Bumper year for cassette tapes thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy


Johannesburg – Despite a 12.5% surge in growth for streaming music last year, old fashioned cassette tapes experienced a bumper year for sales in 2017, thanks to popular Marvel superhero movie franchise Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Research company Nielsen recently released its 2017 Music Year-End Report, in which it said cassette album sales rose by 35% to 174 000 copies sold, compared to 129 000 copies sold in 2016.

Music charting website Billboard, meanwhile, attributed the cassette’s nostalgia to the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy superhero films.

The first movie was released in 2014 and the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, was released in May 2017.

Billboard reported that the Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2 accounted for 19 000 cassette tape sales, while the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 recorded 15 000 sales.

Both albums featured scores from the films, which have actor Chris Pratt starring as Peter Quill, aka Star Lord. The Marvel comic book character is often seen listening to an vintage 1980s-style portable cassette tape player with headphones. 

Other popular cassettes in 2017, according to Nielsen, were the soundtrack for Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things, US rapper Eminem’s The Eminem Show, The Hamilton Mixtape featuring various international acts, Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack, Blurryface by US band Twenty One Pilots, Kanye West’s Yeezus and Nirvana’s Nevermind.

In 2016, Sony announced the launch of a new cassette tape able to store up to 185 terabytes of data, which translated is around the size of 18 standard computer hard drives.

While the playback of regular cassette tapes do not offer the same quality as a CD would, the new tapes with larger storage could mean music lovers could now listen to lossless audio, according to Sony.

Depending on the compression of audio files, lossless files in “aiff” and “wav” format at a higher file size result in richer quality than the common “mp3” format. New cassettes could also be used to store other files aside from audio such as Ultra High Definition (UHD) video because of its storage capacity, said Sony. 

But cassettes are not the only technology to regain popularity in recent times, with numerous local music stores, like Musica, selling classic retro vinyl players.

Numerous artists including Adele, Lorde, The Weeknd and local rapper AKA, have been releasing their albums to vinyl. 

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