The return to vinyls and cassette tapes may soon become a reality. Sales figures compared to CD are steadily in favor of vinyl, in fact, and first-time fans or newcomers have no doubts about which format to choose when they want to have their favorite album physically in their hands. In addition to the return of vinyl, however, there is also another, more undercurrent: that of cassette tapes. But is it all roses and flowers? Let's take stock of the issue, trying to understand what this might mean for the world of Hi-Fi.
Vinyl is a certainty
The vinyl record market, over the past decade, has experienced a steady increase in sales. In the U.S., in 2022, it topped 41 million albums sold (for 1.2 billion amount), far more than the 33 million CDs sold in the same year. It had not been since 1987 that the power ratio reversed, despite it being the 16th consecutive year of vinyl sales growth. These are figures for U.S. soil, but European figures also smile on LPs. According to the Technavio agency forecast, the vinyl record market in Europe is expected to reach $91 million in 2024 thanks to the main contribution of England, Germany and Italy.
Digital: cross and delight
One would think that contributing to the flourishing of the vinyl record market would be solely and exclusively longtime fans. This is only partially true. Because while streaming (Spotify & Co.) remains the preferred means of enjoyment for casual listeners and new generations, we have social media with trends playing a leading role in promoting vinyl as an object. Pages and digital aggregation groups have allowed many to share passion and experiences with what are full-fledged fan communities. This, in turn, has resulted in artists and record companies releasing the latest efforts in vinyl on a permanent basis.
These forms of sharing, albeit virtual, the process of listening to a vinyl record have led to the strengthening of the community of fans. Not to mention that, again, social media, as well as the Internet in general, have allowed retailers to reach new segments of the public. Listening to vinyl has also allowed people to discover another level of music enjoyment, far beyond streaming a song through headphones connected to a smartphone. Here then, all these actors have brought to the scene a social and shared listening of an analog medium par excellence: the vinyl record.
Music cassette in a big way
The golden age of the cassette tape was the 1970s and 1980s. In particular, when the Sony Walkman came out in 1979, it was possible for the first time to walk around listening to one's favorite songs. The absolute peak in sales came in 1989, a few years after the birth of the CD, with a tailspin in 2010 when Sony announced that the walkman was no more. Hard to foresee a comeback. Who could possibly miss tangled tapes, plastic cases prone to breakage, and less-than-satisfactory audio quality? Yet Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, and Lady Gaga have released some of their albums in this format. Not only that. Again taking the U.S. market as a reference, in recent years the number of cassettes sold has been steadily increasing. Although with much lower numbers than vinyl.
Who buys cassette tapes nowadays?
The answer to the question in the title of this paragraph is much the same as that given for vinyls. Those who buy cassette tapes, especially in the United States, are the younger generation, who see them as a gadget or at least a form of physical merchandise that allows them to get closer to their favorite artists. On the other hand, the other side of the coin is made up of that generation that feels a sense of nostalgia toward cassette tapes. Toward this segment of the audience is aimed, for example, at Pearl Jam's operation of reissuing as a single their track Alive, dated 1991. Online, then, the collecting factor also takes over. Special editions on cassette tape can fetch significant prices on the Web, becoming the object of research by die-hard fans.
A situation to be monitored
"Il Sole 24 Ore" has, however, dampened spirits about the music cassette revival. While there is talk of steady growth for vinyl, the story is different for cassettes. Referring to the U.S., 2022 saw a 52 percent decline in volume and 9 percent decline in value; in contrast, vinyl here grew more than 17 percent in value. Out of the $1.7 billion physical, vinyl alone made over $1.2 billion, followed by CD. Looking in Italy, it fell below 373,000 in revenue from 687,000 in 2021, registering -45.7 percent. The differences from the vinyl market therefore seem to be marked. On the other hand, it is true that we are talking about figures that are currently so small that the release on cassette tape of an album by the pop star of the moment can tip the balance one way or the other.
The beauty of analog
In an objective way, the best possible source corresponds to a computer designed to be precisely a high-quality digital audio source. In a subjective and emotional way, however, the reality is different. Just as some audiophiles find the sound of a vinyl to be a bit "warmer," in the same way the rustles and background noise of a cassette tape make the song come alive. As our most loyal customers are well aware, Ricable already offers a line of cables INTERCONNECT analog cables dedicated to vinyl record listening. As we closely monitor the evolving music cassette market, we invite you to take a look at our entire catalog. Looking forward to the return to vinyls and musicassettes.