(from Billboard Magazine, November 10, 2012) Taylor Swift’s new album Red is breaking sales records and setting several new ones. With Red, she became the first female artist to capture a million-unit debut week twice, selling 1.2 million according to Nielsen SoundScan. Considering there are 604,800 seconds in a week, her sales averaged to two copies every second.
To make those numbers happen, Swift’s label, Big Machine, made deals with Target and some unconventional partners: Papa John’s and Walgreens. Target spearheaded a TV advertising campaign valued at $7 million and received an exclusive on the deluxe version of Red in return. With the deluxe version locked down, Target sold a whopping 396,000 units, coming in second only to iTunes at 465,000 units. Papa John’s campaign was an innovative one. It allowed customers to purchase the album with their pizza and have it delivered right to their door. “Forget about how much it generated in sales, Papa John’s advertising really helped to bolster awareness,” says a major-label sales executive. In addition to the CD, Walgreens had store-within-store signage and other merchandise which generated sales of 48,000 units.
Big Machine’s strategy in the digital market was equally unconventional. By offering the deluxe version to Target, Big Machine denied iTunes any exclusive tracks. Instead, Big Machine gave iTunes a weeklong exclusive to the digital version. By withholding Red from Amazon’s mp3 store, Google Play, and all streaming services, Big Machine avoided a price-war which would have seen the album sold below $3.49, thus invalidating those sales for the Billboard 200.
Meanwhile, Swift saturated television with appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Katie Couric Show,” “The View,” “Late Show With David Letterman,” “Dancing With the Stars,” and “Good Morning America.” On radio, she did a massive radio remote, bringing in more than 70 radio chains and stations as well as a town hall with SiriusXM. “She’s done all the right things for exposure and stretched the boundaries of nontraditional sales,” says a senior distribution executive, “it’s no wonder this album sold more than her last.”