On the Friday before Memorial Day, Taylor Swift noted on social media that the vinyl version of her nearly six-month-old album “Evermore” was finally available. Pictured in her post lying in the grass with her LP, Swift informed her fans, “You can get it at your fav indie record store, Target, Walmart & Amazon.”
To those following the ever-changing target that is Billboard’s chart rules, it was a signal to look out for the next No. 1.
Indeed, “Evermore” returns to the top slot on the magazine’s latest chart, rising 73 spots to notch its fourth time at No. 1. In the most recent week, “Evermore” had the equivalent of 202,000 sales in the United States. Of those, 192,000 were for copies sold as a complete package, including 102,000 vinyl LPs, according to MRC Data, Billboard’s tracking arm.
It set a record for weekly vinyl sales — at least since 1991, when the charts first came to be informed by hard data (rather than record store surveys, which were fuzzy at best, and often manipulated). Over the last 30 years, the album with the best weekly vinyl sales was “Lazaretto” by Jack White, one of the format’s most zealous champions, which moved 40,000 copies in its opening week in 2014.
How did Swift do it? The intimate, indie-folk-esque “Evermore” — Swift’s second surprise release during the pandemic — is certainly a hit, and marked an important moment in her career and creative development. (Her first quarantine release, “Folklore,” won the Grammy for album of the year.)
But “Evermore” also benefited from a recent tweak to Billboard’s rules over how it counts the sale of vinyl records on its charts.
Vinyl versions of new albums are often delayed by months, the result of production bottlenecks in the small network of pressing plants. When fans order LPs from an artist’s website, they are often sent a digital copy while waiting for the physical one to arrive. Until October, the first version to reach a fan — in those cases, the digital download — was what was counted on the chart. Now, the sale is counted when the version they ordered is shipped.
When announced, that rule looked as though it might upset the marketing plans of artists who sell significant amounts of vinyl. But with “Evermore,” Swift was essentially able to amass nearly six months of pre-orders, which were counted in full once the LP was released.
According to Billboard, about 71 percent of the current week’s album sales for “Evermore” came from “web-based sellers,” including Swift’s online store. In addition to the vinyl sales, 69,000 copies of “Evermore” were sold on CD, some newly autographed by Swift. (The album had just 12.4 million streams, the least for a No. 1 album since AC/DC’s “Power Up,” which opened in November with 7.8 million.)
The return of “Evermore” to No. 1 robbed Olivia Rodrigo’s debut, “Sour,” of a second week at the top after a blockbuster opening. “Sour” had the equivalent of 186,000 sales, down just 37 percent from its first week, and lands in second place.
Also this week, J. Cole’s “The Off-Season” is No. 3, Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous: The Double Album” is No. 4 and Moneybagg Yo’s “A Gangsta’s Pain” is No. 5.
DMX’s posthumous release, “Exodus,” opened at No. 8.