Taylor Swift

Yesterday, some interesting stuff happened on the Billboard charts. Though it was absolutely unsurprising that Taylor Swift’s Red topped the chart, what was surprising was the exact volume she moved — 1.2 million sold, the highest sales total since Eminem’s 2002 release of The Eminem Show, and a figure that made Taylor the only female artist (only the fourth artist ever) in Soundscan history to have two chart debuts of a million-plus. Another surprising thing about yesterday’s chart, to be sure, was the huge opening week for Kendrick Lamar’s Interscope debut Good Kid m.A.A.d. City, where his 241k sales signified the biggest opening week for a solo male artist since Drake’s last album came out. Both successes — in their own, completely different ways — are astonishing.

When you’re acknowledging the fact that the new-ish Soundscan numbers take iTunes and other downloads into their calculation — for instance, 565,545 units of Red were sold on iTunes — I can’t help but see an interesting seam to yesterday’s results. Taylor Swift’s album, which would have been my choice for Album Of The Week (and God, would I have enjoyed the Lambert-level commenter meltdown it could have inspired), works very much in the way many modern pop albums do: uneven as long players, but teeming with repackage-able, stand-alone singles that will surely allow Taylor to double, triple, quadruple, septuple dip (I think there are seven hits on Red, a number that seems conservative compared to other estimates). Red also incorporates the “hot sound” of the moment, with mini-dubstep drops tucked into the corners of Swift’s deliriously infectious “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “22″ (we’ve seen that in other big pop releases from this year, whether it’s the Eurothump of Usher’s similarly long and uneven Looking 4 Myself and Justin Bieber’s scrupulously think-tanked Believe). What spells longevity for these artists is that they don’t sound like they’re co-opting just for the sake of co-opting. The fact that they’re able to incorporate the wobble and come away better for it is a testament to those artists’ staying power. Taylor’s only 22; Red might just be the tip of the iceberg, somehow.

Even in the context of Taylor Swift’s huge week, it’s hard not to look at Kendrick Lamar’s distant second-place as massive accomplishment for the album as a traditional format. GKMC is a theme-heavy affair, one of those records where fans work together to correctly identify the explicit narrative like another generation might meticulously rewind The Wizard Of Oz VHS and drop the needle on the right spot of Dark Side Of The Moon. While there’s plenty of songs that could stand alone just fine in a Spotify playlist or a road trip mix — “Backseat Freestyle,” “Poetic Justice” — most of GKMC’s highlights are strengthened by the depth and focus of the record. (When I was down on the prospect of Kendrick major label debut — this was around when the Gaga drama was kicking up — I liked to joke that this Chief Keef studio video had more hits than Good Kid was gonna have. Honestly, I didn’t see this record coming.) Good Kid takes a lot of attention to absorb; it took me far longer than the album’s runtime to get through. If Taylor’s record represents the “new” way of making a hit record, Kendrick has to represent the “old” way — records that represent a fuller vision. Which is not to say “fuller” necessarily means “better.” What’s especially cool is that both styles can win, even in the supposedly ragged 2012 music biz where even established, critically-adored acts aren’t getting by.

A couple of months ago I was having a conversation with my friend Naomi, who was talking about how the future-leaning K-pop market handles releases; in particular, she was talking about Big Bang’s latest album, basically a bundle of incongruous singles all paired with accompanying, ridiculously entertaining videos, a more full-blown assertion of the whole “sequencing doesn’t matter if we’ve got singles” mentality that rules Red. For a Q&A a little while ago, I talked to Miguel about his decision to use iTunes new-ish “Complete My Album” program, where buyers could pre-order the album at a discount in order to unlock sequential downloads (Miguel released his album Kaleidoscope Dream in parts, a savvy move both business-wise and smart for artists who’d rather focus on putting music out more regularly in smaller bunches). There’s a lot of ways to put something out, and I’m excited that people are bucking the conventional wisdom a little bit. As listening and Soundscan reportings continue to evolve, I have a feeling that Kendrick and Taylor’s albums will continue to be linked; after all, this was one of the best release weeks in recent memory and that number still matters a ton in the biz. The best part for me, though, is that no matter the format, quality triumphs. Both albums are great, and their financial success will encourage more stuff like GKMC and Red to flood the pipeline. Here’s to greatness.

Comments (98)
  1. No Corban, Taylor Swift isn’t going to go out with you.

