Taylor Swift's amazing sales: Who else has sold a million in a week?

Taylor-Swift-million-in-a-weekWhat do Lil Wayne, the Backstreet Boys, and Garth Brooks have in common? They’ve all released albums that sold over one million copies domestically in their respective first weeks on shelves. If industry projections are accurate, Taylor Swift is about to join that elite group thanks to Speak Now‘s spectacular debut week.

The instant-million club is a strange place. The very first member was Garth Brooks, whose Live Garth set sold 1.08 million copies when it debuted back in 1998. At the time, no album had ever sold that many copies in its first sales frame. (The soundtrack for The Bodyguard had previously sold 1.06 million during one week in 1993, a few months after its release.) Swift’s victory this week brings things full circle in a couple of ways, then — not only is she the first country artist since Brooks to join the club, but she’s joining at a time when moving a million is similarly unheard of. In 1998 and 2010 alike, this is a rare accomplishment worth noting.

Things were different for a brief, wild period around the turn of the century. Brooks ushered in an era where pop stars routinely broke the million mark. It started in May 1999, when the Backstreet BoysMillenium sold 1.13 million in a week, but the following year was the really crazy one. In March 2000, *NSYNC shattered the previous record with an astounding 2.42 million-copy opening week for No Strings Attached. (*NSYNC’s record still holds today, by the way.) Britney Spears joined the club that May by selling 1.32 million copies of Oops!…I Did It Again. Eminem followed suit in June with 1.76 million copies of The Marshall Mathers LP, the first rap album in this category. Limp Bizkit became the club’s first (and last) hard-rock members that October, selling just over 1 million copies of Chocolate Starfish & the Hot Dog Flavored Water. In November, BSB lapped everyone else, scoring a second instant-million badge for Black & Blue (1.6 million). Finally, the Beatles rounded out the busy year by selling 1.26 million copies of their compilation 1 during Christmas week (again, somewhat after the week of release).

The club’s membership rolls began quieting down after 2000. *NSYNC went for two in a row with July 2001’s Celebrity (1.88 million). Eminem did the same a year later with June 2002’s The Eminem Show (1.3 million). No new members appeared until February 2004, when Norah Jones sold just over a million copies of Feels Like Home. That March, Usher landed an R&B record by selling 1.1 million copies of Confessions in a week. Another year went by before 50 Cent‘s The Massacre moved 1.14 million units in March 2005. He was the last new member until June 2008, when Lil Wayne shifted almost exactly 1 million copies of Tha Carter III. And that was it until this week.

Swift’s entry into the instant-million club means more today than it might have 10 years ago. Many major artists this year have struggled to sell 500,000 copies in a week, let alone a million. As you can see from the list of previous million-sellers, Swift’s feat doesn’t necessarily guarantee her a long career in the future, but it’s undeniable proof of how important she is right now — and it’s fantastic news for a music industry that could really use some positive headlines.

What do you think of Taylor Swift’s incredible sales week? Surprised she pulled this off? Think she can sustain a high level of sales over the coming months? Which instant-million club member’s career do you think hers will most resemble in the end? Speak now in the comments.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix

More on Taylor Swift from EW’s The Music Mix:
Taylor Swift’s Speak Now officially No. 1 album with 1M sold; see the week’s Top 10
Taylor Swift’s Speak Now sells a million in a week
Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’ on track for year’s biggest sales week
Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’: The 10 best lines from her new album
Taylor Swift, vinyl lover: She tells EW why she’s releasing ‘Speak Now’ as an LP

Comments (130 total) Add your comment
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  • Torrence5

    Good for Taylor. I enjoy her first two CDs and believe this one will be equally good. Many may complain about her, but her music is relateable and enjoyable to listen to.

    • stitch626

      So you know the definition of a “real” artist.

    • whatevs

      In her defense, most of the guys she’s dated aren’t good looking.

    • Wil

      “What do Lil Wayne, the Backstreet Boys, and Garth Brooks have in common?” (Along with Limp Bizkit and Britney Spears) They’re all absolutely horrible “Artists” whose drivel has been sold out to the masses braindead Americans for the past 12 years.

