According to a report by Nikkei Asia, the “humble” cassette tape is making a comeback in Japan, and “charming a new generation of music enthusiasts with its nostalgic appearance and distinctly warm and rich sound.”
(Above: The Tower Records Shibuya store in Tokyo – Image: Nikkei Asia)
As the cassette tape is growing in popularity in Japan, music stores in Tokyo are expanding their dedicated cassette tape sections, signaling a resurgence of compact analog recording media.
The report says that sales of both used and new cassettes are growing, and that Tower Records in Tokyo are selling them to people in their 20s and 30s who never experienced the tapes’ heyday in the 1980s.
The report also confirms that the Tower Records Shibuya store expanded its specialised section, stocking about 3,000 cassette tapes, six times more than before, including new and used ones to take advantage of market growth.
“The age of purchasers varies from teenagers to people in their 50s, with 30-somethings forming the biggest group. Cassettes seem to come across to the younger generation as ‘new and cute’ things,” Ko Takeda, who is head of Tower Records cassette section told Nikkei Asia, adding that the cassette corner also sees a notable presence of foreign tourists.
Nikkei Asia has confirmed that vinyl records have also been attracting a growing following. Takeda, however, pointed out that casettes are more affordable compared to records and can be obtained for around 1,000 yen each.
Waltz, a cassette tape specialty store in Tokyo’s Nakameguro district since 2015, now offers both new and used cassettes.
Taro Tsunoda, who runs Waltz told Nikkei Asia that the business environment surrounding cassettes has drastically changed from how it used to be when it first opened.
Initially it mainly dealt in used tapes, but more artists are also paying attention to the trend, and the value of cassettes in the music market is rising, he said.
According to a 2022 survey by the Recording Industry Association of Japan, which represents theJapanese music recording industry, YouTube accounts for 60% of music listening.
Amidst the norm of listening to music through digital media like streaming services, Tsunoda said, “Cassettes are something you can own and feel attached to. For the younger generation, they are novel, and for those who used them before, they evoke nostalgia about their early days of listening to music.”
The popularity of cassettes has created a market for cassette tape players, with several recently to launched and some selling well.
In its report, Nikkei Asia cites the examples of Toshiba Lifestyle and Side-B Creations which are now selling cassette players.
Toshiba Lifestyle, a Kawasaki-based maker of electric appliances, rolled out a new product in July last year, a sleekly redesigned model of the 1980s portable cassette tape player “Walky”, which allows you to listen to music with wireless earphones.
Side-B Creations in the Shibuya district of Tokyo manufactures and sells cassette tapes and players, and confirms that it is selling 10 times more cassette players now than it did around 2017.
Some apparel brands in Tokyo have started using cassettes as invitations to fashion shows or distributing them as keepsakes.
A post by www.strata-gee.com indicates that the US is also enjoying the same resurgence, as a large number of enthusiasts support the category.
According to the post, entertainment industry media site Billboard confirmed that sales of cassette tapes increased 28% to 440,000 units in 2022, as compared to 343,000 units sold in 2021, and that sales of cassettes were just 74,000 units in 2015.
The post also points out that professional artists Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and Billie Eilish now routinely release all of their latest material on multiple formats, which includes vinyl LPs, CDs, and cassette.