Never doubt Taylor Swift.
That is one lesson from the release on Friday of Ms. Swift’s latest album, “Reputation” (Big Machine), which had a blockbuster start. Through Sunday, it sold 925,000 copies in the United States, according to early data from Nielsen, which means that in just three days it has already had by far the best opening week of any album this year. Of that total, just over 600,000 were digital downloads.
But the real question about “Reputation” was not whether it would be a hit but just how big of a hit it would be, and whether Ms. Swift would continue to defy the industry’s collapsing sales trends by getting her fans to buy the full album as a CD or download. To nudge her fans in that direction, Ms. Swift withheld it from streaming services and bundled copies of the CD with $20 magazines at Target. Most aggressively, she told fans that they could improve their chances of getting a concert ticket by buying multiple copies of the album — up to 13 counted as part of the promotion, and all weekend Ms. Swift retweeted pictures of young fans with their hands full.
David Bakula, a senior analyst at Nielsen, said it was too soon to make a prediction about the week’s total, noting that data from direct-to-fan purchases through Ms. Swift’s website — or delivered on Taylor-branded UPS trucks — was not expected until later in the week. But “Reputation” might very well equal or surpass the opening sales of her last album, “1989,” which sold 1,287,000 copies in its first week out three years ago.
“This shows that there are still artists out there where the album — the ownership of the complete package — is still the primary driver,” Mr. Bakula said.
Before “Reputation” takes over the chart next week, five new albums reached high on Billboard’s latest Top 10, led by Sam Smith, whose new album, “The Thrill of It All” (Capitol), opened at No. 1 with 185,000 copies sold as a full album and 65 million streams.
Maroon 5 came in second with “Red Pill Blues” (Interscope), moving the equivalent of 122,000 sales, and Blake Shelton opened at No. 4 with “Texoma Shore” (Warner Music Nashville). Kelsea Ballerini is No. 7 with “Unapologetically” (Black River), and Kid Rock is in eighth place with “Sweet Southern Sugar” (BMG).