The RIAA has denied reports that it would consider tracking cassette tape sales again in the wake of resurgent interest.
The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade group that tracks music sales and certifies gold and platinum records. The Daily Mail reported this week that the corporation would once again investigate ways to track cassette tape sales. It would be the first time in over two decades that the RIAA has considered treating tapes as a viable medium. The story was picked up by other publications like Mixmag as evidence of the format's resurgent popularity.
When contacted by RA, however, the RIAA's VP of communications, Cara Duckworth Weiblinger, denied any noticeable uptick in tape sales:
We regularly check with our music label members to see if they are reporting any change in the sales of cassettes, but there hasn’t been for quite some time. It’s such a small number it doesn’t meet the threshold of sales requirements for us to report it (we report sales by category on a scale of millions of dollars and cassettes just haven’t broken that threshold). So there has been no increase in sales of cassettes or a proactive effort to look into tracking this further.The US's largest cassette manufacturer, National Audio Company in Springfield, Missouri, has increased sales by 33% since 2014, however. Its owner, Steve Stepp, told the Chicago Tribune last month that they're manufacturing between 250 to 350 titles at any given time. The list includes five to 10 releases a week from the major label Universal Music Group.
Cassette tapes have gained traction in the world of underground electronic music in recent years. Vancouver's 1080p may be the most familiar to RA readers, though other notables include UK presses like Opal Tapes, Reel Torque, Trilogy Tapes and Krokodilo Tapes, a sub-label of Blackest Ever Black. NNA Tapes and Primitive Languages are both prominent tape labels in the US's East Coast experimental scene.
Major labels are getting back into the game too. Justin Bieber's 2015 album, Purpose is available on tape via the clothing chain Urban Outfitters, who also played a role in last year's striking vinyl resurgence. Kanye West's Yeezus was pressed to the format as well.
Many boutique labels, however, dub their own tapes at home in small batches and sell through less formal markets like Bandcamp—which the RIAA may not take into account. Stepp told Bloomberg Business that music and spoken word tapes account for 70 percent of their sales while the rest are blank cassettes. So while there may indeed be an increased interest in the format, it's not happening on the large scale that might register with an organization like the RIAA.