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CAN TAYLOR DO IT AGAIN?

The question on everyone’s mind this week is, “Can she do it again?” She, of course, is Taylor Swift, whose highly anticipated new album, Lover, hits the streets on Friday with some very big shoes to fill. Her four previous albums have all opened with over 1 million in sales; Swift is the only artist to notch that many million-selling first weeks. Three other artists have released two sets each that crossed the threshold: NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys and Eminem. But in a rapidly shifting market, is it still possible for anyone—even Taylor Swift—to hit the million mark in a single week?

Perhaps the best example of how the market has shifted can be seen is in the performance of the last two proper Drake albums, Views and Scorpion. Views opened in 2016 with 1.04m units in total activity, 852k of which came from digital album sales. Two years later, Scorpion debuted with 732k, setting the record for most streams from an album in a single week with 746 million but only sold 160k downloads, a loss of 692k album sales. It’s here that Swift likely faces her biggest challenge.

Through the end of July, YTD digital album downloads are down 43% vs. the same period in 2017, a few months before the release of Swift’s previous album, Reputation. Digital downloads made up 58% of Reputation’s first week—over 700k. It’s not likely this can be repeated, with some industry observers suggesting Lover’s digital total could finish in the 200-250k range.

Swift does have a strong physical game, partnering with Target, as always, for four exclusive versions. But physical sales are down 30% since Reputation dropped, and it’s not likely those will increase much beyond that album’s total. Her heavily stocked merch store could help offset any losses here.

As sales are cratering, streaming is posting huge gains, up nearly 80% in the last two years as most consumers have moved to one of the various streaming platforms. In 2017, Swift withheld Reputation from streaming during the first two weeks, making only the singles available. This resulted in just over 20 million streams, for an SEA of only 13k. Did this alienate her fans? Maybe not, but it didn’t endear them to her either. The tracks released thus far from Lover have generated a respectable 250 million streams to date.

By comparison, tracks from Ariana Grande’s thank u, next were streamed over 500 million times in the three months prior to that album’s release; the album collected 307 million streams in its first week. Many believe this is the minimum in streaming Swift must reach in order to even approach another million selling first week. Watch this space for more info.

 

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