  2. Why should anyone care about how many records these people sell? Next week it will be some other “pop” artist selling tons of records but who cares? Is that what making music about? How many records you can sell? Is that a measure of “success”? If that’s the case then why not review every other top 10 selling artist on itunes? Anyone can sell records, that doesn’t mean that their music is good and it doesn’t mean that they are talented. I can name numerous female artists that will never sell as much as Taylor Swift but they sure do sing better and make better music. Why don’t we see bands like Chairlift selling this many records, they sure do deserve it. Unfortunately any “artist” that can be packaged and sold as an image can sell records, you don’t even have to be able to sing well so I think that selling records means absolutely nothing when any “artist” can be “successful”. Personally I like taylor swift, I don’t like her music but she at least writes her own songs, the thing I don’t understand about this article is that it makes a big deal about an artist selling millions of records as though that’s something remarkable, it isn’t. A lot of “artist” that get paid to sing other people’s songs sell a lot of music every week. Wasn’t Kesha on itunes top 10 just last week? Isn’t she so talented?

    • Totally agreed. While I’d like to be optimistic about the state of affairs in the music biz, the argument in this article is akin to saying “The Dark Knight Rises was a huge success, so we won’t have to deal with crappy movies like Transformers anymore!” Though the successes of these two albums (and, for that matter, more independent-minded releases like Arcade Fire or The Weeknd), might point to a slight uptick in more success for music/movies/etc. that are actually GOOD, I highly doubt it’ll ever be enough to drown out the garbage enough to even make a noticeable dent. In what you hear on the radio or see on the charts on a regular basis. What I AM optimistic about is that there are so many avenues to make/distribute/discover good new music there is an almost infinite well of it out there – the market will just become increasingly fragmented, and success will have to be redefined. Then again, we’ve seen an amazing example of quality television shows dictate where the mainstream TV market is headed in the last decade, so it’s not totally out of the question, just unlikely.

    • Actually, no, not everyone can sell albums. If they could, they would, but people aren’t buying them right now. While packaging an artist with an image is clearly part of the music business and has been forever, it doesn’t always work. Plus, it often equals a finite shelf life and/or an eventual backlash. Taylor Swift (at least), doesn’t fall in this category. I don’t dig her stuff, either, but she’s 100% for real and works her ass off, so I have no hate for her success.

      Totally agree with you that sales numbers don’t equal quality, but that’s not really the point. People have been discussing chart position (for all types of music) for the last fifty years and sales for the last couple decades. It’s just an interesting conversation (for some). In our modern download for free climate, it is actually an accomplishment for both of them (Taylor and Kendrick Lamar). I don’t actually care for either of their music, but I can recognize that enough people do that it actually moved them to spend their hard earned cash on their releases.

      Also, there has always, always, ALWAYS been far more artists, possibly more deserving artists, making music who don’t sell records than those who do. There has always been an underground where a majority of artists and bands spend most of their careers. Would nearly all of them like to sell over a million records in one week? Probably. But that’s never been the way of the business. That’s why supposed “cult” or “underground” bands are still touring clubs off their one or two “classic” albums twenty or thirty years later. That’s why the county and state fair circuit is littered with artists who were “successful” in the past. It’s a business, and like all businesses, far more of them fail than succeed.

      Lastly, what qualifies as success when sales like that are totally unrealistic? I would think it safe to say that most of the artists/bands we’d like to see gain more attention are on smaller record labels where artists NEVER “move units” that total seven digits, or even six digits. Are people listening to their music? Going to their shows, (and hopefully buying some merch)? Talking about them to their friends, or online? Because in this day and age that’s about the best any band can hope for without becoming part of that image creation, mass marketing machine. Bringing down the giant record labels was all fine and good, but it didn’t actually do much to help the little guy. The internet was supposedly going to be the answer to that question, but that hasn’t exactly worked out the way most people were hoping, either.

    • Yeah… The best part for me, though, is that no matter what the format, quality triumphs. Both albums are great, and their financial success will encourage more stuff like GKMC and Red flood the pipeline. You know what I mean? That just my opinion though.

    • I don’t necessarily agree with the crux of your post, but I do wonder how Pitchfork/Stereogum/the indie blogosphere decide what “mainstream” acts to cover. Is there a satisfying answer or is this nebulous grey area questioning like “what is pop?” How come Flo Rida and Katy Perry don’t get covered, even if just to be blasted like Jet?

      • I think its pretty obvious, for Stereogum at least, that even if the artist/band is “mainstream” or “indie”, if they feel like they made great albums they will get attention. In other words, no matter what the format, quality triumphs.

        • Then why aren’t the sites covered with only positive reviews of great albums? The edict can’t be, “only good stuff” because we all know good is dependent on taste, so how is it decided that POP ETC is quality but Chris Brown isn’t? We all know indie & alternative bands that put out awful albums but they’re part of the “scene” so they still get press, even if it’s negative.

