How Adele's record-breaking 3.38 million sales of '25' compare to Taylor Swift's '1989'

AdeleVevoAdele in the ‘Hello’ video.

Adele’s “25” has destroyed music records, and it’s only been out for a week.

In its first four days, the album sold more than 2.4 million copies, becoming the highest-selling album in its debut week in the US. The previous record was held by *NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached,” which sold 2.4 million records during its opening week in 2000.

Now that the full week’s sales have been tallied, we know Adele’s “25” sold 3.38 million copies, according to Nielsen.

There is simply no comparison to be made between Adele and other contemporary music, said David Bakula, senior vice president of industry insights at Nielsen Entertainment.

“You run out of superlatives to describe something like this. There is no precedent for something this big,” Bakula told Business Insider. “It’s not just that she’s breaking the record, but we’re now in a day and age where music consumption has changed so dramatically. You can’t overstate how important and incredible a feat it is that this record is getting to the level that it is.”

Bakula pointed out that when *NSYNC beat the record, there were no streaming services available, so more people were buying albums. In 2000, 88 albums sold more than a million copies. This year? There are four, with a potential fifth: Taylor Swift’s “1989,” Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” Ed Sheeran’s “X,” Adele’s “25,” and possibly Sam Smith’s “In the Lonely Hour.”

To put Adele’s sales in perspective, we’ve compared them to Swift’s “1989,” which, up until the release of “25,” was the highest-selling album of the year (though it came out last year).

'1989' sold 1.287 million copies in its debut week in 2014, becoming the first album that wasn't a Swift album to reach a million in a week since Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' in 2011. Swift's 'Red' and 'Speak Now' albums sold more than a million records in their debut weeks, making her the only musician to have three albums do so.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images for TAS
Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 1989 World Tour at Scottrade Center on September 29, 2015 in St Louis, Missouri.

It became the 19th album to sell a million copies in a week since Nielsen's SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991.

'You looked at those numbers and thought you'd never see those numbers again. And ('25') is going to do twice that,' Bakula said (it actually ended up doing more).

'25' has sold 3.38 million copies in its debut week, becoming the highest-selling album in its first week ever in the US according to available chart numbers.

After one week, '1989' was the second-highest-selling album of the year behind 'Frozen' in 2014. It became the best-selling record with 3.66 million copies sold by the end of the year.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

'Just until a few days ago, (Swift) had the best-selling album for the entire year, and that's at 1.76 million. Adele instantly became the top-selling album of the year by crushing that number in a few days,' Bakula said.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

By the end of the week, Adele had nearly doubled those numbers.

'I never thought I would ever see that in my life, and I have been in the industry for 20 some years,' he said.

Adele's '21' was the best-selling album in both 2011 and 2012, with more than 5.8 million and 4.4 million sold, respectively. It is the only album to be the best-selling album for two consecutive years.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Swift's 'Red' was the second-best-selling album in 2012, behind Adele's '21.'

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Swift also had the best-selling album in 2009 with 'Fearless.'

'Shake It Off,' Swift's first single from '1989,' debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and held the spot for two weeks before losing it to Meghan Trainor's 'All About That Bass.' It returned to the No.1 spot after eight weeks and stayed there for an additional two weeks.

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'Hello,' Adele's first single off of '25,' debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has held the spot for four weeks.

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