clocking up

Taylor Swift’s new album success crowned her the queen of vinyl

Swift bested a record recently set by Harry Styles with Harry's House
Taylor Swift’s new album success crowned her the queen of vinyl<em></em>
Photo: Mark Blinch (Reuters)
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The world never has to wait too long for Taylor Swift, who released her album Midnights on Friday, Oct. 21. It’s her fourth new record in three years, following the dreamy Lover in 2019 and her twin indie-infused records Folklore and Evermore in 2020. But in that time, she also re-released Fearless and Red as part of a longstanding dispute over her masters.

Midnights is a concept album about “sleepless nights” throughout Swift’s life. The album is both streamable and downloadable, but more importantly it is available for purchase in a wide variety of physical formats.

Swift’s Midnights is already another blockbuster for Miss Americana herself, but it’s also a bellwether for a music industry where everything old is new again. It’s true: The year is 2022 and Taylor Swift just had record-setting vinyl sales.

Taylor Swift could break the vinyl sales record

Taylor Swift released four different vinyl editions of her Midnights. The LPs, which sell for $29.99 on her website, feature art that, if you put all four editions together, form a clock. Further, Swift is selling a $49 kit for super-fans who want to spend close to $200 assembling the clock-as-wall art.

This isn’t just some retro marketing ploy: Vinyl is having a moment. While streaming subscription services such as Spotify and Apple Music dominate the music industry, raking in about 68% of industry revenue, vinyl is the most popular format for people purchasing music. In 2021, vinyl outsold CDs for the first time in three decades. CDs sales also increased last year, and Swift took notice. She released four editions of her album on CD too. Meanwhile, the digital download, made famous by the $0.99 iTunes single, has never been so unpopular.

Luminate, the music research firm formerly known as Nielsen Soundcan, said that US consumers bought 19.4 million LPs in the first six months of 2022, up 1% since the same period in 2021. But in that time, new music releases on vinyl were up 27%, showing that vinyl is becoming a prevailing format for the day’s biggest pop artists.

The big question, Luminate senior director of music insights Jaime Marconette, said last week was whether Swift would dethrone Harry Styles for the weekly US vinyl sales record. When Styles first released his album Harry’s House in May 2022, he sold 182,000 copies in the first week, setting the record in the process.

“Swift’s vinyl sales are impressive, and she is expected to perform well in this first week of release. So far in 2022, she’s sold 432,000 vinyl albums in the US, making her the number two selling vinyl artist this year overall, second to Styles,” Marconette wrote in an email to Quartz. “In fact, five of her albums are listed in the top 100 vinyl sales year to date, with three in the top 25.”

Many of Swift’s fans must’ve clocked in: The pop star has already sold 515,000 copies of her album on vinyl, nearly three times as many as Styles did in the first week of his album release. In this peculiar musical renaissance, Swift is the new queen of vinyl.

This story was updated on Oct. 26 with Midnights vinyl sales figures