While retail's money is still riding on Mumford & Sons to get the biggest sales gain after Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, now that the lineup is more complete than when we last checked in a couple of weeks ago, they see a slew of other potential sales gainers.
"We will see at least two or three influential performances during the show that will drive business for all of us," predicts Steve Harkins, Baker & Taylor's VP of independents. One of those performance might come from Justin Timberlake, he adds, but "while he might hit it out of the park, unfortunately we have nothing new from him to sell yet."
Timberlake's next album, "The 20/20 Experience," is due March 19.
Still, like other merchants, Harkins says his money is on Mumford & Sons to be the big winner, but he doesn't know that their album, "Babel," with scans of 1.68 million so far, he stops short of the Adele comparisons some retailers made earlier.
"There is only one Adele, unfortunately," Harkins adds. “I am not feeling ‘a second Adele.’ I think [Mumford & Sons] could take off more like ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ did," he added.
That film’s soundtrack came out in late November 2000 and was a surprise steady-seller, but never sold over 100,000 units in a week until December 2001, and during the last four weeks of that year, hit that mark each weeking, including the week before Christmas when it hit scans of 230,000 units. Riding into Grammy week, which was broadcast on Feb. 27, the album had scans of 4 million units. But after the Grammy show, where it picked up five awards, the album went onto scan another 2 million units that year. It sales now stand at 7.8 million units.
For his part, Joe Nardone Jr. VP of Gallery of Sound in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. says he thinks the Lumineers will be the big winner. "People will figure out that the Lumineers from their performance," he says.
While the Grammy show will have a number of collaborative performances this year, merchants aren't so sure that they themselves drive sales. Nevertheless they do provide for good TV and buzz and add to the overall Grammy impact – which benefits the music industry, even if some years it has more of an impact than others.
So while the Stanley Clarke/ Chick Corea/ Kenny Garrett tribute to Dave Brubeck, might give the artists involved and the jazz genre a little lift, Harkins says he is doesn't think the kids will pick up on it. On the other hand, the Bruno Mars/ Sting/ Rihanna tribute to Bob Marley might sell some catalog.
Likewise, Nardone says the Levon Helm tribute from Zac Brown, T-Bone Burnett, Elton John, Mumford & Sons, Mavis Staples and the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard could sell some Band catalog, "which is okay for us, because at least we carry it. A lot of places don't."
Overall, the uniqueness of those performances work better for digital, merchants say, so unless they’re available at stores like iTunes, they don't expect them to have a sales impact.
However, Hudson points to the Elton John/ Ed Sheeran performance as having some potential in introducing a wider audience to the younger artist’s music. "I would think Sheeran would get a big boost out of that performance," he says. "I don't think a lot of people have connected his song (‘The A-Team’) with the artist."
And in the Mars/ Rihanna/ Sting collaboration, Trans World Entertainment buyer Mark Hudson points out that Mars is the one that could benefit. "That could be an interesting performance. People think he is top 40 but he might be deeper artist, and this could give him a chance to prove it -- or not."
As for the Alabama Shakes’ Howard playing as part of the Band tribute, Hudson says, "It’s too bad the Shakes aren't playing because that would boost their sales. Unless she wears a shirt saying, ‘I am the singer from the Alabama Shakes,’ I don't know how people will find their way to their music from that performance."
While many merchants think that Frank Ocean is ripe to benefit from the Grammy show, one merchant is uncertain about him as a live performer -- but quickly noted being in a minority. "The last time he was on TV I thought he was weak -- but others thought he was the greatest they ever saw, so maybe I was wrong.”
Like most merchants contacted by Billboard, Harkins says he is pulling for the Black Keys to benefit from the double whammy, "hitting it out of the park with the performance and take home some hardware. I still think they have room to make a decent sales gain."
Nardone says he thinks that while Fun. has been out for awhile and selling great, "I think some people haven't come to the party yet so a solid performance should give them a boost." But Harkins says that while "Fun. is a lot of fun, I don't think they will they appeal to the older demographic."
While most merchants say that they don't think Taylor Swift's "Red" could blow up all over again, Nardone says he has learned not to bet against her. "After the holiday pick-up her sales have been kind of average," he says. "But I don't think this album's run is over yet. I think her performance could breath new life into the album's sales."