US cassette album sales up 28% in 2022

In 2022, US cassette album sales rose 28% to 440,000 (up from 343,000 in 2021), according to US 2022 Luminate Year-End Music Report.

While 440,000 is just a fraction of the total album sales market (0.44% to be more precise), it’s a robust number for a format that was largely non-existent a few years ago. In 2015, for example cassettes sold only 74,000.

By 2022, total album sales across all formats – digital and physical – numbered 100.09 million. Physical album sales totaled 79.89 million – giving cassettes a 0.55% share of the physical album market last year. (Physical albums include CDs, vinyl LPs, cassettes, and other niche physical formats.)

While cassettes are now a niche offering marketed to superfans, they were once the leading format for album purchases in the United States, from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. Today, cassette tapes are often sold exclusively on an artist’s web store and in collector’s editions. Tape is often produced in certain colours, such as Billie Eilish‘s pink-colored Happier than ever tape or Ghost‘s metallic gold color Impera tape.

The best-selling album on cassette in 2022 was the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, with 17,000 copies sold. Two more Guardians-related titles dot the top 10 (at no. 3 and 6). As actual cassette mixtapes feature prominently in the Guardians‘ story, it makes sense that a real-world cassette album that mirrors those seen in the movies and series could be a solid seller. (The three Guardians tapes that rank in the year-end top 10 have collectively sold more than 238,000 since their release a number of years ago.)

1. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2 (17,000)
2. Taylor Swift, Midnights (14,000)
3. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (13,000)
4. Harry Styles, Harry’s house (11,000)
5. Billie Eilish, Happier than ever (8,000)
6. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Mix, Vol. 1 (8,000)
7. Nirvana, Bleach (7,000)
8. Bo Burnham, Inside (The Songs) (5,000)
9. Bad Bunny, YHLQMDLG (5,000)
10. Ghost, Impera (5,000)
Source: Luminate, for the tracking period Dec. 31, 2021, up to and including Dec. 29, 2022.

Luminate began tracking music sales in 1991 when the company was known as SoundScan. Luminate’s sales, streaming and airplay data is used to compile Billboard‘s weekly charts. Luminate’s tracking year 2022 ran from December. 31, 2021, up to and including Dec. 29, 2022. Luminate is an independently operated company owned by PME TopCo, a PMC subsidiary and joint venture between Penske Media Corporation and Eldridge. Billboard is an independently operated company owned by PME Holdings, a subsidiary of PME TopCo.

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