With the GRAMMYs coming up this Sunday, industry prognosticators are laying down their bets on who could be the big sales winners at the show.
The industry consensus appears to be that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Lorde have the best chance to be the underdog big winners, if sales are the metric, regardless of whether they actually win any GRAMMY award.
Recent history has shown that GRAMMY performances drive stronger sales than its awards, but the best sales scenario of all is to be a winner and a performer. "It used to be the win would guarantee the sales, but nowadays it's always the performance that drives them," Alliance Entertainment VP of purchasing and marketing Laura Provenzano notes.
Adds Trans World VP and divisional merchandise manager for music and new media Ish Cuebas: "When I look at Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, I ask, 'how much more can they possibly sell?' After all, that record has been selling strong for over a year. But then I remember I said the same thing about Adele right before the February 2012 GRAMMY show."
At that point, Adele's "21" album had sold 6.6 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. In the week leading up to the show, sales jumped from 122,000 to 237,000. But in the week after the Feb. 12, 2012, show, album sales exploded to 730,000 units. It's the kind of week label executives always hope that the GRAMMYs deliver.
But even when sales don't blow up for someone, the show still produces solid sales gains for most performers, as the 2013 show did. For example, the big winner that year was Mumford & Sons "Babel," the sales of which stood at 1.73 million units coming into the show. While sales of "Babel" jumped from 54,000 to 185,000, after that it basically returned to the pace it was selling at before the show -- though the GRAMMY show helped fuel another 838,000 since then. So even when the awards don't produce a sales explosion for a big album or two, the industry is very happy for whatever sales it generates.
The other fun sales things about the GRAMMYs is watching songs sales surge during the show, by watching the iTunes song chart, when after recent shows the number of songs selling more than 100,000 units jumped from around 9-12 titles in the weeks before the show up to 12-16 titles in the week after the show.
Getting back to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "The Heist," the album has already sold 1 million album units and another 1.44 million track equivalent albums (TEA), and was the the third-best-selling total album plus TEA title of 2013, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But it has never sold more in one week than the 78,000 units it sold in its debut week, which was the one ending Oct. 14, 2012.
Cuebas is not alone in his thinking on the duo's album. Newbury Comics head of purchasing Carl Mello also says that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' 'The Heist' may still have sales upside. Though that album, which has been out for 14 months, "may be nearing the end of its sales cycle, it's still in the moment," he says.
Alliance Entertainment's Provenzano points out, "As much as people know 'Thrift Shop,' I am not sure they associate the song with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis."
Finally, a sales executive who doesn't want to be identified talking about an artist on a competing label agrees that Macklemore & Lewis have the best chance of connecting with the GRAMMY audience. Industry executives believe that the duo will play "Same Love," a song supporting same sex marriage that is nominated for the ceremony's Song of the Year award. "It's the right message at the right time," he says. "A lot of [casual] music fans still don't know who they are."
The other artist that has a chance of blowing up, according to the retailers, is Lorde, whose "Pure Heroine" has scanned 797,000 units since its release on Sept. 30, 2013, while her track sales total 6.8 million, or another 680,000 TEA units.
"Lorde is going to be the clear cut [sales] winner out of the group of artists performing on the shows," predicts Provenzano. Cuebas agrees that's possible. "Lorde may very well win record of the year, even if she was shut out of the best new artist category," he says, adding that she's nominated for four GRAMMYs and is performing, "so it's a strong possibility that she could take off after the show."
Other artists that could enjoy big sales booms include Taylor Swift, Beyonce, P!nk and the Beatles, merchants say.
According to Cuebas, P!nk is "such an extremely talented and incredible performer" that her appearance on the show should prove a boon to sales. Her "The Truth About Love" album has scanned almost 1.9 million units so far and is selling at about a 5,000-6,000 units-a-week pace.
Meanwhile, Cuebas reports that Trans World rock buyer Mark Hudson still thinks that Taylor Swift could come out the big winner, even though her most recent album "Red" is 16 months old and is almost at 4 million units.
Beyonce and Jay Z are newly-confirmed additions to the show, and merchants say both will get a sales boost, but they won't steal the thunder from the upstarts.
"They will certainly be a highlight and generate a lot of buzz, as they always do, but I think it’s all relative vs. their respective stature," says Provenzano.
Another duo that could experience a bump are Daft Punk, whose "Random Access Memories" was one of the bigger albums of the year, having sold 885,000 copies so far, according to Nielsen SoundScan, after debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 June 8, spending two weeks atop the chart. The space-helmeted French duo is slated to perform its funk-filled analog music with the great Stevie Wonder. A stellar performance by the trio could bump the album back up the charts.
Finally, with the 50th anniversary of the Beatles invasion at hand and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr appearing on the show, there is widespread speculation that the GRAMMYs will have some kind of Beatles tribute performance. If that occurs and it drives people to stores looking for the band's music, it just so happens that Universal Music Enterprises, the catalog division of the Universal Music Group, has just re-released on Jan. 21 the entire Beatles U.S. album versions individually and as a box set.