How Taylor Swift Sold One Million Albums in a Week

Success of 'Speak Now' took careful planning and lots of songwriting

November 3, 2010 2:37 PM ET

I... Can't... Believe... This... You guys have absolutely lit up my world. Thank you," Taylor Swift tweeted Wednesday morning. She may have seemed humble, but Swift had plenty to brag about: her new album, Speak Now , had officially sold the most albums in a single week in more than five years, with just over 1 million units sold.

That would have been an impressive haul even in the halcyon days of the late 1980s and '90s. As the music industry's sales have plummeted over the past decade, such success takes intricate planning, even for a star with appeal as far-reaching as Swift's.

Swift took no chances as she put the album together — she told Rolling Stone's Austin Scaggs that she wrote dozens of songs that didn't make it onto the album.

"First I wrote 30 songs, then 35, then 40, and I kept going, because it never felt right," she said. "I pushed myself ruthlessly and tried never to be satisfied with my writing."

On the new album, she continues her tradition of singing about her personal life.

"I wrote 'The Story of Us' about running into an ex at an awards show," she told Scaggs, without naming the ex, though it is reported to the Joe Jonas. "And I came home and sat down at the kitchen table and told my mom, 'I felt like I was standing alone in a crowded room.' She tried to console me, but I was gone at that point."

While ex-boyfriends are a more well-publicized song topic, the media didn't get a pass on the album either.

"'Mean' is about a writer who kept going off on me, blasting me," Swift said. "There's a place for constructive criticism, but then there's a line that gets crossed. Every time I'd read something new, it would just level me, and my only way of handling it was to write a song about it."

Her label also worked hard to ensure the album's success. In an interview with Rolling Stone last month, Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of Swift's label, Big Machine, was confident but realistic about the album's potential.

"It's going to be one of the biggest records of the year — we're shipping 2.1 million," he said. "It wasn't that long ago when you could force that much out there, but in this environment, it has to be on demand — and the demand is absolutely there."

Photos: Taylor Swift's Family Album: Shots of Our Cover Girl's Picture-Perfect Life

Big Machine isn't just distributing the album through typical channels, however — mass market retailers like Target, WalMart and Best Buy are all carrying Speak Now. Plus, said Borchetta, the album is in Starbucks, Rite Aid, Radio Shack and Hot Topic.

"We've gotta be very aggressive because we don't have record stores anymore," he said. "We've got to take whatever space we can get that has foot traffic. I think it'll be real hard to miss us."

Speak Now is also being released on vinyl, which Swift told Rolling Stone she's "really excited about." She also revealed that she has her own burgeoning vinyl collection.

"I've gotten used Tom Petty records, like the first album, with 'Rockin' Around (With You)' and 'Breakdown' and 'Hometown Blues.' I have a bunch of stuff: Tracy Chapman, Ryan Adams' Easy Tiger and Demolition, Band of Horses' Infinite Arms, Emmylou Harris' Roses in the Snow," she said.

Check out Austin Scaggs' hilarious interview with Taylor earlier this year.

--Additional reporting by David Browne

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