Taylor Swift, the 18-year-old country music sensation, will leap frog into headlining arenas next year, according to an agent from the William Morris Agency,...

Taylor Swift, the 18-year-old country music sensation, will leap frog into headlining arenas next year, according to an agent from the William Morris Agency, which represents her. That revelation was made on the opening panel at the Billboard Touring Conference in New York on November 19 that dealt with artist development. The jump to arenas is based upon her sales of about 600,000 albums last week. Swift has already toured with Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill and Brad Paisley.

A few hours later, the official tally was released and the singer/songwriter solidified her position as one of the most important artists to emerge on the popular music scene this decade as her sophomore album, “Fearless,” debuted in the #1 slot atop Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart, with sales of 592,304 copies in its first week in stores. This is the biggest opening U.S. sales week in 2008 by a female artist in all genres of music, and the fourth biggest overall, behind Lil Wayne, AC/DC and Coldplay.

With 129,046 copies sold digitally, “Fearless” is the biggest country digital album debut in the history of Nielsen’s Soundscan, and the fourth biggest digital album debut to date, behind only Coldplay, Jack Johnson, and Kanye West.

Swift, who writes all of her own material and co-produced her album, has the highest country sales debut of 2008 — the only other country artists this year to debut at #1 on the Top 200 chart were Alan Jackson, George Strait and Kenny Chesney. “Fearless” is the highest sales debut for a female country artist since Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks’ 2002 album releases.

“White Horse,” a track from Fearless that was featured on the season premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy,” will debut at #13 on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart this week, giving Swift her sixth Top 20 debut of 2008, breaking the all-time Billboard record for the number of Top 20 debuts in a calendar year by any artist. In addition, Swift’s six debuts and seven total tracks on this week’s charts each tie her with Hannah Montana for the most by a female artist in a single week. Of the 13 tracks on “Fearless,” 11 have now spent time on the Hot 100.

Swift reached another huge online milestone this week, surpassing the 120 million mark for music streams on MySpace, where she is consistently at the top of their highest ranking artists in all genres of music. Swift has had more than 20 million MySpace streams in the past 10 days.
Taylor released her self-titled debut CD in 2006, and it has since been certified triple-platinum (with sales of more than 3.5 million copies), and is currently the best-selling country title of 2008. At age of 17, Swift became the youngest person ever to single-handedly write and sing a number-one country single entirely on her own (“Our Song” spent 6 consecutive weeks at #1 atop Billboard’s Country Singles Chart). She is also the first female solo artist in country music history to write or co-write every song on a platinum-selling debut CD.

In addition to receiving a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and a CMA nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year, Swift has already scooped up an impressive number of awards. At last week’s 56th Annual BMI Country Awards, Swift took home the prestigious Song of the Year award for “Teardrops On My Guitar,” which also earned iTunes’s #1 Country Song of 2007 honors.

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By Bob Grossweiner & Jane Cohen