      • I think there’s a definite bias for female pop, which is why most of the big budget pop artists you see get major love on indie sites (Swift, Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, even Perry to some extent) are ladyfolk. Not to be too much “That Guy”, but I think there still exists to some degree a sense that women’s music is intrinsically vapid/superfluous, so a female musician pumping out an unapologetic stream of high fructose corn syrup is unlikely to be seen as a detriment, and in some ways more honest. The irony is that most defenses of this kind of music tend to paint critics as themselves sexist, since they have an issue with “girly” music, the notion being that shallow, unthinking perspectives on relationships are inherently the domain of young women.

        There’s more of an expectation placed upon young men to come with depth and substance, that there’s a deep pop music legacy for men to live up to, regardless of their genre. So when you have somebody like Flo Rida, or Chris Brown, who make music that’s functionally identical to their more respected female counterparts, they’re shunned relentlessly.

        I mean, hell, look at the two albums in this article that are being used to exemplify the return of “good music” to the pop charts. You have Kendrick, who has created an ALBUM (caps intended), something that demands repeat listening, that fans have banded together to deconstruct and analyze and digest, because it’s such a rich piece of narrative that drips with specificities of time and place and circumstance. On the other hand, you have Swift, and the debate more or less peters out at “How many hit singles do you think the album has?”.

        While a lot of critics love (or at least have a respectful tolerance of) Lady Gaga, the notion of her possibly sullying the Kendrick album has repeatedly been a point of admitted concern in most reviews of GCMC. We recoil at the notion of that superfluos girliness creeping into our “art”.

        And the point isn’t that all music critics are raging sexists, but there are certains gender roles that are just hard-coded into our perception of pop music, without us even really recognizing them most of the time. The solution isn’t for all of the beardy music dudes to have a big masturbatory forum and discuss gender roles in music criticism, but just start hiring more women for these sites, who are obviously going to want/appreciated different things from their music than guys do. It’s the same way the whole “rockist” discussion in the early-aughts didn’t result in a greater diversity of voices writing for the sites/magazines, but the same 20/30-something middle class white dudes making believe they really connected with the new Jill Scott album.

        So, yeah. That’s my long-winded, kind of inflammatory answer to your question.

      • Well, no part of the crux of my post had anything to do with your question. I agree with you, though, because to me it makes absolutely ZERO sense that stereogum EVER talks about anything even REMOTELY near the world of k-pop. Who they decide to talk about doesn’t change any of the facts (yes, facts) about my post. Some artists sell shit-tons of records, most don’t (nearly all, in fact). There is a music machine (still, even though it’s smaller now) that produces image based “product” that is basically FORCED upon the world at large, a world that will soon move on to the next “product”. Most artists/bands don’t fit within that mold and so are likely to NEVER sell a FRACTION of the albums of the former (probably not over their entire careers). However, many of those bands/artists will still be around, and respected, 10, 15, 20 or MORE years from now, while the pop flavor of the year will only be remembered for their shining 15 minutes.

        Now, looping back around to your questions, I still don’t have a clue how they decide what to cover. I imagine it’s up to the tastes of the contributors and editors of the site. However, if you want to compare, lets say, Katy Perry to Taylor Swift, I see pretty much nothing similar about them. Katy Perry, although I believe she can play instruments, doesn’t anymore. Taylor Swift does. Katy Perry works with “hit making” songwriting teams. Taylor Swift writes her own songs. Katy Perry sings on tracks from hired gun producers. Taylor Swift worked with her previous producer on sound and arrangements and then picked and hired all the producers for her new album herself. Katy Perry (and most of ilk) dress like ridiculous toy things. Taylor Swift dresses like a normal girl in her age bracket – only even more bland and boring, to be honest. It’s not about how she looks. Katy Perry’s tour was backed by a huge production company with an army or people who put together her “show”. Taylor Swift’s last and upcoming tours were put together by her and her people. For me, all the way around, Taylor Swift is just about 1000 times more genuine than pretty much everyone else who she gets lumped in with as a “pop artist”. I still don’t actually care for her music, but I can easily see why a website or publication would chose to focus on her over someone else.

        • I know it had nothing to do with your post, I was actually replying to 1con0clast (Stereogum needs a better comment branch system) but my question didn’t have much to do with his post either. Mostly I just saw this as an opportunity to get this question answered because it seems like online music journos just do whatever they can spin as relevant.

      • The Illuminati headquarters in Zurich has a media room w/ free wifi & coffee so we usually meet there and hash it out.

  3. An important caveat for Swift’s digital sales is that they were at regular price. 565,545 actually paid for the MP3 (or whatever) version of her album. No greatly reduced quick sale tactics were used to boost chart position.

    • Right, and Kendrick’s album was also the $5 deal on Amazon. Even adjusting for that (hypothetical) inflation let’s not take away from the fact that Kendrick sold a mound of records.

