May 28, 2023

ArtsBeat: Swift’s ‘Red’ Tops a Million Sales in Week 1

Her products are for sale in a special display at Walgreens stores. She has a line of Keds shoes. She’s all over Target ads. She was even part of a deal at Papa John’s, which dressed countless pizza boxes with a photo of her lipsticked face.

All that branding paid off for Taylor Swift, whose latest album, “Red” (Big Machine), sold 1.208 million copies in its first week out — the biggest weekly take for any album since 2002, Billboard reported on Tuesday night, citing data from Nielsen SoundScan. The album will, naturally, open at No. 1 on Billboard’s new album chart, which will be released in full on Wednesday.

The success of “Red” continues a winning streak for Ms. Swift, 22. Her last record, “Speak Now,” opened with just over 1 million sales two years ago, and she is the only woman to have two albums selling a million copies in one week since 1991, when SoundScan began keeping tracking sales from music retailers. Only 18 albums, counting “Red,” have sold a million in one week, and even in this era of depressed music sales, a bunch have happened recently: Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” hit the mark last year, “Speak Now” in 2010 and Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” in 2008.

In its report, Billboard noted that 465,000 sales of the album were made at iTunes, 396,000 at Target and 8,000 through Papa John’s, which sold the CD for $13 and also as part of a $22 pizza-and-CD combo. (“I don’t think it would look right on a hamburger or a taco, but it sure looks right on a Papa John’s box,” the chain’s founder, John Schnatter, said of the deal.)

One outlet where fans could not get “Red,” however, was Spotify. As other record companies have done with some major new releases, Ms. Swift’s label, Big Machine, withheld the album from the subscription streaming services like Spotify and Rdio. Some labels believe that doing so will spur download sales, or at least not cannibalize them — in the all-important first sales week.

But recently another big-selling album challenged that assumption: Mumford Sons’ “Babel” opened at No. 1 with 600,000 sales in its first week — including both CDs and album downloads — while also being available on Spotify, where it was streamed eight million times in its first week, a record for the service.

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