newest album marked her biggest debut yet, a feat in the streaming era as fans listened online and purchased a record amount of vinyl.
“Midnights” sold 1.58 million copies across formats, according to Luminate Data, formerly Nielsen Music, delivering it to the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart with the biggest sales week of the year—and the biggest sales week since
“25” seven years ago.
Selling albums in the first week of a release used to be the key metric of success for an artist when coming out with new work. First-week sales figures have deteriorated in recent years as customers overwhelmingly shifted away from purchasing CDs and albums on iTunes to streaming them on services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
|*NSYNC||“No Strings Attached”||2000||2.42|
|Eminem||“The Marshall Mathers LP”||2000||1.76|
|Backstreet Boys||“Black & Blue”||2000||1.59|
|Eminem||“The Eminem Show”||2002||1.32|
|Britney Spears||“Oops!… I Did It Again”||2000||1.32|
|50 Cent||“The Massacre”||2005||1.14|
|Lady Gaga||“Born This Way”||2011||1.11|
|Garth Brooks||“Double Live”||1998||1.10|
|Whitney Houston||“The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album”||1993||1.06|
|Limp Bizkit||“Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water”||2000||1.06|
|Taylor Swift||“Speak Now”||2010||1.05|
|Norah Jones||“Feels Like Home”||2004||1.02|
|Lil Wayne||“Tha Carter III”||2008||1.01|
Source: Luminate Data via Republic Records and Billboard
The first week total represents a combination of sales of physical and digital copies as well as streams. Traditional sales, such as from iTunes or CDs, are weighted more heavily in the music industry’s sales math. It takes 1,250 on-demand audio and video streams, or 3,750 ad-supported streams, to equal an album sale, or what’s referred to as a streaming-equivalent album.
Ms. Swift is the only artist to sell at least a million copies in a single week for five different albums. With “Midnights” she notched the third-largest streaming week ever for an album. It is the biggest sales week for a vinyl album in the modern era, since Luminate began tracking music sales in 1991, moving 575,000 vinyl LPs.
Aside from being a musical hit, the blockbuster week for “Midnights” is the result of a carefully orchestrated release by Ms. Swift who rallied her fans through streaming services, social media and souvenir physical-album copies. Ms. Swift is the mastermind of her marketing strategy and has been involved in her business dealings more than most artists, label and industry executives say.
“Taylor is one of the only artists capable of delivering the music and creative needed to execute at this level,” said
co-president of Republic Records, Ms. Swift’s label.
Ms. Swift, who held back previous albums from streaming services, has now fully embraced the medium while also continuing to hawk myriad physical copies. With “Midnights,” Ms. Swift became the first artist to hit the million mark with an album that was made available on streaming services at release. Adele holds the first-week record for selling 3.38 million copies of “25,” which she accomplished by holding it back from streaming.
In contrast to Ms. Swift’s pair of surprise releases during the pandemic, “Midnights” serves as a sort of case study in promoting a modern pop album—using every tool, traditional and new, in the kit.
“She really in this case used new tactics to achieve older benchmarks of success,”
chief executive of artist partnership company Firebird Music Holdings and co-host of the Ringer’s “Every Single Album: Taylor Swift” series, calling her the best CMO and CEO in music today.
“She really in this case used new tactics to achieve older benchmarks of success,” he said.
It began old school, with Ms. Swift announcing the coming of the new album while accepting an award at the MTV Video Music Awards in August.
A month before the album’s Oct. 21 release, TikTok tweeted “meet us at @taylorswift13’s TikTok account at midnight.” Ms. Swift began releasing videos at midnight in which she revealed track titles.
Spotify revealed lyrics on billboards around the world at midnight, with teaser videos, and nightly video clips from Ms. Swift talking about what inspired the album. She recorded an exclusive “meet me at midnight” track for Apple Music, which released a series of playlists of her music categorized by Ms. Swift’s writing style.
Amazon Music premiered a music video teaser trailer and projected Ms. Swift on billboards. She provided an exclusive audio intro track for the service’s Pop Culture playlist, which featured only her music for the 24 hours before the “Midnights” release. On SiriusXM, which also put up billboards, Ms. Swift answered questions about the album submitted by fans.
The cost for such expansive promotion is typically borne by the marketing departments of her label and the streaming and social media services.
Upon releasing the music video for lead single “Anti-Hero,” Ms. Swift directed her fans to join the #TSAntiHeroChallenge on YouTube shorts by using a snippet of the song to share about personal misgivings.
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The album is available to purchase on her website as a digital album, a CD with four editions in different colors and a vinyl LP with four editions in different colors—a $49 mechanism helps buyers of all four versions construct them into a clock. Fans can also buy a “Midnights” cassette tape. An iTunes-exclusive version includes a bonus track. Her webstore sold preorders of signed copies.
A fifth color of the album in both CD and vinyl is available only at Target; the CD there includes three exclusive bonus tracks. Capital One cardholders could purchase a deluxe box set with a CD and T-shirt.
Three hours after the 13-track album dropped, Ms. Swift revealed a “3 a.m.” version with seven additional songs available on streaming services and digital retailers such as iTunes featuring a digital liner notes booklet.
Later last week Spotify put up billboards headlining how much the album had been streamed. “Like snow on the beach, Los Angeles streamed Midnights for 16.8M minutes in just 4 days,” read one, playing on lyrics from a collaboration with
Lana Del Rey
on the album. “Not weird, just beautiful.”
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