  4. in so many ways, taylor’s sales this week are not surprising: the singles, while they’re probably not going to be very memorable five years from now, are designed to endure on pop radio short term, even though top 40 country won’t be having any of it this time around. it’s following the template of marketing perfection last seen with rhianna’s talk that talk. as for kendrick, i have no idea how that happened.

    but i must say, i am also shamefully digging taylor’s new record, especially the title track. and a great article that appeared in the atlantic today comparing red’s lyricism to leonard cohen:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/11/if-you-listen-closely-taylor-swift-is-kind-of-like-leonard-cohen/264275/

  5. I will now use this article as an excuse to post a PSA about Taylor Swift:

    1. Her music is and has always been terrible.
    2. She is the reason that her monthly relationships self-destruct.

    • i was going to post my own comment, but this was great.

      i wish that this article would have went another way: My way, my freakin’ opinion… but i’m not the owner of everything, it’s cool…

      i listened to a few of Red’s tracks, after avoiding taylor’s music for many years, if not ever. i chose 22 and the one with the dubstep part.

      bull.shit. i took, that from these two artists’ successes is a huge glimpse into the spirit of people, and industry. i wrote this in my journal during the article read, and i’ll just paste it here for easier-ness:

      lauren’s journal, 11.1
      ‘ the most impressive display of art is music. the music Industry is also the birth of the largest gap in economics. industry is the birth of evil, by the way, tying in business, money, and corporations… taylor swift’s trashy red album made 1.2 million. second was kendrick’s m.a.a.d city, making 241k hit, a brilliant compton class act. ‘

  6. Michael_  |   Posted on Nov 1st, 2012 +8

    Selling albums today isn’t so much about selling just songs, it’s about being a brand. In keeping with this sales and release model, a question I’ve been asking myself lately is, “Are bands like Beach House who chronically bitch about people stealing their albums instead of buying them actually a moot argument, where they are actually just oblivious to modern times and reality? Is it possible that those non-remarkable number of units pushed are actually very accurate sales figures of a smaller scale indie music fan base’s purchasing habits?” I think so. I mean, for example, Beach House uses social media only because it’s futile to have a Twitter account, but they don’t embrace it in the way where someone like Taylor Swift and her handlers engage their audience and build a larger following of it. They shot themselves in the foot by turning down that Volkswagen ad, and not to say VW was right in reappropriating their song as their own for the commercial, but you have to wonder if being a self-martyr for art is the reason why some of our favorite indie bands’ album sales success isn’t on par with the critical notoriety and importance that websites such as Pitchfork and Stereogum lead audiences on to believe.

    Making good music, getting good reviews, touring behind and selling merch doesn’t work anymore. Grizzly Bear talking income woes to The New Yorker. Cat Power being bankrupt. You can be on top of innovative artistic music all you want, but if you’re not reaching past the medium by making your music a consumable product to be beheld via social media onslaughts, teaser videos, ad campaign tie-ins and generally putting your face through a viral blitz, then your album sales will likely come up short of expectations. I don’t mean to sound callous, and I readily purchase music, but with so many indie bands trying to make an argument that they should be making more than your average school teacher all because they spent the last two years shacked up in a studio smoking reefer or touring across the planet with their friends (again, smoking reefer) as Ian Cohen dubbed them “Best New Music,” — I just don’t have sympathy for them if that’s what they think it takes to earn a respectable living and to have a “successful” (by units moved standards) musical career.

    • I don’t think that most indie artists even assume that they will sell a lot of records and I don’t think that most even hope to be rich. I saw an interview with Kevin Shields and I’m paraphrasing him but he basically stated that he wasn’t interested in selling a lot of records with My Bloody Valentine and that if such a thing interested him he would just quit the band and start a new one and focus solely on making a lot of hit records. I think that’s how most indie acts approach the music business. Now, indie artists should certainly be selling more records because even mainstream artists are selling less records but I don’t think that indie artists even rely on album sales for income as much as they rely on touring, in fact most of them don’t rely on music for income at all, they actually have “real” jobs.

      • Michael_  |   Posted on Nov 1st, 2012 +2

        Kevin Shields is from an entirely different generation of indie music, though — A generation that probably knew they weren’t going to make a ton of money off of music because the the recording industry very much controlled what the audience would like. The young bands who’ve become prominent over the past decade I think have this idea that because the Internet has given them a thousand times more exposure than the indie bands they grew up idolizing, being blogosphere darlings somehow equates to more success than bands just like them from 20 or 30 years ago, when really, we still live in a world where accessibility and hits overrules quality (kudos if you can manage to pull off both.) And sure, bands just starting up have “real” jobs to make a living, but something tells me that you can’t point me to the office where Victoria Legrand spends 50 hours of her life weekly sitting in board room meetings discussing client strategies while Ed Droste moon lights as an accountant.

