Taylor Swift sells another million albums

We’ve said it before and we might never say it again (who knows!) but it’s always been rare to sell a million copies of an album in a week. But especially now when so few people purchase entire albums that even industry trade publications like Billboard have stopped basing their main album chart on sales. Since 2014, the “Billboard 200” chart has used a “multi-metric consumption” formula that includes streaming data and digital song sales.

Since Soundscan — recently rebranded as “Luminate” — began tracking sales in 1991, only 22 albums have sold a million copies in a week. It’s a weird list and not particularly good. Mostly tweener pop from the 00s and a couple of Eminem albums. Only seven albums have done it since 2010 and five of those are by Taylor Swift. Which is amazing if you think about it. How does she continue to inspire her fans to fork over their cash for her music when they could easily listen to it for free?

I don’t know how but, oops, she did it again. Midnights just sold 1.140 million copies in the U.S. in the week ending October 27. Of those sales, 575,000 were on vinyl, 395,000 on CD, 10,000 on cassette, and 161,000 were digital album downloads.

On top of the sales, Midnights also racked up 549.26 million on-demand official streams of its 20 total tracks plus 190,000 individual digital track downloads. So its total multi-metric consumption was 1.578 million equivalent album units. It still feels icky to write “consumption” and “units” in the same sentence, but hey, welcome to the apocalypse!

But how about those 575,000 copies on vinyl? I happened to be at Target this weekend and those suckers are selling for $29.99. That’s $17,244,250 gross in vinyl alone. There are four different editions, and you need them all so you can turn them around and make a clock (the mount with brass tin clock is available at store.taylorswift.com for $49). If I was a huge fan I would totally do this. I am the guy, after all, who used to buy every copy of Whipped Cream and Other Delights I could find in the dollar bin with the intention of wallpapering a room with them…an idea that got abandoned shortly after I got married…but still!

So: $29.99 x 4 + 50 = $169.96 for a pretty dope wall-clock. It may be a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t that much. That’s $400 cheaper than you’d pay for a George Nelson Sunburst clock reproduction, and Design Within Reach doesn’t even include anything you can play on your turntable.

Another wild aspect to this whole story is that she had 575,000 LPs manufactured and ready to sell on release day. That’s confidence. Especially in lieu of Adele’s recent overstock-dot-com return-of-the-cutout-bin snafu of 2021. Adele tied up the entire vinyl manufacturing industry for months in order to press 500,000 copies of 30, but only sold 108,000 of them on opening week. By the end of the year, 30 was the best selling record of 2021 but it had only moved 234,000 copies. Which isn’t nothing, of course, but it was a considered a major disappointment. So it was a gutsy move for Swift to aim as high as she did.

Of course, while all those pressing plants were pumping out Midnights, all of the orders of independent records were pushed back indefinitely. Galaxie 500’s Damon Krukowski pointed out that “none of the rest of us can get any vinyl pressed” in a viral thread that also included “The full cost of the Taylor Swift Vinyl Clock” as being “4 LPs x $29.99 + 1 clock set x $49 + the collapse of the independent music scene that depends on physical media sales.” Which sucks, obviously. Bands today cannot afford to tour and they can’t get their records pressed and streaming doesn’t pay independent artists a living wage, so yeah, they’re fucked. Sorry.

But Midnights sold 575,000 records in one week so maybe somebody will invest in increasing vinyl manufacturing capability? Maybe it’s not just a fad? Maybe it’s a good thing that people are buying records? Maybe those vinyl profits will trickle down from the Taylor Swifts of the world to the Damon and Naomis? Maybe? No? Can’t we hope that this is a positive thing? I want to believe.

Anyway, how about the music? I’ve only streamed it a couple of times so far. But it’s good. I like it. I’m more of a Folklore/Evermore type (surprise surprise), although I also love 1989 and I’ll always have a place in my heart for “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” so I’m not anti-pop. But considering the pre-release iconography I think I was hoping for a more mature instrumental palette than what Jack Antonoff has produced here. The smoky, seventies-basement vibe of the photography had led me to expect something sultry and moody but instead we get a bunch of solid pop bloopy thumpers. Which is fine but I don’t get what that has to do with wood paneling and sitting in your bra at an organ with an ashtray on it.

If you’re curious about the mechanics of how Swift and her team built up the anticipation for Midnights after the downward trend of her last four releases (Folklore, Evermore & two Taylor’s Versions), be sure to check out Bill Werde’s latest issue of his Full Rate No Cap newsletter. He interviewed more than 20 fans and executives to get the full story.

* * *

Video: Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”

Directed by Taylor Swift. From Midnights, out now.

Video: Taylor Swift – “Bejeweled”

Directed by Taylor Swift. From Midnights, out now.

Taylor Swift: web, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

* * *

All 22 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)

  20. Adele – 25: 3.378 million (11/26/15), 1.11 million (12/03/15), 1.15 million (12/24/15).

  21. Taylor Swift – Reputation: 1.216 million (11/16/17)

  22. Taylor Swift – Midnights: 1.140 million (10/27/22)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *