Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album, “Reputation,” which drops at midnight tonight, is projected by its distributor to sell 1.3 and 1.5 million units in the U.S. in its first week, a source close to the situation tells Variety — which would actually be a bump up from the 1.287 million first-week sales of her previous album, “1989,” release in October 2014.
Swift’s label Big Machine (which is distinct from its distributor, Universal Music Group) is telling accounts that it is expecting first-week sales of 2 million units, according to a report in Billboard, but that tally seems dramatically optimistic given the extent to which streaming has taken hold in the U.S., and the relatively unspectacular performance of the four singles Swift has released in advance of the album (as opposed to “Shake It Off,” the global smash that preceded “1989”).
The wild-card factor in all this is streaming: While there’s no official word, sources say that Swift will hold back the album for at least a week and possibly longer, although those sources also say it’s likely a final decision has not yet been made. Once the album is sent to the streaming services and prepared for release, it can be officially posted in a matter of hours.
Taylor Swift through the years
Taylor Swift through the years
Taylor Swift (Photo by Frank Mullen/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS - MAY 23: Country singer Taylor Swift arrives at the 41st Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 23, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Taylor Swift accepts Breathrough Video of the Year award for 'Tim McGraw' (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 07: (LtoR) Singer/songwriters Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley and Kellie Pickler perform on stage at the 41st Annual CMA Awards at the Sommet Center on November 7, 2007 in Nashville TN. (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)
ï¿½2009 RAMEY PHOTO LOS ANGELES, 7/30/09 TAYLOR SWIFT, TAYLOR LAUTNER, EMMA ROBERTS AND HER BOYFRIEND, FILMING VALENTINE'S DAY' IN LA. GV (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
CHELMSFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 22: Taylor Swift performs on the main stage on day 1 of the V Festival on August 22, 2009 at Hylands Park in Chelmsford, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 03: Singer\songwriter Taylor Swift arrives at the 46th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards RAM Red Carpet held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 3, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christopher Polk/ACMA2011/Getty Images for ACM)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 11: Taylor Swift performs onstage during the MTV EMA's 2012 at Festhalle Frankfurt on November 11, 2012 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Taylor Swift attends The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards - press room held at Staples Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 12: Singer Taylor Swift officially opens the Taylor Swift Education Center at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 12, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. Seven-time GRAMMY winner Swift's $4 million gift to endow the center is the largest individual artist gift in the Hall of Fame's history. (Photo by Royce DeGrie/TAS/Getty Images for TAS)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 12: Taylor Swift is seen on April 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by David Krieger/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 28: Taylor Swift performs on the Late Show With David Letterman, October 28, 2014. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 31: Taylor Swift performs onstage during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2015 on December 31, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/DCNYRE2015/Getty Images for dcp)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 17: Musician Taylor Swift poses in the press room with her eight Billboard Music Awards; Swift won Top Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album for '1989,' Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Digital Songs Artist, Top Streaming Song (Video) for 'Shake It Off,' and Billboard Chart Achievement Award during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: Taylor Swift performs on stage during 'The 1989 World Tour' at the Mercedes-Benz arena on November 10, 2015 in Shanghai, China.
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INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 03: Taylor Swift arrives at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on April 3, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 04: Musician Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2017 DIRECTV NOW Super Saturday Night Concert at Club Nomadic on February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for DIRECTV)
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Even the low sales prediction of 1.3 million is more than any artist has sold in recent years except Adele (whose 2015 album “25” moved a record-breaking 3.4 million units in its first week and withheld the album from them for some seven months) and Swift herself. Given physical’s exponentially larger profit margin compared with streaming, holding the album back from the platforms would be hard for most artists to resist.
Swift removed her music from streaming platforms shortly before the release of “1989,” decrying the services’ royalty payments. In 2015, she called out Apple Music for failing to pay royalties on streaming during free trial periods, but relented with Apple Music after a Fathers’ Day 2015 conversation with Apple SVP Eddy Cue in which he changed the company’s policy. The singer returned her music to streaming services in June of this year after a nearly three-year hiatus.