        • Beach House is one of the more popular indie acts, I don’t think they have regular jobs. They probably make enough to live like someone that does have just a regular job though, not rich not poor.

        • My point is this, not being rich and not being poor is enough for them, they never expected to have more and as you can see by their refusal to allow their music in advertisements, they aren’t even interested. They care about music and have enough integrity to not go against what they believe in just to sell records. I refer you back to my post about Kevin Shields.

        • Also, a lot of these bands that you say assumed that the internet would make them famous actually give their music away for free. Becoming famous for them would be as simple as signing to a major label so that they can get better marketing, because that’s what sells records. Why don’t they do it? They aren’t interested in money, they are interested in making good music. The “indie” world that people talk about is really just a community of people that really love music and art, the kind of people that sincerely do not care about getting rich from music. The kind of spirit and integrity that would cause Radiohead to give away In Rainbows for free.

          • I have a hard time believing that it’s common for ANY band would turn down a pretty standard recording contract that guarantees certain important resources + a major label’s resouces and built-in publicity machinery. The front-ends of these deals — signing bonuses — are NOT a lot of money, so that can’t be the only reason. A subsidy surely helps the quality of the recording and work, no?

            Unless they could totally get by on their own label, a luxury most cannot afford.

          • I have a hard time believing that bands like Deerhunter, The National, Beach House, Chairlift, Warpaint, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and many others couldn’t get a major label recording contract if they wanted one.

          • Oh by the way Taylor Swift did that herself (turned down a recording contract), and I don’t think she’s even signed to a major label right now interestingly enough.

          • Yep, Taylor in on an indie country label. So there you go, some people DO have the integrity to turn down major label resources and DIY.

          • Taylor is*

          • it’s distributed by UMG though. I see your point and recognize I made an inaccurate assumption. I also tend to group Sub Pop w/ major labels from a resource standpoint (Warner owns 49%)

          • “Something” by Chairlift was released on Columbia, for the record

          • Something was released on Kanine which is an indie label based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “Does you inspire you”, their first album, was released on Columbia and the band then signed to Kanine records.

          • Michael_  |   Posted on Nov 4th, 2012 -1

            Actually, no. Something was released on Columbia Records (see: Amazon’s page, Pitchfork’s review, Wikipedia, etc.) Even so, while they were originally on Kanine, they later signed to Columbia once interest in them began to grew and they re-released Does You Inspire You? (see: http://exclaim.ca/News/chairlift_sign_to_columbia_re-release_album_with_bonus_tracks) on the major label.

            Even so, a lot of these so-called indie imprints aren’t exactly entirely independent, using major label resources for distribution and brand promotion. Mom + Pop for example is distributed by RED Distribution, a Sony-owned sales and marketing division, which is why you see the cute little RIAA warning on the latest Sleigh Bells album.

          • Hmm, I replied to the wrong comment, sorry for the double post. No actually they are on Kanine. If they signed with Columbia in 2009 then their most recent record that was released in 2011 wouldn’t have been released on Kanine Records. See Itunes. or http://kaninerecords.com/chairlift That article also says that Grizzly Bear is on a major label, that too is incorrect.

          • Michael_  |   Posted on Nov 5th, 2012 0

            You’re having some trouble reading and comprehending facts, and how the industry works in general. The article I pointed to doesn’t say Grizzly Bear went to a major label, it says they went to a “fancier” label, i.e. they went from Kanine to the much larger indie at Warp Records. As for the link you supplied about Chairlift, you point us to an outdated bio on Kanine’s website featuring an old promo pic from when the band was still a trio, and it talks about their upcoming released scheduled for 2008. It’s 2012, buddy. Kanine still gets credit for released Does You Inspire You? because they initially did, but Columbia did in fact re-release it. As for their latest LP, Kanine had nothing to do with it.

          • My point still stands, a suggestion was made that bands only sign with indie labels because they can’t get a recording contract with a major label. The point I was making is that that’s not true. Some of my favorite artists signed with major labels after being on an independent label and then there are others that are very talented but have chosen not to do so. Being on an independent label doesn’t mean that you’re unable to get a contract with a major label as was suggested earlier in this post, that’s the only point I was making.

          • Well if you look at the page the bands newer material is posted there so it can’t be that out of date. Also, Itunes has Kanine records listed as having released “Something”.

          • By the way, major label distribution can get you in stores but when’s the last time you saw someone visit a store to buy a CD or record? I do but I know that most people don’t. Most people buy their music online and you don’t need a distribution deal in order to get your music put up for sale on itunes, amazon or anywhere else. This is 2012 not 1990, buddy.

          • If you look at some Chairlift videos on youtube from their official vevo channel, the latest videos indicate that they are on Kanine records and Itunes says the same thing so excuse me for being confused. Their latest single on Amazon called “Always Crashing in the Same Car” has them on an entirely different indie label so, who knows.

