insiders believed all physical forms of media would soon die out, but it appears that vinyl wasn't the only format to prove these people wrong, and that cassette tapes have see something of a renaissance of late.


Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

Think cassettes are dead? Think again.

Not long ago, many industry movers and shakers believed all physical media to be either dying or dead. Streaming, they claimed, would soon replace the need for media in any other form. They were wrong.

According to Nielsen’s recently released report on the music business, cassette sales in 2018 rose 23% over the previous year. That’s more than 4x the total number of cassettes sold in 2014 (roughly 25,000). In total, more than 215,000 tapes were sold during the calendar year, with many of the biggest totals coming from catalog releases more than a decade old.

That figure is a far cry from 1994 when total sales for cassettes topped 246 million, but it’s a healthy number nonetheless. The market for cassettes has grown consistently in recent years and is likely to grow further still in 2019.

The top-selling tape of 2018 was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol 1. The release, which is one of three soundtracks from the Marvel comics film series to land on the best-sellers list, features packaging that is similar to a mixtape made and used by the lead character in the movie.

Awesome Mix Vol. 1 as seen in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Other artists that made the top 10 list for 2018 include Twenty One Pilots, Wu-Tang Clan, and Elvis Presley, among others. You can view the full list of best-sellers below:

RArtist, TitleSales
1Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: 
Awesome Mix Vol. 1
2Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: 
Awesome Mix Vol. 2
3Twenty One Pilots, Trench7,000
4Soundtrack, Stranger Things: 
Music From the Netflix Original Series
5Britney Spears, …Baby One More Time4,000
6Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: 
Cosmic Mix, Vol. 1
7Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction3,000
8Metallica, The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited3,000
9Elvis Presley, Where No One Stands Alone2,000
10Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)2,000

Cassettes may never be as big as they were in the late 80s and early 90s, but the numbers revealed by Nielsen show the market for such media is thriving more than it has in recent years. Smaller artists may not move as many units as the acts above, but considering the low cost of duplication, the cassette tape remains a viable merch option for anyone trying to give their fans something they can hold that isn’t a t-shirt or beanie.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

Share on: