‘Tortured Poets Department’ Breaks Record for Weekly Vinyl Sales in Just Three Days, as Taylor Swift Sells 700,000 LPs Over a Weekend

It feels potentially unlucky to talk about “breaking records” when the subject is actual LPs, but there’s no way around combining these terms when we’re talking Taylor Swift, the modern queen of vinyl. She has broken her own record for the most sales of a vinyl album in a week, and did it in just three days, with 700,000 LP copies sold of “The Tortured Poets Department” over the weekend.

The previous weekly record belonged to Swift’s release from last October, “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” which sold 693,000 copies in a seven-day period. Billboard reported the info on Swift besting her own recent high-water mark.

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Who held the record before “1989” surpassed it last year? You guessed it — also Swift. “Midnights” set a weekly vinyl sales record when it came out in October 2022, with what then seemed like an astronomical 570,000 copies in the LP format.

To find someone who was setting the record for most weekly records who was not Taylor Swift, you have to go back five months before “Midnights,” when Harry Styles had what was then the highest registered figure, as “Harry’s House” sold 372,000 vinyl copies in its first week.

It should be noted, as these records keep getting toppled, that they are all for what is often referred to as “the modern era” — that is, for the period since 1991, when SoundScan began keeping well-researched tallies of sales numbers for albums in vinyl, CD, cassette, download and all other forms. It’s possible that there were albums that sold more than 700,000 vinyl copies in a week back in the ’60s, ’70s or early ’80s, when LPs were the dominant format for consumption of music, but that data wasn’t being collected then. In any case, there’s no one else who has come even close to Swift’s opening LP numbers over the last 33 years.

Industry observers who cheer vinyl becoming the dominant sales format again will have their eyes eagerly on just how high “Tortured Poets” will go when it’s seven days of sales being tallied and not just three.

Of course, the Swift album is benefitting from a significant portion of Swifties buying multiple copies of variants. The new release is available in four different editions, each with its own subtitle, distinct bonus track and separate outer and inner cover art. Three of the four main vinyl variants were advertised as limited editions that would only be available for a short time and only via Swift’s webstore, before they ended up being put back up on sale there near release date and also made available to brick-and-mortar retailers. Other variants include a Target edition that has the same track listing as the primary edition sold through the Swift webstore, but on clear vinyl.

The vinyl sales are only a portion — albeit a significant one — of Swift’s growing tally overall this week. Billboard reported that overall sales for “The Tortured Poets Department” had reached 1.5 million in the first three days. That includes CD, cassette and download sales as well as vinyl, though the obvious math shows that almost half of the sales are for LPs, with the remaining 800,000 coming from the other three sales formats.

It looks like an obvious conclusion that, with four more days of sales and also a week’s worth of streaming numbers to be added to that 1.5 million number, “The Tortured Poets Department” will easily surpass 2 million album-equivalent units for the week. If so, it will be the first album to amass more than 2 million weekly units since Adele’s “25” in 2015. (The mark Adele hit for overall units, 3.38 million, may be difficult to be surpassed ever again, due to sales having been mostly supplanted since then by streaming, a metric that counts for just a fraction of what sales are worth in the chart formula.)

The idea that pop superstars are the kings and queens of the vinyl market is still a fairy recent phenomenon in the modern age of LPs. Ten years ago, in June 2014, it was rocker Jack White who was making headlines for setting a new record for the most vinyl sales of a title in a week. The record then was broken by his second solo album, “Lazaretto,” which blew everyone’s minds by selling a first-week grand total of 40,000 LPs.

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