          • Michael_  |   Posted on Nov 6th, 2012 0

            Just because the new single isn’t released on Columbia doesn’t mean they still aren’t signed to Columbia. If you did your research (something you apparently struggle at doing properly), you’d find that the label releasing said single known as Manimal is a part of RED Distribution, a branch of Sony Music Entertainment.”Columbia is owned by Sony. So, there you have it — Still major label doings.

            You really just don’t get it. Even when bands sign to major labels, their former indie labels still get some payment for new releases as part of the agreement. If you look at Death Cab for Cutie’s first few releases on Atlantic Records, Barsuk’s logo is still on the albums and in the credits. I think they even handled the vinyl release of the albums.

            As for your argument about major label distribution being irrelevant since no one buys albums in stores in anymore, you failed to consider that while that may not be the preferred method of purchase, a major label still comes with better promotional efforts such as being able to sell your album on online retailers like Amazon.com for $7.99 physically or $5 (or even less) digitally upon its release. Many truly independent labels (and I’m not talking about the big ones like Sub Pop who are owned 49% by Warner Bros. or Matador who is a quasi-indie distributed by the humongous Beggar’s Group) don’t have the financial backings to sell new releases for anything less than $9.99 during that crucial first week, be it physically or digitally, hence lower units sold and in turn, less exposure for their artists.

            I’m just going to stop with you because

          • well I didn’t read any article’s for my Chairlift research, i just turned the CD over.

            this guy still buys CD’s/vinyl what have you

          • Michael_  |   Posted on Nov 10th, 2012 0

            Like I said, it’s not uncommon for the indie label’s logo to appear on the artwork as part of the contract agreement when the band signs to a major (especially if the album gets re-released via the major label.) You’ve been coming on here repeatedly trying to state that it’s still uncertain whether or not Chairlift are on a major or label or not, when the fact is they are and have been since 2009. More proof since you’re in denial:

            - They’re on Columbia website as part of the current roster profile
            - The first question asked in their interview about Something with Pitchfork says:
            “Pitchfork: Something is the first record you’ve specifically made while signed to Columbia. Did you feel extra pressure working on this one?”
            - Their iTunes profile reads “By early 2009, major labels came calling and Chairlift signed to Columbia, which re-released Does You Inspire You that April.”
            - Simply Googling the terms “Charlift sign to Columbia”

      • Well, there’s some conflicting information but their facebook page says Columbia so I’ll go with that.

    • Michael_, unfortunately, what you’re saying has as much to do with target audience as anything else. Most artists/bands, by the simple nature of the art they are making, will NEVER able to reach the mass audience consumer base of someone like Taylor Swift. Cat Power and Grizzly Bear are more interesting TO ME, but I understand fully that they are never going to sell a million records in one week. Or possibly their entire careers. This isn’t a new concept.

      Also, what you’re saying about “not reaching past the medium by making your music a consumable product to be beheld via social media onslaughts, teaser videos, ad campaign tie-ins and generally putting your face through a viral blitz, then your album sales will likely come up short of expectations”, well, I believe that pretty much every band has the ability to do those things these days, and they can do them for a pretty low cost. But who is going to be paying attention to it? The simple truth is that the public at large will always be more interested in big pop artist. Everything else will ALWAYS fit snugly into whatever genre or category we’re filing it into at the moment. Every once in a while they’ll be a breakout. But for the most part, it’s just not going to happen. What they get instead is a loyal, if small, fan base that will stick with them over the long haul. Fair? No. But in a world where Gangnam style can become a global phenomenon, what do you expect?

      • Michael_  |   Posted on Nov 1st, 2012 0

        I kind of agree with everything you said, and it seems like you got my point, so I guess we’re okay, bro?

        • For sure. Of course. And you didn’t point out my egregious misuse of ‘they’ll’ when I should have used ‘there’ll’, so, thanks!

    • No actually they are on Kanine. If they signed with Columbia in 2009 then their most recent record that was released in 2011 wouldn’t have been released on Kanine Records. See Itunes. or http://kaninerecords.com/chairlift That article also says that Grizzly Bear is on a major label, that too is incorrect.

    • No actually they are on Kanine. If they signed with Columbia in 2009 then their most recent record that was released in 2011 wouldn’t have been released on Kanine Records. See Itunes. or http://kaninerecords.com/chairlift That article also says that Grizzly Bear is on a major label, that too is incorrect.

  7. Taylor Swift is a living proof that quality music still sells. “Red” is really a terrific pop-record.

    Lets have those thumbs down-s although most of you folk probably never bother to listen to her albums to form an informed opinion.

