By Thea Andrea C. Magueriano
In the age of streaming and music downloads, cassette tape is winding back, slowly staging a comeback.
In 2020, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) forecasted 157,000 cassette tapes would have been sold in the United Kingdom. In the first six months of that year, the Official Charts Company reported 65,000 cassettes were purchased by British consumers.
Cassette tape sales in the UK were in fact gradually growing years before those numbers were released. A report revealed cassette sales soared to 125 percent in 2018 compared to the year before, which translated to more than 50,000 albums bought. In the US, Nielson Music reported sales went up 23 percent in 2018, with 219,000 tapes sold versus previous year’s 178,000.
What’s driving the growth, aside from nostalgia and the tangibility of having a “collectible” format? Artists, from Lady Gaga to BTS, releasing their music in cassette format.
Last year, people went gaga over Lady Gaga’s Chromatica album on cassette which sold around 97,000 copies in October alone, according to BPI.
Love For Sale, Gaga’s second collaborative album with Tony Bennett, to be released on October 1, will also be available on cassette.
Releases from The 1975 and Selena Gomez likewise topped the cassette sales chart in 2020. K-Pop group BLACKPINK also released their album in the analog format, while BTS dropped a limited edition version of “Butter” on cassette and vinyl.
Despite the upward trend, Can Kuang, founder of Just-Cassette blog says cassette players are scarce and the prices of vintage players have tripled over the years. A quick Internet search points to a few secondhand boombox sold online and those by popular electronics brands. Sony, maker of Walkman, offers a CD/cassette boombox with radio.
With the rise of tangible music format comes Kihnos or KiT albums, which can pass as a digital version of vinyl, cassette, and compact disc combined.
KiT albums are playable on smart devices, Android and iOS, through the KiT app. To use, it must be connected to the smartphone’s 3.5 mm jack.
The format satisfies the need for collecting physical copies of albums, yet can be played on a portable device.
Since it started selling in 2014, there are now more than 50 K-pop records sold as KiT albums, including SF9’s Turn Over, Loona’s fourth mini album, and NCT Dream’s Hello Future.