Retro in music has always been cool. First it was the return of LPs and record players, and now the good old cassette tape is winding itself back into our lives.
Cassettes were replaced two decades ago by the introduction of CDs, but fans on both sides of the Atlantic are returning to the retro format in droves.
It’s an amazing comeback for a format that was phased out mainly in part due to the frustrations of users including a tendency to become scrambled and of course jammed in cassette players.
Unbelievably, the sale of music tapes are gaining momentum so quickly in the US that the Recording Industry Association of America, which tracks sales and gives certifications for gold and platinum records, are now investigating a way to track cassette sales for the first time since the early 1990s.
The revival started mainly by underground music acts, but more and more mainstream musicians have started producing and releasing albums on cassette again.
Unthinkable a few years ago, albums from huge US artists including Justin Bieber’s latest release Purpose and Kanye West’s Yeezus are now also available on cassette.
It looks as if sales of cassettes in the UK are following the path of vinyl sales. Vinyl hit a low of just over 205,000 units in 2007, but sales have continued to grow every year since and amazingly hit a 20-year high of 2.1million units sold in 2015.
The lowly ‘cassette player’ definition was even dropped by the Oxford English Dictionary’s concise edition in 2011—maybe that was a little premature.
Does this mean that Sony will reintroduce its iconic Walkman portable cassette player? Who knows, but with the format’s resurgence, only time will tell.