    • I’ve tried to listen to her, but her song writing wasn’t that great, maybe she’s better now? I do however respect her greatly because she was offered a recording contract at the age of 12 that she turned down because they wanted her to sing other people’s songs. You know people hate on Justin Beiber too but he was actually discovered through youtube and he too writes his own songs, or some of them at least. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it’s bad but some so called artists aren’t artists at all, they’re just people that can sing and are looking to make a buck and that’s okay but I’m not really into that. It’s part of the reason that I have always preferred Mariah Carey over Whitney Houston, one of them actually writes music, the other just sings songs that someone else wrote.

        • I would actually recommend “All Too Well”. The amount of talent on display here is staggering:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRXP0Whtlgg

        • I took your advice and listened to 22 and I have to admit it wasn’t all terrible. The lyrics were insipid but I did dig the “hot sound” of the chorus. Still not for me but I can see how this will/did sell a lot of copies.

        • I’m digging “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” but “22″ is a little too Thought-Catalog for me…I guess I prefer her campy teenager image a little more

        • i would but i can’t find it on Spotify! – _ -

        • crabtron  |   Posted on Nov 2nd, 2012 +1

          Listened to “22,” and it is quite enjoyable. I will say that it feels almost interchangeable with Avril Lavigne’s “Smile” (production-wise), which isn’t surprising considering they were both produced with Max Martin and Shellback. I don’t have a problem with this, since they’re both good songs to me. Still, it would be fun to hear her do a song with someone like Danja or Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, if she’s going to be working with more dance-pop producers. I can’t even imagine what that would sound like, but it would probably be worth hearing. Or maybe all I really want at this point is for Araabmuzik to take some Taylor Swift vocals and just use them in one of his own tracks.

      • Wow, Taylor Swift writes her songs…which suck. Giving Taylor Swift kudos for doing what numerous nobodies at bars all over the country do better is like praising someone’s “parenting skills” just because s/he does not beat his/her kids. Anyone who reads even a smattering of articles about this girl can see that she is a shallow airhead, and her songs absolutely reflect that truth. She has zero self-awareness, and that is the reason that she has no business writing love/breakup songs. I hated her songs before I decided she was a ridiculous and painfully annoying person, and the worst part is that her songs are unavoidable. I started reading about her personal life because I wanted to know how and why it was possible for one person to produce so much dreck, and it didn’t take long before everything was crystal clear. Here, I will say what Taylor herself will probably take the next two decades to realize (although, to her credit, she did turn red when Ellen played a montage of all of her boyfriends): “I’m a serial dater who is so in love with the idea of being in love that I never stop to consider that I might be wasting everyone’s time because I don’t actually know myself well enough to know what I want or need in a relationship.” There’s the theme for her mid-life crisis concept album.

      • Even if it doesn’t speak to you personally, there has to be some level of respect for a songwriter that can get so many people to identify with her.

    • I feel like calling taylor swift’s or any pop artists (usher, justin bieber, marron 5, WHOEVER…) album a “terrific pop-record” is a bad way of evaluating the merit of the work. Pop music by definition is the most popular music of a given time and not REALLY a specific genre. So saying it is a “terrific pop-record” is like saying “this album is good at being an album that will sell lots of albums to people who buy albums”. It’s just redundant. I think talking about the content and production in detail evaluates it much better than how pop-y it is. Also, I’m curious to know your definition of “quality music”, how many mics are used and how much they cost? how airbrushed (figuratively) it is? The subtle use of pitch correction in her songs makes me feel sick. Her voice is literally made perfect. Or is it the depth of the lyrics, which are written with the help of two or more other people half the time. is it her musicianship? Multi-talented-ness? her musical credits on the album are some songwriting, the main vocals, and acoustic guitar (which i suspect was minimal in the actual recording), and then rest are about 30 multi-instrumentalists and 7 background vocalists. Seems like it would be pretty easy to make this “terrific pop-album” with a studio army of that size, not to mention the 10 producers. Think about it. Its her brand thats popular (young constantly heartbroken but happy girl) and then she is adopted by this machine if you will and given this army to work with. She has the easiest job out of all the people involved in this record and is essentially given all the credit.
      Something to consider….

      • I could not agree more with your comments on her voice. They have tried to make her voice perfect.

        It’s like painting. I look at one of those photo-realistic paintings and I go, “Wow. Well done. It looks exactly like _____”. But I never look again. It bores me. There’s no expression, no feeling, nothing that sets it apart, no style. It’s empty. It doesn’t feel like art, it feels like a product.

        • exactly, its like, i’d want a perfect car, that was really safe and well made. But music is not a car and it is supposed to express the feelings of real human beings and there is nothing real being reflected through the glossy studio finish. form DOEs NOT support the content (sad emotion-y stuff).