      And I’m usually not THIS cynical, I swear. :/

    • Jessie

      LOL!! I really did burst out laughing when I read your line about “real” artists.

    • u

      @ Larry David:

      You’re right, but try to remember the times we’re living in… people are gonna buy image over talent. When Thom Yorke starts writing songs about getting dumped by a cheerleader, then maybe Radiohead will sell 1 million records in their first week.

    • The Real Larry David

      And what do you think “Creep” was about? Waahh…I’m a loser and my crush thinks I’m weird. My lord, that was practically my theme song when I was in junior high (I know, I’m dating myself), and the cool boy liked the cool girl instead of me. Radiohead evolved, and Taylor Swift might, too. Give her a chance to. In the mean time, she makes some pretty decent, catchy music. You make it sound like she’s the downfall of our society or something. Quit the histrionics, it’s annoying.

      • dipshat

        You know the ‘real’ Larry David wouldn’t be in junior high when raidohead were around. Just sayin’.

      • u

        Oh boy, can you really compare Taylor Swift to Radiohead? Creep might have sentiments that every teenager can relate to, but it’s a song that anyone of ANY age can relate to. It’s specifically teen-centric, which Taylor’s songs are. And might I add that she is on her third album, Radiohead had made the masterpiece that is OK Computer by the time they were on their third album. I highly doubt that Speak Now, or any future Swift abums for that matter, will reach that level of brilliance.

      • u

        Correction: It’s NOT specifically teen-centric, which most of Taylor’s songs are. And Creep >>> Taylor’s whole discography.

    • Marlene

      So sunddenly your taste in music is better than mime and the millions buying Taylor’s new album. LOL. At least you have a healthty ego. LOL. Unfortunatly so do I and I happend to disagree with your taste in music. And for trying to impose your opinion on the rest of us I say to you: grow-up. Respect others taste in music, after all diversity is our strenght.

    • Karl

      While I appreciate your including Regina Spektor on the list of “Real Artists”… Taylor Swift’s music is more than what you give credit for.

      Long Live is not about her boyfriends. Neither is Mean, or Innocent, or Haunted. And those are easily the standout tracks.

    • chris

      Larry go swallow an A-bomb!

    • Rich

      I’ll give Taylor credit: At least “Speak Now” is better than “Chocolate Flavored Nookie Water.”

    • Jane

      Hey Simon, do your research before you write your article! :-) Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” soundtrack was the FIRST album to sell over a million copies in a week, NOT Garth’s “Double Live” album as you mention. Here is the complete list:

      (1) Whitney Houston, “The Bodyguard” Soundtrack; 1,061,000 albums sold week of 1/9/93.
      (2) Garth Brooks, “Double Live”; 1,085,000 albums sold week of 12/5/98.
      (3) Backstreet Boys, “Millenium”; 1,134,000 albums sold week of 6/5/99.
      (4) N’Sync, “No Strings Attached”; 2,416,000 albums sold week of 4/8/00.
      (5) Britney Spears, “Oops!…I Did It Again”; 1,319,000 albums sold week of 6/3/00.
      (6) Eminem, “The Marshal Mathers LP”; 1,760,000 albums sold week of 6/10/00.
      (7) Limp Bizkit, “Chocolate Starfish & the Hot Dog Flavored Water”; 1,055,000 albums sold week of 11/4/00.
      (8) Backstreet Boys, “Black & Blue”; 1,591,000 albums sold week of 12/9/00.
      (9) Beatles, “1”; 1,259,000 albums sold week of 1/6/01.
      (10) N’Sync, “Celebrity”; 1,880,000 albums sold week of 8/11/01.
      (11) Eminem, “The Eminem Show”; 1,322,000 albums sold week of 6/15/02.
      (12) Norah Jones, “Feels Like Home”; 1,022,000 albums sold week of 2/28/04.
      (13) Usher, “Confessions”; 1,096,000 albums sold week of 4/10/04.
      (14) 50 Cent, “The Massacre”; 1,141,000 albums sold week of 3/19/05.
      (15) Lil Wayne, “Tha Carter III”; 1,006,000 albums sold week of 6/28/08.
      (16) Taylor Swift, “‘Speak Now”; 1,047,000 albums sold week of 11/13/10.

