'Taylor has rewritten the rule book': Virgin EMI's Ted Cockle and ERA's Kim Bayley on Taylor Swift's streaming blackout

'Taylor has rewritten the rule book': Virgin EMI's Ted Cockle and ERA's Kim Bayley on Taylor Swift's streaming blackout

With a strong first week sale in the UK and a massive opening in the US, Taylor Swift’s sixth album Reputation has shown how a major artist can still shake up retail strategies in the streaming era.

With the album unavailable on any streaming platform during its first week, Reputation was a big seller on CD and download, debuting at No.1 in the UK with total sales of 83,648, according to the Official Charts Company. In the US, where it is released by Big Machine, it scored a massive opening of 1.216 million.

The album’s huge global success without access to streaming ‘sales’ has reignited the debate about whether windowing releases makes business sense or not. So far, the album’s second week UK sales suggests that its momentum may have been affected by the absence of streaming options for consumers, with Reputation dropping to No.7 in the midweek sales flashes from the Official Charts Company.

Speaking in the latest issue of Music Week, Virgin EMI president Ted Cockle said: “Taylor has once again rewritten the rule book.” He added that the release strategy showed Swift was “able to connect with her fans in the most enthralling manner”.

But Kim Bayley, CEO of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), which counts both physical stores and streaming services amongst its members, told Music Week there was a need for “a level playing field”.

“We cannot know what the sales would have been if Reputation had been available to premium streamers – it could potentially have been higher,” she said. “Given that different retailers and different digital services all target different demographics, the way to maximise the market is to make music available everywhere without discrimination.”

Reputation is the year's first major album to be windowed on streaming services. Spotify’s global head of creator services, Troy Carter, recently voiced his concern about an artist of Swift’s calibre withholding a release from streaming.

Subscribers can read the full industry reaction and sales breakdown for Reputation here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a big industry story click here.

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