  8. Whatever, props to her for writing her own songs and stuff, but she irritates the shit out of me.

    • She needs to stop getting praise for writing her own songs. She’s 22 now and not 15, which I think people still feel. Adele is only like a year older but they feel like a decade apart maturity-wise.

  9. This article inspired me to pop on Youtube and actually give Taylor a chance.


    Dear God.

  10. I think Lamar’s 242K number is even more impressive considering his people put it on Spotify. After Taylor Swift’s 1.2M, I’m not sure why more artists don’t keep their music of it, at least at the beginning. If Adele can keep 21 off Spotify and sell over 25 million copies, how is that not the strategy to follow?

  11. Working at Target, many times around the electronics section, I hear every chorus of every Taylor Swift single (she has a special partnership with Target). It’s no wonder why she sells so much.
    - she gets her own custom made display.
    - regular play on both the in-store music players and on the TV’s on the back wall.
    - she’s super cute.
    - constantly in the tabloids
    - very salable to young girls (which is always a must in raking in sales)
    - plays (or use to play) country-ish music which is a huge cash cow

    ….so what? Many people do this, and have done it for years. I just don’t understand what the big deal is and why this article needed to be written.

  12. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  13. Taylor Swift falls into one of the two categories of music that sells: music for kids still under their parents income, and adults with a steady income. She writes songs that speak to 15 year olds who’s parents, who have well paying jobs, buy them music (the other category, adults with a steady income, would explain why things like Transsiberian Orchestra and Rush can still tour). BUT, I do think that she is a talented girl and, while not the best singer, does write songs that feel like they were actually written, not grown in a factory. I’m a fan of hers.

  14. It’s easy to sell albums when they are at your local record shop, your local guitar center, AND your local papa johns pizza. what the fuck taylor swift? do you really want you music sold with a fucking pizza?

  15. wow, just realized that both Adele and Taylor Swift aren’t actually signed to major labels. XL must’ve raked in a lot of money off of that Adele album.

  16. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  17. Big Machine found my indie music review blog and asked me to write one for Red and now I’m a fan. GOOD PR WORKS

    • crabtron  |   Posted on Nov 2nd, 2012 +1

      I like her album “Fearless,” though I haven’t heard much of “Red” yet. I actually don’t mind the idea of music as a product. It can still be art at the same time, and all music that’s sold could be called a product to some extent. I also don’t mind how much studio wizardry is thrown at a particular album, as long as it actually sounds good (not just “polished”) in terms of songwriting and craft.

      Say, Alex, think you could post a link to that blog of yours? Preferably post it as a reply to somebody else’s comment toward the top of this thread, so that it’s easy for everyone to see.

      • wait, cant tell if you’re being serious or trolling. I know i went out on a limb. I am willing to post it though!

        • if you were being serious, here it is. i do not endorse promoting blogs inside of other blogs, but you DID ask!
          http://consonance-media.tumblr.com/

          • crabtron  |   Posted on Nov 2nd, 2012 0

            Heh, thanks. I do admit that I was mischievously trying to lure you into getting downvoted, since that’s generally what happens when people post links to their blogs on this site. But now I feel a tad guilty, and so as an act of penance I will actually read your blog now, so that your effort was not in vain.

  18. The chord structures in her songs are exactly what you’d hear if you were to walk into a huge Evangelical church while the youth pastor was strumming his guitar. Take it or leave it. (I choose to leave it.)

  19. Well if it isn’t another head scratching ‘Stereogum Loves The Number One Artist In America Post’. Yaaawn.

    This is akin to the P4k rating a hip-hop album 9.5+ post, a Carles retirement post, and a BV secret show post; Posts who’s only purpose is to generate hits although there is no content whatsoever. All it does is degrade the overall quality of the user experience (and by extension the scene which these sites purportedly exist to support).

    And say what you want about this music or that music being great or terrible, but indie blogs should NOT be concerned with record sales. Conversations about music as competition in ‘pushing units’ is about the lamest shit on the planet, and one thousand percent irrelevant in 2012…..And ‘the biz”? Are you effing serious? What the hell is this? Pollstar? Billboard.com? Dad, is that you?

    (A quick word about the record buying public; There are two Mumford and Sons albums in the top 25, and Adelle is still in the top ten.)

    This post is especially lame beacuse the music is average at best. If an ‘indie’ band made an album with a random dubstep song and another song with a guest appearance from Snow Patrol, all with ridiciously saccharine lyrics, it would be universally ripped apart.

    Also…
    When are we going to get a real in depth analysis of the Carly Rae Jepsen album? That’s another album that is just exemplary in proving that quality triumphs.
    This whole, she writes her own songs ‘compliment’ is about as misogynistic as it gets.
    Can Stereogum become my goto place for American Idol/X-Factor coverage?

  20. that trollop taylor swift is a real scrubber.

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