2015: The Year Cassettes Tried to Make a Comeback (And Did. A Little Bit.)

According to some sales stats I received last week from Nielsen SoundScan, Canadian sales of pre-recorded cassettes jumped almost 300% in 2015. That sounds impressive until you do the math: year-to-date sales of cassettes are at 2,200 units. Big whoop.

But someone is buying these hateful things, remnants of an old, outdated and ridiculously romanticized fetishized technology. If you own one of the few factories that still make cassettes, you had a good year in 2015. This is from Ars Technica.

Cassette tapes, like vinyl albums, are making a comeback. While CDs and digital media still reign supreme, according to a 2015 mid-year Nielsen report, the largest operational cassette factory in the US reports an impressive increase in demand.

National Audio Company (NAC) President Steve Stepp told Ars that his Springfield, Missouri, company had been seeing a (very) healthy 20 percent year-over-year growth in demand for audiocassette tapes for several years. But 2015 was even better. As of the beginning of October, NAC reported a 31 percent increase in order volume over the previous year.

NAC is in a curious position, because in addition to being the largest audiocassette factory in the US, it’s also one of the last remaining.

“We never believed that the audiocassette was finished,” Stepp told Ars.

He said that as his competitors began bailing out of the cassette business once CDs came to prominence, NAC started buying up their machinery. “It would have been incredibly expensive 30 to 35 years ago when [cassette manufacturing machines] were new on the market, but when our competitors bailed out of the business and started making CDs, we went round the country and bought [them] out,” he said.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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