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An astonishing number of people paid to download the new Taylor Swift song

“Look What You Made Me Do” sold close to 200,000 copies in a day.

Taylor Swift performing seated at a silver piano in Houston, Texas in February 2017 Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for DIRECTV
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Did you guys know Taylor Swift has a new single out?

Right. Me too.

Here’s another one: Did you know people are paying money to download the new Taylor Swift single? Even though it is widely available, legally, for free?

It’s true!

A lot of people: Around 200,000 people in the U.S. on Friday, the first day that “Look What You Made Me Do” was out, following a Thursday night release. Billboard thinks she’ll end up selling around 500,000 copies within the first week.

Context: That would make it the most-sold song since Adele’s “Hello,” which sold an astonishing 1.1 million copies in its first week, in November 2015, and another 653,000 in the second week.

More context: Two previous Swift singles — “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” from her 2012 “Red” album; and “Shake It Off,” from her 2014 “1989” album — sold 623,000 downloads and 544,000 downloads, respectively, in the first weeks they came out. (Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified which album “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” came from.)

The really important context: Music downloads, as a category, have been declining for years, replaced by subscription streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, as well as the free streams you can get from YouTube (much to the music industry’s chagrin).

And while Swift has sparred with streaming music services in the past, that’s over now, and all of her stuff is available everywhere.

And people are streaming lots of Taylor Swift, in case you were wondering: YouTube says the “lyric video” — that is, a video without the video part, just the lyrics — racked up 19 million streams in the first day it was out. And YouTube says that’s a record, too. It’s up to 29 million now:

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