Re-rewind: Are cassettes the new vinyl? Sales of the once defunct format more than double in 2017

With the humble cassette whirring back into life, Official Charts reveals the 40 biggest selling of 2017 on the once-defunct format.

27 years ago, cassettes were the leading format of choice for music buyers.

CDs, downloads and streaming may have long superseded them, but over a quarter of a century since their peak, it seems the humble cassette is whirring back into life, according to new Official Charts Company data.

With vinyl having made a glorious comeback four years ago (and still growing), artists and consumers are now revisiting the once-defunct cassette in increasing numbers, making it the fastest-growing format in Britain right now.

This year has seen UK sales of cassette albums double, rising by 112% compared to 2016, thanks to an increase in high profile acts including Royal Blood, Jay Z and Lana Del Rey releasing limited runs of their albums on the retro format as a collector’s item for fans. In 2017 alone, more than 80 albums have been released on cassette, driving almost 20,000 sales (19,399 units up to the first week of November).


Jay Z's 4:44 album was released on cassette this year

It's the highest level of cassette sales in more than a decade, going back to 2006, when 21,019 units were purchased by fans. There is also an upward trajectory emerging, with the annual total of cassette sales rising every year since 2012, when a low of 3,823 purchases was recorded.

Whilst it shouldn't be compared too closely to the resurgence of vinyl in the UK, there are arguably similar factors at play. The appeal of cassettes is as a collectable item for fans, while followers of less mainstream genres often see it as a way of preserving exclusivity. Last month saw the fifth Cassette Store Day take place in a number of countries including the UK, with 16 stores including London’s two Rough Trade shops taking part.  

MORE: The UK's biggest selling vinyl albums and singles of 2017 so far

The UK’s best-selling album on cassette in 2017 is the Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix 2 soundtrack, with sales of 3,120, confirmed by the Official Charts Company. The collection features classic songs taken from the sequel released this year, including ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky and Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain.

The original Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack has been one of the UK’s most popular albums on vinyl since its 2014 release, with over 70,000 copies sold on the format so far this year alone.

The best-selling artist album on cassette so far in 2017 is Kasabian’s Number 1 record For Crying Out Loud, with 1,026 sales to date. It’s a small but not insignificant figure, given its limited run and exclusive availability on the band’s official website.

"That's the best thing I've ever heard," Serge Pizzorno told OfficialCharts.com "It's quite psychedelic, isn't it? That's put a big smile on my face. 

"It's about fan loyalty, I think. It's about having a physical object. One of your favourite bands has put out an album and you want it on a different format that you can hold in your hands. It's nice to see the sleeve and the artwork in a different way as well."

MORE: The UK's Official Top 40 biggest albums of 2017 so far


Kasabian's For Crying Out Loud is 2017's biggest selling artist album on cassette

Serge explained that some of his earliest music memories were with cassettes, adding: "I remember passing around rave tapes at school. Getting Fantazia 92 and just playing it constantly. That and recording the Top 40 off the radio on cassette so you had all the latest songs." 

"It's just nice to have physical things, isn't it?" he said of the format's mini resurgence. "As amazing as the digital world is, where everything is floating in the air and you can have what you want at any point, you pay for something but you don't have any possession of it. 

"For a new generation, when you haven't got a lot of physical music stuff, it's nice to choose your favourite band and have something you can see and hold and have it in your bedroom. Weirdly, I think it's what a younger generation wants. It's a nice little thing to have as well, it just looks nice. Maybe don't ditch your collection and just buy tapes though, or you'll have a garage full of them."

Other albums released this year that are proving popular on cassette include Enter Shikari’s The Spark, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott’s Crooked Calypso and Arcade Fire’s Everything Now.

MORE: Classic albums getting reissued in 2017

British rock star Morrissey is the latest artist to see his album get a cassette release; Low In High School is out this week. 

The first albums on cassette arrived in the UK in 1967 and arguably revolutionised how we listened to records. As it was harder to select tracks compared to vinyl, listening to an album serially became a part of music culture.

While these new 2017 numbers show clear growth, it’s worth considering their market context, cassettes still account for significantly less than 1% of the UK albums market today. Whether this current trend turns into a genuine vinyl-style resurgence remains to be seen.  

The Official Cassette Chart 2017 (Year To Date)

POS TITLE ARTIST RELEASE DATE
1 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY - AWESOME MIX 2 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK 2017
2 FOR CRYING OUT LOUD KASABIAN 2017
3 THE SPARK ENTER SHIKARI 2017
4 CROOKED CALYPSO PAUL HEATON & JACQUI ABBOTT 2017
5 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: AWESOME MIX 1 ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK 2014
6 EVERYTHING NOW ARCADE FIRE 2017
7 ETERNITY IN YOUR ARMS CREEPER 2017
8 NIGHT PEOPLE YOU ME AT SIX 2017
9 4:44 JAY-Z 2017
10 WORLD BE GONE ERASURE 2017
11 SAVAGE (SONGS FROM A BROKEN WORLD) GARY NUMAN 2017
12 24-7 ROCK STAR S**T CRIBS 2017
13 POLLINATOR BLONDIE 2017
14 DAMAGE AND JOY JESUS & MARY CHAIN 2017
15 RIP IT UP THUNDER 2017
16 THE PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY OMD 2017
17 HIPPOPOTAMUS SPARKS 2017
18 BROKEN MACHINE NOTHING BUT THIEVES 2017
19 DIFFERENT DAYS CHARLATANS 2017
20 RELAXER ALT-J 2017
21 DIFFERENT CREATURES CIRCA WAVES 2017
22 ALL THESE COUNTLESS NIGHTS DEAF HAVANA 2017
23 JUMP ON BOARD TEXAS 2017
24 THE PEACE AND THE PANIC NECK DEEP 2017
25 LIVE FOR THE MOMENT SHERLOCKS 2017
26 GENERATION Z BARS & MELODY 2017
27 THE ROAD - PT 1 UNKLE 2017
28 THE BEST OF FEEDER 2017
29 HOW DID WE GET SO DARK ROYAL BLOOD 2017
30 ENGLISH TAPAS SLEAFORD MODS 2017
31 FREEDOM CHILD SCRIPT 2017
32 THAT'S YOUR LOT BLAENAVON 2017
33 RISK TO EXIST MAXIMO PARK 2017
34 LUST FOR LIFE LANA DEL REY 2017
35 I LIKE IT WHEN YOU SLEEP FOR YOU ARE SO 1975 2016
36 BLOSSOMS BLOSSOMS 2016
37 ALL THIS LIFE STARSAILOR 2017
38 FAVOURITE PLEASURES GUN 2017
39 MORE MUSIC TO WATCH GIRLS BY VARIOUS ARTISTS 1999
40 SAFE IN SOUND LOWER THAN ATLANTIS 2017

©2017 Official Charts Company. All rights reserved.