‘Reputation’ is poised to hit 1 million sales this week – her record-breaking fourth album to do so.
Taylor Swift is cashing in on controversy.
The “Look What You Made Me Do” singer calls out Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, exes like Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston, and the bruising her own “Reputation” has taken over the past year in her sixth album released Friday. And it’s paying off.
After selling more than 700,000 albums its first day, Nielsen Music told Moneyish that “Reputation” has sold more than 925,000 copies as of Sunday night, and is poised to hit more than 1 million in the next day or two. If it does, Swift will be the only artist to have four consecutive albums (2010’s “Speak Now,” 2012’s “Red” and 2014’s “1989”) sell more than a million copies in just one week. And she’s already on track to cruise past pal Ed Sheeran to have the year’s best-selling album – and he released “Shape of You” last spring.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 11, 2017
There’s no denying that Swift sells records on her own merit. David Bakula, a senior analyst at Nielsen Music, told Moneyish that Swift and Adele are in the league the A-plus artists who just make gold records.
“She’s absolutely at the top of the game, both in terms of awareness and in terms of likability,” he said. “She writes about the way her life has changed, and her fans have watched her change, for better or for worse. She puts her personal life into her songs … ‘this is my life, and here it is on a shiny disk.”
And the 27-year-old singer whose net worth was $280 million last year – making her the ninth richest of all female entertainers in the U.S., according to Forbes – pulled in $184.5 million from her 2015 “1989” tour. And she’ll get even richer hitting the road again, since she announced her “Reputation” tour Monday, which will hit 27 North American dates beginning in Glendale, Ariz., on May 8, 2018. General admission tix are available on Ticketmaster Dec. 13, or those who bought the album and signed up for her fan-focused Taylor Swift Tix powered by Ticketmaster Verified Fan through Nov. 28th get a shot at presale tix before they go to the general public.
But addressing her tabloid drama head-on in her new songs certainly hasn’t hurt. News outlets are poring over her “Reputation” lyrics as avidly as diehard Swifties to see where she’s referencing Kimye, Perry, her exes or slams against herself.
And lines like, “It was so nice being friends again / There I was giving you a second chance / But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand / And therein lies the issue / Friends don’t try to trick you / Get you on the phone and mind-twist you / And so I took an axe to a mended fence,” leave little to the imagination.
“The people that are winning in music are the ones that are becoming human, whether in the way that they interact with and communicate with their fan base, or in saying there’s nothing sacred anymore,” branding expert Mark Zablow, CEO of Cogent Entertainment Marketing, told Moneyish.
He noted that Beyonce and Jay-Z – who’ve grown estranged from West even as Swift has spent more time with them – hooked listeners by appearing to bare their marital drama in last year’s “Lemonade” and this year’s “4:44,” respectively. Audiences can’t resist listening in on the real strife that’s merely hinted at in headlines. “Taylor addressed anything dramatic head-on. There’s nothing hidden,” Zablow said.
Swift knows how to keep her fervent fan base engaged and on her side. Zablow noted she smartly invited some of her superfans (who had thousands of social media followers of their own) to her home in 2014 for a secret “1989” party before that hit record came out. She even baked them cookies.
“She and her team saw that these are the top people really spending all of their time talking about her, who have an engaged audience, who will spend the time fanning out over what every lyric means, and create a news cycle around that,” Zablow said. “This amazing event got those fans to be super loyal to her and to feel super close to her.” And it gave Swifties another reason to wanna be part of her squad – and buy her records to feel like they are.
So her social media disappearance over the summer was a stroke of genius. She wiped her accounts clean before posting cryptic pix and videos of a snake in a not-so-subtle nod to Kardashian fans blowing up her social media feed with snake emoji in response to the reality star leaking parts of a recorded phone call where Swift appeared to give West permission to run with “Famous,” where we raps about making “that b—- famous.” Swift responded that she wanted to be excluded from the narrative — but now she’s putting herself back in, on her own terms.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) August 23, 2017
“She didn’t let it get to the point where there was a bickering match back-and-forth, where she could have taken a black eye, so it blew over,” said Bakura. “And then for Taylor to literally disappear [on social], it fueled fan speculation, it fueled demand, it fueled desire to find out more: ‘Taylor, please come back and tell us what’s going on!’”
As a result, the audio-visual version of “Look What You Made Me Do” was played 30 million times in just under 24 hours, and the lyric video for “Look What You Made Me Do” was viewed nearly 20 million times within a day of release on YouTube, breaking the Google-owned platform’s record.
“Instead of fighting back with Kim and Kanye, she focused on the bigger picture: ‘I have a new album, and it’s gonna be the biggest in the world,’” said Zablow. “She’s not letting anybody ride on that. She’s gonna take it, own it, erase her social media, keep the conversation focused on her new product and laugh all the way to the bank.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved