Over the past few weeks, Taylor Swift has once again proven that she can command media headlines as well as — and perhaps better than — any artist in the world. A steady drip of carefully-planned content has kept her name trending on social sites and splashy news headlines worldwide, all leading up to tomorrow’s launch of her seventh studio album, Lover.
There’s no debating that Lover will dominate global streaming and sales charts. The only question is how big will it be? More pointedly, the biggest question (and one you can bet Taylor Swift will be monitoring closely) is this: Will Lover break the one-million sales threshold in the United States in its first week?
The question is important because it’s a feat Swift has become known for: She’s done it FOUR times, while no other artist in history has managed to do it more than twice. (Eminem, the Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC have two seven-figure debuts apiece.) The last album to sell more than a million copies in its first week was… wait for it… Swift’s reputation, back in 2017. Only 19 albums have reached the damn-near-impossible mark since SoundScan started tracking sales back in 1991.
It’s a mind-boggling statistic that illustrates Swift’s unrivaled starpower. Not only is she one of the greatest songwriters of her generation, but she’s also perhaps the best marketer. She understands how to connect with fans in a way that few artists ever will, and that’s why she’s the biggest recording artist on the planet.
Will Lover cross the million-unit threshold in its first week? It absolutely will. And when it does, Swift will have five — FIVE! — of the 20 fastest-selling albums of all time. (That’s 25%, for those scoring along at home.)
Swift’s connection with fans is certainly part of her magic, but her team’s super-smart marketing is another huge component. Since Swift debuted “ME!” in April, she’s been offering limited-edition bundles for her fans. Dozens of versions of items have been revealed on her website, and modeled by Swift and her friends in music videos and social posts. Each bundle includes a digital download of Lover, which means there are likely hundreds of thousands of direct-to-consumer presales that will be added to Swift’s first week tally. A partnership with Amazon for Prime Day offered even more limited-edition goodies for Swifties to snatch up.
Roughly half a million of the first-week sales of reputation reportedly came courtesy of two deluxe-edition versions at Target, packaged within a magazine format. For Lover, Swift is literally doubling down: FOUR superfan versions of the album are available at the retailer, each promising exclusive pages from Swift’s personal journals. You can bet plenty of Swifties threw down their cash to pre-order the entire collection. (Target is offering a $5 rebate to fans who buy all four versions at $17 a pop.)
Swift also packed 18 songs onto the album. That’s important (and a smart move) because the methodology Billboard uses to calculate its charts is based on the number of songs streamed: every 1,250 paid song streams equals, or every 3,750 ad-supported streams, counts as one album sold.
So, we’ve established that Swift will definitely break the seven-figure mark first week, becoming the first artist to do so since… she did it last time. Here’s another big question: Will Lover be her biggest first-week ever?
It will take 1.3 million equivalent albums to best Swift’s highest-ever debut. Her previous efforts shifted 1.287 million (1989); 1.216 million (reputation); 1.208 million (Red); and 1.047 million (Speak Now). My money is on Swift surpassing each of these totals, and perhaps even the 1.5 million mark, which only five albums in history have ever managed to hit. (Adele’s 25 shifted 3.3 million units in 2015; that record will likely stand forever. She’s the only artist to surpass 1.5 million first-week since 2001.)
Swift has been in marketing overdrive, partnering with retailers left and right to make sure as many eyes and ears as possible are focused on Lover tomorrow. The pressure her new label partner, Republic, likely feels to help this be Swift’s biggest debut of all time also means it’s an all-hands-on-deck effort.
For those reasons, I think it’s not a question of if but of by how much is Swift’s biggest debut of all time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the final number is north of 1.5 million — in fact, I’ll be rooting for it!