Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album, “Reputation,” which drops at midnight tonight, is projected by its distributor to sell 1.3 and 1.5 million units in the U.S. in its first week, a source close to the situation tells Variety — which would actually be a bump up from the 1.287 million first-week sales of her previous album, “1989,” release in October 2014.
Swift’s label Big Machine (which is distinct from its distributor, Universal Music Group) is telling accounts that it is expecting first-week sales of 2 million units, according to a report in Billboard, but that tally seems dramatically optimistic given the extent to which streaming has taken hold in the U.S., and the relatively unspectacular performance of the four singles Swift has released in advance of the album (as opposed to “Shake It Off,” the global smash that preceded “1989”).
The wild-card factor in all this is streaming: While there’s no official word, sources say that Swift will hold back the album for at least a week and possibly longer, although those sources also say it’s likely a final decision has not yet been made. Once the album is sent to the streaming services and prepared for release, it can be officially posted in a matter of hours.
Even the low sales prediction of 1.3 million is more than any artist has sold in recent years except Adele (whose 2015 album “25” moved a record-breaking 3.4 million units in its first week and withheld the album from them for some seven months) and Swift herself. Given physical’s exponentially larger profit margin compared with streaming, holding the album back from the platforms would be hard for most artists to resist.
Swift removed her music from streaming platforms shortly before the release of “1989,” decrying the services’ royalty payments. In 2015, she called out Apple Music for failing to pay royalties on streaming during free trial periods, but relented with Apple Music after a Fathers’ Day 2015 conversation with Apple SVP Eddy Cue in which he changed the company’s policy. The singer returned her music to streaming services in June of this year after a nearly three-year hiatus.