The world never has to wait too long for Taylor Swift, who is set to release 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.
We know little about the album itself, but Swift has described it as something of a concept album about “sleepless nights” throughout her life. Midnights will be both streamable and downloadable, but more importantly it’ll be available in a wide variety of physical formats.
Swift’s Midnights is likely 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 is banking on potentially record-setting vinyl sales.
Taylor Swift is releasing four different vinyl editions of her new album. 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’s releasing 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, says Luminate senior director of music insights Jaime Marconette, is whether Swift will 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.”
Whether Swift breaks the record might depend on how many of her fans are keen to clock in.
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