      • kevin

        I love when people point out mistakes in articles it always makes me laugh. And I love that my favorite artist is the only solo artist on this list twice.Eminem!!!!

  • Elizabeth

    Yeah I agree: it is a bit more impressive that Taylor did this in the face of how music is sold these days, regardless of the dedicated fan base.

    Commence haters…

  • Janizzle

    Yes *NSYNC, 1 million copies the first day…good times!

    • SSjean

      I remember that :) The crazy lines at the record stores etc. That CD was on rotation in my car for a year.
      I kinda wish NSync would make a comeback.. dammit Justin get off the golf course.

      • u

        LOL, yeah right, he’s gonna leave behind a successful solo career to go rejoin a now-irrelevant band. I really hope you aren’t a guidance counselor.

      • JackieB

        You only think they’re irrelevant because they haven’t put out an album in 8 years. They stopped while on top. If NSync were to do an album in 2011, it would probably sell a million in the first week. They have songwriting and vocal talent, as well as the fans.

      • Rich


        Just for comparison’s sake: New Kids On The Block sold 8 mil of their Hangin Tough CD. Their comeback from a couple years back? 300,000. And that with a #2 debut.

        First week of a new NSync record = 80,000 tops.

  • alleycat

    It is pretty scary that a tonedeaf singer like taylor can sell that many albums when she cannot sing on key to save her life. She remains the most over rated over exposed artist in history. Someday writing about boys will have to give way for something more substantive and maybe then people will pay attention to the fat elephant in the room which is her terrible voice. Bubble gum tween pop is not country taylor and someday you need to tell the truth and stop pretendind to be country in the usa but call yourself pop overseas. Two faced maybe? Manipulative for sure. All the album sales in the world willnot buy you a good voice taylor.

    • ohmy

      AMEN TO THAT!!

    • Chelsea

      why all the hate? you need to relax. just because she doesn’t have the greatest voice doesn’t mean that you can’t like her music. she’s a great person and a good role model, and her music is fun. stop being so jealous and bitter.

      • u

        Being a good person has nothing to do with musical ability and vice-versa. Axl Rose is one of the biggest pricks the music industry has ever seen, yet he has more talent in his pinky than Taylor does in her whole body. Same with Phil Spector. You should be interested in an artist for their MUSIC, not for the type of people you think they are. By your logic, you must not listen to anything that isn’t Disney-manufactured. People like you are why no-talent artists are so successful, you’re buying image instead of talent.

      • lol

        don’t be bitter, sorry if taylor has both, image and talent.

    • Krystal

      She really cannot sing. Her songs sound identical to each other. She has talent with lyrics and she’s a a beautiful girl but I don’t get the hype. She seems really sweet but something must be driving all of those boys away from her…

    • Molly

      Tonedeaf? And like Limp Bizkit can sing?

    • npr

      check her out on ellen. i’m not usually a fan of her live performances but she was amazing!!!

    • stitch626

      We should say thank you to haters like you. You inspired her to wright a song called “Mean” and its awesome! No matter what you say, the girl is just going to go higher and higher.

      • stitch626

        my bad its *write* SORRY! :D

    • sparkle the gym bag

      she should do Neil Young to get some street creed….he will give her enough material to carry her until she is 30

    • mike

      I doubt if anybody who buys her music cares whether she can hold a note or not. The girl is just flat out charming. That is her appeal. You have to forget about attacking her lack of singing skills becasuse it’s only going to come off as bitter and hateful. I understand that it’s frustrating, but that’s showbiz!

    • Nikki

      So true!!! She’s amazingly average.

    • TOMMY

      SUCK IT

    • TOMMY


    • Greg

      Amen! She is horrible! I have no idea how she ever made it to begin with. Meanwhile, creative and truly talented artists continue to seek exposure.

    • Ha Ha

      Taylor is writing age appropriate songs; however, to me she is not a good vocalist. She cannot hold a tune live and it is just awful. I think her and her entire entourage knows that. She may develop into a great song writer, but singer never.

