Of all the theories about why the record industry is collapsing – piracy, iTunes, bumbling digital rights management – has anyone considered the real reason is that Taylor Swift took over? Aside from her new single, “Shake It Off,” sales news remains bad: Albums are still down 15 percent, and singles are down 13 percent. It’s a trend that has lasted all year.
MY BET IS TAYLOR AND NICKI RULE THE FALL, THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS: After a summer dominated by Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea, more super hits are finally arriving in time for Labor Day – Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” makes its debut at Number One, selling a ridiculous 544,000 downloads, and the MTV Video Music Awards boosted Nicki Minaj‘s “Anaconda” from Number 24 to Number Six, as it sold 120,000, an increase of 132 percent. (Minaj’s collaboration with Jessie J and the aforementioned Grande, “Bang Bang,” increased sales 21 percent, with a respectable 159,000 copies, though it dropped from Number Two to Number Three on the chart.) Bad timing: Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” sold an impressive 283,000 and boosted sales 18 percent, but Swift-flopped from Number One to Number Two.
ANOTHER NOTE ABOUT TAYLOR SWIFT: The world’s biggest pop star has been stonewalling Spotify and other streaming services on new releases for years. “Shake It Off” is unavailable there, though it does appear on YouTube, where it has 46 million views. Swift’s label, Big Machine, has consistently refused to post high-demand albums on Spotify, but over time, it quietly changes course – 2012’s Red is streaming there.
LOST AMID THE SINGLES: I would have positioned rising hip-hop superstar Wiz Khalifa‘s first-ever Number One album, Blacc Hollywood, as the lead paragraph in this column, but Taylor Swift’s 544,000 sales are more impressive than Wiz’ anemic 90,000. Singles can still be blockbusters, now and then, but album sales have been unimpressive for years. Sales for Number 10, Ed Sheeran‘s X, sold 16,000 copies. That is low.