Taylor Swift Is Making Vinyl Records Cool, Profitable Again

Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated new album “The Tortured Poets Department” (TTPD) hit streaming services at midnight ET on Friday. At 2 a.m. ET, Swift revealed that TTPD was actually a double album, releasing 31 total tracks under “TTPD: The Anthology.”

While Swift has made headlines for her expansive Eras tour, billionaire status, and impact on the economy, one aspect of her brand has contributed to a resurgence in an old-school medium of music: Vinyl.

During the promotion for TTPD, vinyl took front and center. Swift announced new record variants at tour stops across the world, with titles like “The Bolter” and “The Albatross.” Buying a vinyl was marketed as a way to access to the original 16-track album and an exclusive bonus track.

Taylor Swift’s new album “The Tortured Poets Department” was released on April 19. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

By releasing the deluxe TTPD album at 2 a.m., Swift was able to fold in the exclusive bonus tracks available separately on each vinyl into “The Anthology” — so fans who didn’t buy records could stream the songs.

Related: Taylor Swift Children’s Book Surpasses 1 Million Sales Mark

Checking out a $35 vinyl through the Taylor Swift store reveals that fans who bought it before “The Anthology” dropped only have access to 17 tracks — an incomplete picture of the overall 31-track album.

Vinyl yields more revenue than streaming for Swift, reports The New York Times.

“Some are willing to pay to have more variants on the wall,” music industry analyst Dan Runcie told the publication. “It’s no different from sports fans paying up to have rookie cards.”

That could be okay though: Fans may not be buying Taylor Swift records just for the music.

Each vinyl on Swift’s site emphasizes uniqueness and collectability over even exclusivity. “The Manuscript” edition of TTPD, for example, includes unique replicas of Swift’s lyrics, handwritten by the artist, and collectible album sleeves with unique photos. Swift handwrote a note for select fans who purchase TTPD records at some record stores.

Related: Taylor Swift Just Filed a Trademark That Could Mean Even More Sales

TTPD isn’t the first album that Swift has brought to vinyl. In 2016, Swift began issuing her early albums on vinyl. 2020’s “Folklore” had nine vinyl editions and 2022’s Midnights had four different colored editions that made a clock when put together.

One in every 15 vinyl records sold in the U.S. last year was by Swift, for a total of close to 3.5 million records sold. The Recording Industry Association of America stated in a report that vinyl records outsold CDs for the second year in a row since 1987 in the U.S., with 43 million records sold in total in 2023.

It’s not just the U.S.: “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” took the top-selling vinyl spot in the U.K. over The Rolling Stones’ “Hackney Diamonds” and Lana Del Rey’s “Did You Know Know There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd,” which took second and third place, respectively.

Related: Taylor Swift Is Officially a Billionaire — Here’s How She Did It and Where Her Net Worth Comes From

Not all artists are fans of the vinyl strategy though, with Billie Eilish telling Billboard in an interview last month that releasing different versions of the same vinyl to increase sales was “wasteful.”

“It’s irritating to me that we’re still at a point where you care that much about your numbers and you care that much about making money,” Eilish said.

She later clarified that she wasn’t singling anyone out.

It’s not just artists: Not all of Swift’s fans like the limited edition records, with some taking to social media to critique the multiple variations.

Related: Taylor Swift Reportedly Pays All Restaurant-Goers’ Checks to Clear Out Restaurant For Her and NFL Star Travis Kelce

Andrew Mall, an associate music professor at Northeastern University, told Northeastern Global News that many artists do the same thing as Swift and release different versions of the same record, with variations in things like bonus tracks and covers.

“Completists will go out and buy a dozen different copies because it’s important to them to have every copy that’s been produced,” Mall told the outlet.

Swift officially hit the billionaire mark in October 2023. TTPD will not be her biggest money draw this year though, vinyls and all — the Eras tour will be, according to Business Insider.

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