Grammy Awards 2013: Retailers Predict Sales Spikes for Mumford, Underwood, More

As the industry awaits the Grammy Awards show on Feb. 10, retailers are hoping that the Recording Academy aligns the show’s performance schedule to optimize sales and produce a show like the past two years, which drove consumers to retail for months on end.

So far, only eights acts have been named and two duets and/or mash-ups, but already retailers are hopeful that this year could drive sales too. Last year, Adele swept the Grammys, winning six awards but also -- and this is key -- performed.  In the week after the show, her 21 album went on to sell a whopping 730,000 and set a Nielsen SoundScan record for biggest post-Grammy sales boost.

Carrie Underwood, Jack White & the Lumineers to Perform at Grammy Awards

In fact, that sales performance came as a surprise to merchants, after retailers had already expressed doubt that her album had that much more upside because she had already scanned 6.2 million coming into the show. But they were quickly proven wrong, as the performance reignited her sales and she went onto become the first artist since Santana to sell 10 million units within two years.

Mumford & Sons, Fun., Frank Ocean Lead Grammy Nominations 2013

This year, when perusing who is playing, might perform and could win at the Grammys, retailers target Mumford & Sons as poised for a post-show boost -- and not necessarily for their new LP. In 2009, Adele’s 19 had scans of 467,000 as the show approached and merchants cited as an album that could enjoy a sales surge from the show. After her big night, 19 went onto scan another 327,000 that year, and has since scanned 1.7 million, largely thanks to the popularity of 21, for a total of 2.5 million.

Likewise, Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More, came out in February 2009 and, coming into the 2010 Grammy show, had scanned about 815,000 units. With two nominations and participation in a medley performance that also comprised the Avett Brothers, capped off with Bob Dylan, that album racked up another 1.3 million units in sales that year for a total of 2.05 by the end of 2011, and now stands at 2.72 million units. It could easily benefit even further from a big Grammy performance this year that reaches new fans. 

That’s not to discount possible upside for their latest LP, Babel. In the past, merchants might not have had seen much upside in that album, since it already has scans of 1.6 million units. But after last year’s Adele experience, when older fans are believed to have helped drive 21 to sales of 10 million units thanks to discovering the singer on the Grammy show, merchants are hopeful that with Mumford & Sons could enjoy a big boost.

After all, as Trans World Entertainment music buyer Mark Hudson notes, Mumford & Sons are already beyond the “hipster” music aficionados to more mainstream fans, but Middle America still could discover the band. Their performance that night could turn into the wild card that merchants crave when handicapping album sales from the show’s performers.

The key difference this time is that the band’s performance could be touted as a highlight of the show, while in 2011 they were buried in a medley. If a small slice of a medley could drive strong sales for the band last time around, what might a full feature performance could do this year? Super D director of marketing Jocelyn Prior adds that “while you might think that everyone knows who they are, a lot of folks are still sleeping on the title.”

Conversely, some merchants think that performances from Taylor Swift and Rihanna likely won’t be enough to ignite a big surge in sales, unless it’s a very distinctive performance. “Who hasn’t seen Taylor Swift perform at an awards show?” Newbury Comics director of purchasing Carl Mello asks. “Her performance won’t hurt sales, but at this point, it’s much more up to the nature of her performance as to whether it drives more sales.”

But Carrie Underwood may be just the ticket, says Trans World music buyer Christina Amedore-Smith, who handles urban, country, Christian and dance for the chain. Country music always gets a bigger-than-expected boost from mainstream shows like the Grammys, she notes. While Underwood is a superstar, especially among country fans, Amedore-Smith thinks she has plenty of upside. Her last album Blown Away, has scanned 1.2 million units since its release in April 2012. All of her other albums have gone multi-platinum (although the last one just barely made it), and a Grammy performance could reignite sales for the title.

Amedore-Smith adds that she thinks that the medley or duo presentation of Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert also could drive sales, but she adds that the former could gain more than the latter because she is currently the bigger artist and so he could benefit by drawing from her fans. While Lambert’s first three albums have each hit the million-unit plateau and her latest album is on its way there with scans of 711,000 units, Bentley’s first two albums have gone platinum but the four subsecquent albums have seen sales decline from 711,000 from the 2006 release Long Trip Alone to 256,00 for the 2010 release Up The Ridge.  His latest album, Home, stands at 248,000.

On the other hand, merchants say that they have high hopes that Fun. and the Black Keys could reap big sales upsides if they turn in a distinctive performance at the show. Trans World’s Hudson says neither band is at the saturation point and could be primed for sales, depending on performance. While waiting for other acts to be announced Hudson adds that he hopes that both the Alabama Shakes and the Lumineers are tapped because both have the most upside potential, if they get the right exposure, while Amadore-Smith adds Jack White, who was added to the show after Billboard interviewed Hudson, also into that category of an artist that could enjoy a big uptick. His latest album, Blunderbuss, has scanned 460,000.

Newbury Comics’ Mello thinks that a Frank Ocean performance is just what the Grammy show needs. “If they picked Frank Ocean to perform, that would be progressive, but that means that the Grammys are cooler than we think.”