Will the U.S. music industry ever see another first-week million-selling album?
That was an open question even as the CD suffered double-digit sales declines for the last seven years. But with digital sales down 11.5 percent in the first nine months of 2014, industry executives are almost universally doubtful that any album can hit the mark, even though both Taylor Swift — whose Speak Now and Red scanned 1.1 million and 1.2 million units, respectively, in their debut weeks in 2010 and 2012 — and Lil Wayne — 1 million and 964,000 for Tha Carter III and Tha Carter IV in 2008 and 2011 — have albums due by the end of 2014.
“I don’t know if anybody can do it, except maybe Adele,” says Trans World’s Ish Cuebas. (The follow-up to Adele’s 11 million-selling 21 isn’t due until 2015 at best.) “I was shocked that Justin Timberlake came so close,” Cuebas continued.
Swift has a chance, but prognosticators are doubtful: Her 1989 LP, due Oct. 27, initially projected to sell 1.1 million, was revised down to 750,000 after other titles in the quarter fell short (Wayne’s Carter V is expected to sell around 500,000).
“If anyone can still do it, Taylor can,” says a senior Nashville executive. “But it will be very difficult, even for her.”