As expected, Lionel Richie hit the upper limit of what the company projected he would do from the hour-long live performance broadcast by the Home Shopping Network on March 16.
While Universal Music Group executives privately said they expected "Tuskegee" to sell 15,000-20,000 units, the superstar artist in fact sold a little more than 20,000 units, according to Universal Music Nashville VP of marketing Tom Lord.
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Like most music events, HSN put the item up for sale on its website weeks before the event. But the company also preceded the event with an hour-long pre-concert show that featured Richie talking about making the album. Moreover, the overall event helped drive social chatter, which in turn was pushed by HSN's own twitter push, Richie's and the Universal Music Group's own social media efforts, Lord said.
While the album features duets with some of country's best-known artists, the only artist that appeared live with Richie during the broadcast was Kenny Rogers, who sang "Lady" with him. But each song during the broadcast was preceded by a taped vignette which had Richie talking about the upcoming song, and showing clips on which country music star sang it with him in the studio, while making the album.
"This was really important to tell the viewers what the album was about," Lord said.
While there had been a small number of units sold before the show began, once it started, the orders took off. "They have a clock and watching it is like watching the stock market," Lord said. "You can see the wave of orders coming in."
Typically when superstar artists have events on the Home Shopping Network or QVC, successful shows can generate pre-orders of 5,000 units to 25,000 units, with the high-water mark being set by Susan Boyle's appearance on QVC to support the release of "I Dreamed a Dream," which generated upwards of 80,000 units at that time. Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow, Donny & Marie Osmond, Susan Boyle and Tony Bennett have all reaped increased sales thanks to appearances on either HSN or rival shopping channel QVC.
With the slightly more than 20,000 in pre-orders, industry prognasticators suggest that Richie's album, which hit stores today, will generate about 75,000-100,000 for the week ending March 25.
Richie's HSN appearance originally began as simply a concert. Then channel executives recalled the success of past shows by Stewart, Bennett, Randy Travis and Natalie Cole, and decided to fashion an ongoing series around the performance. As a result, Richie's concert kicked off HSN Live, featuring exclusive live performances at least once each quarter, if not more often, according to HSN executive VP of TV/executive creative director Andy Sheldon. "Part of our strategy is to create an entertainment lifestyle network that has commerce as part of it," he says.
While the networks have attempted to reach teenage buyers, those efforts rarely yield enough increased sales to justify the additional advertising costs targeting those demos. When the appropriate artists target the channels' older demos, however, the special programming can deliver incremental sales that otherwise might not be achieved. For example, when Donny & Marie Osmond appeared for a half-hour on QVC in April 2011, their "Donny & Marie" album sold nearly 11,000 units, according to SoundScan.
The industry will get other chances to test the selling power of QVC vs. HSN. While HSN featured Richie on Friday, tonight QVC will broadcast Wilson Phillips previewing songs from its new "Dedicated" album. The release features songs made famous by three of the trio's parents, who were members of '60s hitmakers the Mamas & the Papas and the Beach Boys. Two months later, the Beach Boys will reunite for their 50th-anniversary celebration with a live performance at QVC's studios on May 16, while simultaneously promoting a career-spanning boxed set on the channel, according to QVC PR manager Denise Kovalevich.