There’s a scene in the latest Simon Pegg-Nick Frost movie, The World’s End, in which the central protagonist, Gary King (played by Pegg), who has been driving the same Ford Granada since 1990, pops in a mixtape recorded sometime around the same period, and screeches off towards the town of Newton Haven in a blizzard of exhaust smoke.
The scene is supposed to indicate how King, sporting a faded Sisters of Mercy t-shirt, hasn’t aged for the past 25 years. The fact that he is still playing the same cassette tape, however, which features the Soup Dragons, Primal Scream, Suede and others, is worthy of a hearty congratulations. After all, a good mixtape is for life, not just for Christmas.
And what’s more, it would seem that increasing numbers of music buying punters would agree.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, cassette sales rose by 35% in the US in 2017, on top of a 74% increase the previous year – that’s a more than doubling in sales for a format that, let’s face it, appears to be pretty much obsolete.
The biggest selling cassettes over the past 12 months? Surprise, surprise, the top three are all mixtapes. The list is topped by the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol 2, which sold 19,000 units, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1, which shifted 15,000 units and and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Mix, Vol. 1, which sold 5,000.
Add the fact that the fourth biggest selling cassette tape was the soundtrack to retro 80s spooktacular Stranger Things, and it’s clear that movies and TV are big sales drivers within the category. Other artists to score impressive sales include Eminem, Kanye West and Nirvana.
So is the cassette tape set to make a vinyl-esque return from the ashes? Or are such sales increases simply down to a passing fondness for retro chic?
While cassettes currently only account for 0.10% of album sales, they may have a long way to go, but as long as there are fictional working class heroes such as Gary King walking the earth, there’s always hope…