Taylor Swift’s “1989” has been a fixture in the Top 20 of Billboard’s album chart for months. Stuffed with some of the singer’s biggest pop hits, like “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space,” the LP was a gargantuan hit when it was released in 2014, and this year Swift has been performing its songs on her record-breaking Eras Tour.
But “1989” is about to make an all-but-certain plunge down the chart.
That’s because on Friday, Swift will release “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” the latest installment in her ambitious and wildly successful project to rerecord her first six studio albums. What began a few years ago as an attempt to reclaim her music — and, perhaps, have a taste of revenge — after the sale of her former record label has become a blockbuster enterprise all its own, with punishing consequences for the original recordings.
“1989” will be the fourth of Swift’s remakes, and each one so far has opened at No. 1 with successively bigger numbers. In early 2021, “Fearless” started with the equivalent of 291,000 sales in the United States. “Red,” anchored by a smoldering, 10-minute extended version of the song “All Too Well,” had 605,000 later that year. “Speak Now” came out in July and started with 716,000 sales, including a remarkable 268,500 copies sold on vinyl LP.
Each one has arrived with deluxe packaging, a rainbow of colored vinyl variants and a thick appendix of “vault” bonus tracks that have given fans abundant material to discuss and decode — not to mention well-timed batches of themed merchandise. Among the items Swift is selling at her online store are a sweater decorated with sea gulls (à la the new album cover), for $74.89, and a device like an old-fashioned View-Master, for $19.89.
How big “1989” could be is anyone’s guess, and her label, Republic Records, declined to offer any projections. But given the trajectory of the previous remakes, the enduring popularity of the songs on the original album and Swift’s near-total saturation of popular culture this year — in just the past few weeks, she released a hit concert film, reached No. 1 with a four-year-old song and has nearly upstaged the N.F.L. through her relationship with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs — the music industry is bracing for a monster debut, even in a year that has had major albums by Morgan Wallen, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo and Travis Scott.
Swift has been stoking demand for “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” since announcing it in August, partnering with Google for an online puzzle to reveal clues about the album’s “vault” tracks; naturally, it crashed within hours.
When Swift first spoke about her intention to rerecord her albums, in summer 2019 — shortly after the music manager Scooter Braun bought Big Machine, Swift’s original label, for a bit over $300 million — the music world scratched its collective head; most previous attempts at rerecordings had had little success. But when the new version of “Fearless” came out — by which time Braun had sold Swift’s recording rights to the investment firm Shamrock Capital — it became another lesson in Swift’s mastery in rallying her fan base.
“When the rerecord process started with her, it was this curiosity, where no one really knew what it could do,” said Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s managing director of charts and data operations. “But they have turned into a phenomenon unto themselves.”
Swift’s world tour, which has played to packed stadiums since March and is in line to sell well over $1 billion in tickets by the time it ends next year, has generally lifted her entire catalog. At various times this year, at least 10 of her albums, including the originals, have been in the Billboard 200, the magazine’s flagship albums chart.
But each time Swift has released a rerecorded album, its corresponding original version has suffered. In the year after she released “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” sales of the original fell 20 percent in the United States, according to Luminate, the tracking service that supplies the data for Billboard’s charts; the original “Red” dropped by about 45 percent. Neither has been on the Billboard 200 since 2021.
Jaime Marconette, Luminate’s senior director of music insights and industry relations, noted how stark that impact can be on a week-to-week basis. In May, Swift said she would release a new “Speak Now” in eight weeks. “That announcement,” Marconette said, “immediately drove a 75.7 percent increase in total consumption for the original version.” But as soon as “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” came out, the original sank. Comparing a window of 14 weeks before and after the new version, the original fell 59 percent.
On the latest chart, the new “Speak Now” is No. 18. The old version, which was most recently No. 191, had fallen off the chart entirely.
Statistics like that call into question the value of Shamrock’s investment, which has been estimated at more than $300 million. In the short term, at least, there is no doubt that Swift’s rerecordings have severely dimmed the originals. But it may take years before it is clear whether there is a lasting impact. A spokeswoman for Shamrock said that no one at the firm was available to discuss the matter.
Swift also stands to earn more money from her new recordings than her old ones, thanks to a deal she negotiated with Universal Music, Republic’s parent company, that gave her ownership rights to her recordings.
As Swift’s new “1989” nears release, the singer has been promoting it steadily on social media, this week sharing an image of handwritten lyrics that fans have interpreted as being from an unreleased track. And truckloads of vinyl and CD copies of the new album have been making their way to brick-and-mortar stores.
Even indie record shops are primed to do huge business with the new “1989,” as they have with all of Swift’s recent releases. Carl Mello of Newbury Comics, a music and collectibles chain that has 30 stores throughout the Northeast, said that for some of Swift’s previous albums, problems in the supply chain have meant that stores did not always have her records on release day. But those issues have been resolved, and the chain expects to have about 1,600 copies ready for sale on Friday.
“I’ve been at Newbury Comics for just over 30 years, and I’ve never seen somebody who has occupied so many spots in our Top 40 vinyl records list at the same time, consistently for months and months,” Mello said.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if Taylor Swift is 15 percent of our vinyl sales,” he added. “It’s extraordinary.”