Selling a Million Albums in a Week is a Big Deal

Taylor Swift has sold 1,287,000 copies of 1989 in its first week of release. That’s a lot of albums. Only 18 other albums have managed to move a million copies in a week since 1991 when SoundScan started tracking sales.

And that 1.287 million isn’t even counting everybody in the U.S. who legally purchased 1989. Microsoft was selling the album for 99 cents via its new Music Deals app, but none of those sales are counted. (Billboard’s Keith Caulfield confirmed this to me in a tweet.) We may never know how many additional albums were sold this way. I can personally vouch for one sale.

First week album sales are a measure of true fandom. Real fans get excited to support their favorite artists, and the number of selfies with the 1989 CD on Instagram is anachronistically hilarious. I wonder if half of those kids even own a CD player. Doesn’t matter. They need it.

It’s sometimes tough to remember that even back before Spotify, YouTube, the Pirate Bay, and Napster, it was still rare as hell for an album to break that million/week point. In the first seven years of SoundScan tracking, only one album managed it: The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1993. After that it was almost six more years before another album did it: Garth Brooks’ Double Live at the end of 1998.

The 19 albums that have sold over a million copies in a week (chronologically by release date)

1. Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard Soundtrack: 1,061,000 (1/9/93)

2. Garth Brooks – Double Live: 1,085,000 (12/5/98)

3. Backstreet Boys – Millennium: 1,134,000 (6/5/99)

4. ‘N Sync – No Strings Attached: 2,416,000 (4/8/00)

5. Britney Spears – Oops!…I Did It Again: 1,319,000 (6/3/00)

6. Eminem – The Marshal Mathers LP: 1,760,000 (6/10/00)

7. Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish & the Hot Dog Flavored Water: 1,055,000 (11/4/00)

8. Backstreet Boys – Black & Blue: 1,591,000 (12/9/00)

9. The Beatles – 1: 1,259,000 (1/6/01)

10. ‘N Sync – Celebrity: 1,880,000 (8/11/01)

11. Eminem – The Eminem Show: 1,322,000 (6/15/02)

12. Norah Jones – Feels Like Home: 1,022,000 (2/28/04)

13. Usher – Confessions: 1,096,000 (4/10/04)

14. 50 Cent – The Massacre: 1,141,000 (3/19/05)

15. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III: 1,006,000 (6/28/08)

16. Taylor Swift – Speak Now: 1,047,000 (11/13/10)

17. Lady Gaga – Born This Way: 1,108,000 (5/29/11)

18. Taylor Swift – Red: 1,208,000 (10/28/12)

19. Taylor Swift – 1989: 1,287,000 (11/2/14)

Sorted by sales

1. ‘N Sync – No Strings Attached: 2,416,000 (4/8/00)

2. ‘N Sync – Celebrity: 1,880,000 (8/11/01)

3. Eminem – The Marshal Mathers LP: 1,760,000 (6/10/00)

4. Backstreet Boys – Black & Blue: 1,591,000 (12/9/00)

5. Eminem – The Eminem Show: 1,322,000 (6/15/02)

6. Britney Spears – Oops!…I Did It Again: 1,319,000 (6/3/00)

7. Taylor Swift – 1989: 1,287,000 (11/2/14)

8. The Beatles – 1: 1,259,000 (1/6/01)

9. Taylor Swift – Red: 1,208,000 (10/28/12)

10. 50 Cent – The Massacre: 1,141,000 (3/19/05)

11. Backstreet Boys – Millennium: 1,134,000 (6/5/99)

12. Lady Gaga – Born This Way: 1,108,000 (5/29/11)

13. Usher – Confessions: 1,096,000 (4/10/04)

14. Garth Brooks – Double Live: 1,085,000 (12/5/98)

15. Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard Soundtrack: 1,061,000 (1/9/93)

16. Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish & the Hot Dog Flavored Water: 1,055,000 (11/4/00)

17. Taylor Swift – Speak Now: 1,047,000 (11/13/10)

18. Norah Jones – Feels Like Home: 1,022,000 (2/28/04)

19. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III: 1,006,000 (6/28/08)

All sales data via Billboard.

19 thoughts on “Selling a Million Albums in a Week is a Big Deal”

    1. I think Ms. Swift has the right to release her music in whatever formats she and her label feel are right for her. I get a little grossed out by entitled crybabies whining about how their preferred streaming service somehow deserves to have access to everything ever recorded the instant it’s released.

      That said, sales of downloads and physical media are both plummeting, and it appears as if streaming is the future whether anybody likes it or not. In some ways I agree with those who suggest that high profile artists pulling their shit from Spotify may end up hurting the music biz overall, but I also think that’s probably exaggerated.

      I appreciate the fact that she allows her stuff to stay on Beats and Rhapsody, and I’ve heard that she was willing to keep her stuff on Spotify for paid users only. But Spotify was unwilling to budge on that. Reminds me in some ways of the early days of the iTunes Music Store when labels insisted on variable pricing, but Jobs refused. (The labels ultimately got their way.) It’s a little hypocritical of Swift considering her music is freely available on YouTube, but…it’s a complex world.

      In the end, it seems like a very Goliath vs. Goliath situation with powerful record labels fighting powerful tech companies. In this case, Spotify is the loser. But I don’t feel sorry for its customers who pay $10 per month and think that gives them the right to listen to everything; nope, it gives them the right to listen to the stuff that Spotify has negotiated a license to stream to them and nothing more.

      For what it’s worth, we discussed this a little on Facebook but you probably didn’t see it unless you checked “Get Notifications” for our page: https://www.facebook.com/gloriousnoise/posts/798541106878671

  1. 44,000 copies sold in the week ending March 8. Cume: 4.505 million after 19 weeks of release.

    Here are the cumulative sales of her other albums as of now:

    Red (2012) – 4.160 million after 124 weeks
    Speak Now (2010) – 4.480 million after 228 weeks
    Fearless (2008) – 6.909 million
    Taylor Swift (2006) – 5.492 million

    Billboard’s Keith Caulfield says, “Swift’s cumulative album sales (including her five her studio efforts, and other assorted live sets, EPs, etc.) now stand at 27.67 million.”

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