    • kevin

      I won’t say she can’t hold a note or that she really can’t sing because other wise she wouldn’t be a singer that sells a million albums in one week, but I would say she is a little over exposed. And thats all thanks to Kanye and the Geniuses over at MTV. ( lol i say that jokingly) I still don’t believe that she sold over a MIllion copies. Its so hard to that it seems nearly impossible.

  • jessica

    Garth Brooks’s album was a double album and so counted twice per sale. While I’m not undercutting his success as a recording artist or his success when it comes to sales, it in a skewed way, doesn’t count here.

    • Preston

      Double albums always sell well. He really recalled the 70s era when double albums were the norm in the era of vinyl with his rare 1 million first week in sales in the CD era. Sort of a flashback moment of the double album era.

    • David White

      Not true. Double albums do not count as 2 albums sold. Soundscan tracks units, a double album counts as a single unit. It’s only shipments that count an album twice, thus Brooks shipped 2 million the first week.

      Also, The Bodyguard Soundtrack was the first album to shift 1 million in a week in the Soundscan era, however it did not do it in its first week like all the albums listed.

      • jessica

        Um…no. You’re wrong.

    • Hey Now!!!

      Davis is right. The RIAA counts the number of cds separately but Soundscan does not. That’s why you see albums having been certified as having sold 10 million copies but they have only Soundscaned 5 million or something. Go to RIAA.com to read how they do it.

  • nodnarb

    Any club that includes Limp Bizkit doesn’t impress me much.

    • Preston

      But that was during Limp Bizkit’s rebellious decadent peak with their big rock sounds. They never reached that peak again and their later efforts stalled.

  • Courtney

    This really is no surprise is it? For the past 6 months every media outlet has published “predictions” that Speak Now would sell a million. Every ounce of energy that could be poured into making this first week sales the largest was planned and executed to perfection.
    Kudos, to the marketing team and to everyone who bought into the hype and became part of history! lol
    Personally, I’m a rebel and buy music that I enjoy, not what the media tells me I should enjoy.

    • musictomyears

      Maybe it’s brain atrophy, but I cannot recall any other artist that is so pimped and glorified to the world. All artist promote, but when have you seen this over the top endless push? The Kiss and Tell diary of a 20 year old seems to be what the industry is after.

  • Hectic But Eclectic

    You forgot to mention that Usher’s Confessions also sold one million in its first week in 2004, one month after Norah actually.

    • Preston

      Maybe they didn’t think about Usher’s Confessions album in 2004 since that was a very busy period for some 5 to 6 years of 1 million first weeks. The writer could only think of some top artists that sold a million their first weeks.

    • Mel

      Usher is mentioned. Third paragraph from the bottom.

  • tiffany

    Yes, please update the post to include Usher…I was one of the people to buy Confessions during its debut week

    • who-me

      Usher is mentioned

  • dahlak

    that was a big news for music lovers & swift. her songs are so sick.i love it.

  • Miss Talk

    Good for her but the club is full of 2010 C-listers though

    • Maureen

      I wouldn’t call Britney Spears a C-lister though…

  • calvin

    I actually can’t stand country music as a rule, but Swift seems like a really kind, down-to-earth person, and that is rare in the entertainment industry, so good for her!

  • Preston

    I think back then that those artists had hit singles that went straight to No. 1, which led to those albums selling a million their first weeks. Also, they had loyal, dedicated fan bases long before Facebook, Twitter and the social networking craze. And people actually went out to get the physical albums instead of the downloading for individual songs now. Maybe Taylor is bringing back that going out to get a clean copy physical album, something that’s been lacking for 3 to 4 years.

  • jpratm

    taylor def. does not have the voice but she has the charm and the star power to pull this off im glad for her – hate all you want- wont change a thing- hell i bought 5 copies – i don’t want CDs to be a thing of the past- dam you NAPSTER !!!

  • Em

    It is truly amazing for her to push 1 million, ESPECIALLY in this day in age. I’m sure 10 years ago if album sales are like currency, it could easily be 5 million. Well done

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