Taylor Swift Proves You Can Still Sell a Lot of Records

Taylor Swift - Speak NowA million albums sold. In a week. That’s a lot. Only 15 other albums have sold that many in a week since SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991. Billboard points out that “Speak Now accounted for 18% of all albums sold last week (5.80 million) — or, one out of every sixth set purchased. The album sold more than the Nos. 2-62 albums combined on this week’s Billboard 200 chart.” That’s nuts. Here’s the rest of the Top Ten this week, which looks pretty pathetic in comparison…

1. Taylor Swift – “Speak Now” – 1,047,000 (debut)

2. Sugarland – “The Incredible Machine” – 89,000 (down 56%)

3. Kings of Leon – “Come Around Sundown” – 67,000 (down 63%)

4. Lil Wayne – “I Am Not a Human Being” – 43,000 (down 33%)

5. Eminem – “Recovery” – 38,000 (down 12%; cume: 2.9 million)

6. Elton John and Leon Russell – “The Union” – 37,000 (down 54%)

7. “Glee: Rocky Horror Glee Show” soundtrack – 31,000 (down 35%)

8. Rod Stewart – “Fly Me to the Moon” – 30,000 (down 62%)

9. Darius Rucker – “Charleston, SC 1966” – 27,000 (down 26%)

10. Michael BublĂ© – “Hollywood” EP – 26,000 (debut)

See below for information on where all of these Taylor Swift fans bought their copy, and how her (independent!) label, Big Machine, convinced a million people to fork over money for this album…


Billboard breaks out the sales, chain by chain:

• Target – 350,000

• iTunes – 220,000

• Walmart – 190,000

• Amazon – 40,000

• Costco – 40,000

• Best Buy – 35,000

• Starbucks – 28,000

• Hot Topic – 5,000

That leaves about 139,000 units in the “Other” category. It’s interesting that her label set the list price for the physical CD at $18.98 (high!) but obviously cut lots of deals with retailers. Amazon was selling the MP3s for $3.99 and the CD for $7.78. Don’t most artists get a percentage of the list price? If so, a higher list would end up paying out a lot more royalties. My guess is this was a way for Big Machine to make its distributor, Universal Music Group, take the hit on discounting, but I’ll admit I’m talking out of my ass here a little bit.

Billboard also explores What Went Right For Taylor Swift?

Swift’s million-selling week was propelled by three huge promotional campaigns that reached millions of consumers. There was a JetBlue promotion with that airline’s passengers who traveled through terminal No. 5 at JFK airport treated to a live performance; there was a Scholastic 90th Anniversary Literacy Event, “Read With Taylor Swift,” which included a performance and a Q&A with the artist that was broadcast into 25,000 classrooms, reaching an estimated 1 million school kids; and Target launched a $7 million television campaign in exchange for getting an exclusive version of the album.

Plus, you know, the whole Kanye thing… And the fact that she’s adorable and she connects with her fans in a way that seems genuine. Regardless, this is a huge deal. And an fascinating business story.

Taylor Swift: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, wiki

• Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Oct. 31) totaled 5.80 million units

• Digital track sales this past week totaled 18.77 million downloads

2 thoughts on “Taylor Swift Proves You Can Still Sell a Lot of Records”

  1. All hail Pearl Jam – one of the few bands that lived up to the hype surrounding their rise to fame and fortune. I’ve noticed Glono’s lack of written appreciation for the songwriting talents of Eddie Vedder (listen to the ‘Into the Wild’ soundtrack among the years of great songs). Oh well.

    The fact that Neil Young walks on stage wearing a Pearl Jam t-shirt should at least give pause to the naysayers…maybe not.

    My nine year old daughter (almost ten) is a Taylor Swift freakazoid. While I don’t care for the production and ridiculous layers of plastic cheese over her songs, if indeed she can keep cranking out catchy tunes, good for her. I just can’t wait for the Taylor Swift songs she writes about drug use and getting laid…

  2. Not my bag but Taylor Swift writes her own tunes and seems earnest, so more power to her and her fans.

    As far as teen artists go, today’s kids have it better than a generation ago. I mean, the current crop of the aforementioned Swift, The Jonas Brothers, Teddy Geiger, Drake Bell, etc. over the likes of New Kids on the Block, Menudo, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany etc? No contest. Seriously.

    Re: Pearl Jam

    While I’m only partial to Ten and scattered songs throughout their catalog, I gotta tip my hat to those dudes for having managed to be the last ones standing, and 20 years into it still making vital music. (Last year’s Backspacer was pretty happening.)

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