The results of my totally ridiculous experiment selling cassette tapes on Amazon. A lesson in selling obsolete items with bad sales ranks via FBA.
Everything sells on Amazon… eventually
It’s true: Everything sells on Amazon, eventually. And I’ve proven it.
There’s a lot of talk about “what sells” on Amazon. My contribution to the conversation usually starts and ends with one line:
“Everything sells…. Eventually.”
Not everything. But close enough.
No matter how weird, obsolete, or pointless a used media item, there’s someone on Amazon weird enough to buy it – and hungry enough to pay for it no matter what it costs.
As an Amazon seller, failing to understand this means you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. And even though I say “everything sells,” I don’t think I really internalized it until the experiment I’m about to recount.
Watch me take “everything sells on Amazon” to the extreme…
The insane “cassette single” experiment
One day I decided to see how far I could take this. And by “this,” I mean listing things on Amazon that any reasonable seller would assume no one would ever, ever buy.
I decided to make a really bad investment in some really obsolete media items, and see what happened.
It’s been a year since launching this experiment, and I’m here to report the results. And it involves selling cassette tapes on Amazon.
What is a “cassette single”?
If you don’t remember cassette singles, that’s exactly why this experiment was doomed to fail.
These were also known as “cassingles.” They were usually two songs, one on each side, in a paper slipcover. They had a roughly 5 year reign from the late 1980s to the early-1990s.
For the purpose of this experiment, it’s important to note that these offer literally nothing that is not found on other formats, except for possibly unique artwork. They offer absolutely no value, and no reason for anyone to buy them.
No unique content, on the least-popular format. It all raises the question as to if, in this century, anyone would ever purchase a vintage cassette single on Amazon.
I decided to find out.
Sourcing cheap, obsolete cassettes on eBay
One day on eBay I saw a listing for 385 cassette singles, mostly from the early 1990s. I jumped on it, and got the whole lot for $36 postage paid.
Now, I could really test my theory that people will buy anything on Amazon…
The box arrived and I started going through all 385 of them with my scanner. Most of them had product pages on Amazon. If they didn’t, I threw them in the discard pile. I had too little hope for any of these selling to spend time setting up product pages.
Anything that I couldn’t list on Amazon for at least $6 also went in the discard pile. That eliminated the vast majority of the lot. When it was over, I had 72 cassette singles I deemed worth listing on Amazon.
I shipped them in to the FBA warehouse, and waited.
The results of this insane experiment
And 18 months later (now), I tallied up the results. Here they are:
Total listed on Amazon: 72
Total sold on Amazon: 11
Total Amazon payout: $57.75
Total investment: $36
Total net profit: $21.75
For several hours work, that’s pretty abysmal. But it isn’t the whole story…
First, the lessons…
Over 15% of the lot sold
As much as I tell myself anything will sell, I actually had close to zero hope of even one of these cassette single selling. Not one. I just knew I had to find out for myself. Over 15% of them selling over the 18 months was a big confidence boost.
It’s true: Anything sells.
Only the big artists sold
We can learn a lot from what did sell. No surprise here, but of the 11, all of them were artists that were household names. As in, the most mainstream of the mainstream (Madonna, etc). These are artists that have tons of rabid fans who need to own everything they ever put out on every format. So it makes sense.
The majority of the singles I listed were not A-list artists. It was a lot of weird dance music from artists I’d never heard of.
Would I sell cassettes on Amazon again?
In the future, I would jump on selling cassette singles on Amazon again if it were all mainstream artists. Anything out of print from them appears to sell. This is valuable information to know, and I wouldn’t have learned it had I not run a test with the most undesirable items on the recorded music spectrum.
Aside from the lessons, there was one more thing that took this experiment out of “abysmal failure” status.
There were over 300 cassettes I didn’t send in to Amazon. I put them back up on eBay, and actually received $8 more than I paid for them.
Total net profit: $65. And some important lessons.
Susan Evans says
? – Did you subtract the costs of shipping into Amazon, their fees, short and long term storage fees to get to your net profit?
Peter Valley says
No long term storage fees (one of each), short term is negligible, and I did not factor in shipping costs.
Beth Sawickie says
Wow – cassette singles – and they were used ?? I never would’ve tried that. I’ve sold full-length NOS cassettes, but never any used ones – except books on tape 😉
Thanks for sharing your experiment!
Pretty cool experiment. How much of your time did it take to execute it, start to finish, I mean sorting, scanning, and listing them? You are one enterprising guy!
Peter Valley says
Probably a few hours. Worth it for the lessons, if not the money.
…I should mention, I have sold a couple of cassettes on Amazon, but they were part of language learning programs, and usually bundled or in a set with a book.
Peter, were you gated on that category?
Linda Bruno says
To add a little more information about cassette tapes, we have a used book store outside of San Antonio (and vinyl is doing great). I did a lot purchase of albums, books, reel to reel tapes and cassettes. The price was good & figured the reel to reel & cassettes were just part of the deal. However, we have people asking for them. Put them out at $3 to $8 and we sell them. Buyers want to know if we have more. And we have people asking for the reel to reel tapes. Some of the cassettes are made in Japan with really cool covers. The estate was from a lady who traveled in Europe, Far East, Korea & Russia. Interesting thing too, is that the people who buy them still have (and look for) the cassette players.
Serena, are you FBA seller ?