Welcome to today’s installment of Taylor Swift Taylor Swift Taylor Swift Taylor Swift TAYLOR SWIFT on the charts. Did you hear that, in addition to 1989‘s massive album sales, her new single “Blank Space” sold 155,000 copies and vaulted over Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” and Maroon 5’s “Animals” to Number One on Billboard‘s Digital Songs chart? It seems 1989‘s success has moved the needle on overall album sales: they’re down just 13 percent, while single sales are down 13 percent.
AFTER 1989, NUMBER TWO NOW 52 SOLD A “PUNY” 103,000 COPIES: Last month, when I started interviewing retailers and label people about Taylor Swift’s 1989, they predicted first-week sales between 600,000 and 750,000. The number subsequently increased to 1 million. Actual sales: 1.287 million. That’s an astonishingly huge figure in a year when zero 2014 releases have sold more than a million copies total. Swift had help from Target (which put out a deluxe edition) and Diet Coke (which featured her in TV ads), contributing to what Forbes called a “master class in marketing.” She also pivoted away from country into pop music, but the true path to 1.287 million is simple: 1989 is a pretty great album by a big star.
OR MAYBE IT WAS THE EXCELLENT SONGS THAT CREATED THE SALES: Did Spotify, or rather, the absence of Spotify, contribute to Swift’s first-week bonanza? It’s possible. But every track from 1989 is available on YouTube for free, as well as Rhapsody, Tidal and other streaming services for a monthly fee. Spotify has 40 million users worldwide, while YouTube claims 1 billion users every month. Generally, free streaming does appear to be cannibalizing iTunes-style sales (and certainly CDs), but let’s not forget that all the big record labels made lucrative deals to license their song catalogs to Spotify, Beats Music and others. As a source from one major label told me recently, free Spotify’s ad payments may not be the best, but it’s far better to get a little revenue this way than zero revenue from illegal, old-Napster-style free downloads.
REPORTING MUSIC-BUSINESS NEWS = SEXISM: On Monday morning, I received an e-mail from a source announcing Taylor Swift Inc. had abruptly removed not only 1989 (as expected) but all of her back catalog from Spotify, which had made it available for years. Somehow, this type of reporting was deemed by some as sexist, as if we music-business reporters had implied Swift was incapable of making her own business decisions. I’m confused by this logic — Swift believes fans should pay for her music. How does this suggest whether she, personally, or someone in her camp, made the Spotify decision?