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Taylor Swift’s Original ‘1989’ Dropped 44% in Sales & Streams the Week ‘Taylor’s Version’ Was Released

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Upon its Oct. 27 release, Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) quickly eroded both sales and streams of the original 2014 version released by Big Machine Records.

In the week Swift released her album of 1989 re-recordings, the original 1989 had 21,000 album equivalent units (AEUs) — down 43.6% from the previous week and down 36.9% from the trailing 12-week average, according to Billboard analysis of Luminate data for the United States. That was a deeper first-week decline than the previous two times Swift released re-recordings. The original Red lost 38% of its AEUs — a metric that combines physical and digital album sales, track sales and streams — the week Red (Taylor’s Version) was released in November 2021. The original Speak Now dropped 40% the week that Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) came out this past July.

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On-demand audio streams for the original 1989 declined 56.4% while track sales — a smaller component of 1989’s total consumption — fell 67.8%. Video streams declined 56.4% and programmed streams (from non-interactive internet radio services such as Pandora) dropped 23.6%. At the same time, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) amassed over 375.49 million on-demand streams — compared with just 27.8 million total on-demand streams for the original over the same period.

The Taylor’s Version series of re-recordings stemmed from Swift’s outrage that her catalog had been acquired by Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in 2019. News that Braun took ownership of her catalog brought her back to “the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at [Braun’s] hands for years,” she wrote at the time. “Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy,” she continued. By the end of that year, Swift was talking about recording new versions so her music “could live on,” she told Billboard in a December 2019 interview. “I do want it to be in movies, I do want it to be in commercials. But I only want that if I own it.”

Swift released her first album of re-recordings, for the 2008 album Fearless, in April 2021, and licensed the lead-off single, “Love Story,” to a Match.com television ad. The track debuted at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart and No. 11 on the Hot 100 in February 2021. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with 291,000 AEUs.

With each new Taylor’s Version, Swift changes the playbook on how an artist can repackage previously released material for a growing legion of diehard fans. While it’s remarkable that Swift’s album releases have become pop culture moments unto themselves, each new wave of re-recordings carries large business and financial implications, too. If 1989 (Taylor’s Version) performs like its predecessors, the re-recordings will crowd out the original version and further erode the value of the Big Machine original catalog that Shamrock Holdings paid a reported $300 million to acquire in 2020.

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Surprisingly, while Swift collectors scooped up 1.36 million units of the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) album — it has five versions on vinyl, eight versions on CD and two versions on cassette — consumers still purchased about 1,000 units of the 1989 album in physical or digital formats during the same period.

Expect more of the same in the coming weeks. If 1989 (Taylor’s Version) follows the trends of the two most recent Taylor’s Version albums that came before it, the original 1989 will lose close to half or more than half of its weekly AEUs. Average weekly consumption of the original Red dropped 40% in the 12 weeks following the release of Red (Taylor’s Version). The original Speak Now lost 59% of its average weekly consumption in the 12 weeks after its counterpart was released.

The lone bright spot for the original 1989 was radio: U.S. airplay spins from the original recordings jumped 57.4% last week. Combined with airplay of the Taylor’s Version recordings, U.S. spins rose an astounding 157.4%. The catch, however, is that recordings do not earn royalties from broadcast radio performances in the United States. As a result, the original recordings’ owner, Shamrock Holdings, benefits only from the promotional value of those radio spins. Swift, however — along with various co-writers and publishing companies — earns publishing royalties when either version of 1989 recordings are played at radio.

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