Another week goes by, Taylor Swift does something else remarkable.
This time she’s released a new single — and it’s already gold. And that seems to be a first-time thing. It appears there’s never been another moment in history in which a single was shipped to country radio after it had already been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
There’s a bit of logic at work in it. For one thing, prior to the digital era, fans couldn’t actually purchase a song unless it was available in a physical format such as a record, tape or CD. That meant that retailers weren’t actually able to put a song up for sale until the same day radio stations were able to start playing it. It was literally impossible to sell enough copies — or any, for that matter — before a song was available to broadcasters.
By the time CDs hit, albums were more in vogue than singles, and somewhere in the ‘90s, record companies actually tried to phase out the single. When country labels did give in and service songs to stores, they invariably had already been sent to radio stations well before the retail release. And very few songs in that era went gold anyway.
Now in the digital age, it’s possible for consumers to cherry pick the songs they want from an album. If you buy the whole project — say, Taylor’s Fearless CD — the artist gets credit for an album sale. Buy just one cut and the artist gets credit for the sale of a single.
If 500,000 people buy a song, it goes gold. If 1 million purchase it, it goes platinum, and a bunch of Taylor’s individual tracks got certified en masse back on Oct. 12. She picked up 14 awards for digital singles downloads, including a quadruple-platinum award for selling 4 million copies of “Love Story.”
But the most-surprising thing out of that day’s cache was three gold honors for songs that had never been released as singles: “You’re Not Sorry,” “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” and “Fearless,” a song about taking courage on the dating circuit.
“No matter how many break-up songs you write, no matter how many times you get hurt, you will always fall in love again,” Taylor says. “When I wrote ‘Fearless,’ I wasn’t dating anyone. I wasn’t even in the beginning stages of dating anybody. I really was all by myself out on tour, and I got this idea for a song about the best first date. I think sometimes when you’re writing love songs, you don’t write them about what you’re going through at the moment, you write about what you wish you had.”
Big Machine finally released “Fearless” to radio on Monday. Thus in an unprecedented move, broadcasters all over the U.S. are being asked for the first time to play a song that’s already been certified gold. If ever there was a sign of how much things have changed in the music business, that moment pretty much encapsulates it.
It’s no wonder Taylor was cited by the CMA as Entertainer of the Year and by Billboard as Artist of the Year.