Taylor Swift may run out of records to break before she turns 25. The singer, 20, smashed another one on Wednesday when her third album, Speak Now, became the first release by a female artist to sell more than 1 million copies in its first week in six years. The new plateau fell just short of the all-time record for the best first week by a female artist, set by Britney Spears' 2000 album Oops ... I Did It Again, which sold 1.31 million during its first week.
According to Billboard magazine, Swift's 1,047,000 million in sales also gave the country pop star the distinction of being one of only four women to ever reach the million mark in a single week, joining Britney, Whitney Houston's "Bodyguard" soundtrack (1,061,000) and Norah Jones' Feels Like Home (1,022,000).
Weeks before the album was released, experts were already predicting that it could easily sell more than 700,000 copies. Those numbers were steadily eased up until last week, when the president of Swift's label, Scott Borchetta, told MTV News that 1 million was well within sight given strong early sales.
"I've been very specific on my point of view from the beginning," Big Machine Label Group boss Borchetta told MTV News last week. "We shipped 2 million copies this week and we always felt we could do 700,000 to a million."
Billboard had also predicted that Speak Now could sell as many as 800,000 to 900,000 copies in its debut, easily besting the year's biggest bow to date, Eminem's Recovery, which moved 741,000. Swift blew by that figure as well, notching the best single sales week since 2005 when 50 Cent's The Massacre moved 1,141,000 units in its first week.
She's also the first artist to reach that rare figure in her first week since Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III sold 1,006,000 million copies in 2008. Swift's last album, Fearless, debuted at #1 in November 2008 with sales of 582,000, going on to sell 6 million copies and taking the crown for the top seller of 2009.
Keith Caulfield, senior chart manager and analyst at Billboard, said last week that expectations for Swift were "very high," not surprising given the unique relationship she's created with her audience. "She can get people engaged by not just buying a single track or concert ticket, but getting consumers to buy a whole album," he said. "Considering how many albums she's sold and the story she's built and the career she's had over the past couple of years with her first two albums, it seems like the appropriate reaction."
The sales were goosed not just by the desire of so many of her fans to own the whole album — a feat in itself in this day of singles-driven artists whose album sales often pale in comparison to their single-song downloads — but also by a smart marketing plan that included a Target exclusive deluxe version with three bonus tracks, three mixes and a half hour of additional video.
Billboard noted that Swift set a few other records along the way during her first week, including becoming only the 16th artist in the Nielsen SoundScan era (which began in 1991) to sell at least a million copies in a week, notching the second-largest sales week of any country album since 1991 and the biggest sales week of any female country act since 1991.
Even before Swift hit the mark, Borchetta was confident she'd get there and possibly take her place among country's legends. "It's always been a rarity," he said. "How many artists in the SoundScan era have done a million? Shania [Twain] never did it. Garth [Brooks] did it once. I hate to say it, but if we can get there, it could be the last time."
And as for a celebration, unlike other artists who get suitcases of cash, cars or other flashy gifts for reaching major milestones, Borchetta said Taylor will probably keep it low-key. "We'll have a big dance party," he said. "That's what she loves to do. It's never been about things for her. It's more about friends and her fans."