For her latest release, “Folklore,” Swift threw out almost her entire playbook, yet still rocketed to the top with sales that most artists can only dream of.
“Folklore,” which came out on July 24 with less than 24 hours’ notice, opened at No. 1 on Billboard’s latest album chart with a whopping 846,000 sales in the United States, according to Nielsen Music. That’s the third-highest weekly total for any album in four years, beaten only by Swift’s last two albums: “Reputation” (1.2 million in 2017) and “Lover” (867,000 a year ago).
Selling more than one million copies in a single week — once a Swift specialty — may no longer be possible in the streaming era, but through canny marketing Swift has kept her numbers as high as almost anyone can. (One exception: Adele, who had stratospheric numbers the last time around, and has a new album in the works.)
“Folklore” may also be one of the last blockbuster releases to take full advantage of one of Nielsen and Billboard’s most contested rules, over the so-called bundling of albums — selling a copy of an album along with another item, like merchandise or a concert ticket. Billboard is set to stop counting most of these deals in October.
When her album was announced, Swift’s website was fully primed to deliver her album in an array of deals for items like a $49 cardigan and a $15 phone stand. In addition, Swift sold 17 physical versions of “Folklore” — eight CDs, eight LPs and a cassette tape — that surely lured large numbers of collectors and fans. Swift’s 846,000 sales total is a composite number that includes 615,000 copies sold as a full album.
Yet Swift’s surprise release strategy brought its own momentum, and in the days after its release it was a legitimate sensation online — as well as a critics’ favorite, for the most part — that drew 290 million streams.
Swift did manage to avoid one piece of potential competition in her opening week. Kanye West, her eternal celebrity nemesis, had announced a new album, “Donda: With Child,” for the same day, but so far it has not materialized.
Also this week, Logic’s “No Pressure” opened at No. 2 with the equivalent of 221,000 sales. Juice WRLD’s “Legends Never Die” falls to No. 3 after two weeks at the top, and another posthumous rap album, Pop Smoke’s “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon,” is No. 4. The “Hamilton” Broadway cast album is No. 5.