Music Industry

Analyzing the Launch of Taylor Swift’s Reputation Album

The industry talk this Monday is how any copies of Reputation Taylor Swift will sell this week. At the moment, it’s on pace to sell somewhere around 1.4 million units in the US alone, a stunning number in the age of declining CD sales and the rise of streaming.

That will be 1.4 million CDs, vinyl records and digital downloads and will not include any of that weird “track equivalency” weirdness that comes with streaming. That’s because Reputation is not streaming at all. It’s being held back from Spotify et al until the buying frenzy settles down.

So how did her people do it? How have they managed to get Swifties to get excited about parting with their allowances for a piece of plastic or a digital download?

The “Verified Fan” Gambit

Ticketmaster’s new “Verified Fan” program is designed to allow actual human beings first dibs on concert tickets while keeping the ticket-buying bots away. In Tay-Tay’s case, fans were incentivized to become verified (and to battle for a spot in the queue for tickets for her upcoming tour) by pre-ordering Reputation. It worked. By November 3, over 400,000 copies had been re-ordered.

The Withholding Gamble

Deciding to keep Reputation off the streaming services was easy once you did the math. First of all, no one has ever sold a million copies of an album in its first week when the album was also available on Spotify. Analysis of previous album releases told Taylor’s people that if Reputation was made available to stream, tracks from the album would be streamed around 200,000. That would generate revenues of about $2.1 million.

However, if the album was kept from streaming, it would only have to sell 300,000 copies to make that same $2.1 million. Anything beyond that would be very, very profitable–far more profitable than had streaming been available at the time of the album’s release. And now that it’s set to sell 1.4 million copies–well, you can see how smart that decision was.

Taylor and her people are quite brilliant when it comes to marketing an old format.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Analyzing the Launch of Taylor Swift’s Reputation Album

  • Do you know how they count copies sold? For instance, if I buy the CD (which I did to get the code and the poster even though I have nowhere to actually play it) obviously that counts. I also “pre-ordered on iTunes (see earlier comment about no CD player). So now I am at 2. However, I also bought both of the magazines she put out (I have a big Swiftie in my house). Each one of those came with a copy of the CD. Do I now count for 4?

    TayTay also let you count up to 10 album boosts (and these are better boosts than watching vids or tweeting)…You have to assume any moderate fan has bought a digital copy and at least one of the magazines and at least a few have 10 copies. So 1.4M is great but in a non verified fan/album boost environment, what would the real number be? Going to guess maybe half…

    And if it is the case that somehow they are able to count me for only one, the math on the profits goes through the roof!

    Maybe they should rename the label “Big Marketing Machine”


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