Grammys 2013: Will there be a breakout sales act?

Frank Ocean performed his "Forrest Gump" on the Grammy telecast, and the song does not appear to be selling well at digital retailers.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Grammys gave out awards in 81 categories Sunday, but it may be a full week or two until we know who some of the real winners were. The performance-heavy telecast is largely just one 3½-hour concert, and if past Grammy Awards are any indication, it can lead to major sales victories for those who appear.

Last year, for instance, after Adele’s “21" was named album of the year, she managed to earn the biggest sales week of her career, as the album sold 730,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. That number is especially impressive because “21" had already been available for a year at the time of the 2012 Grammy Awards.


U.S. sales that are tracked by Nielsen SoundScan are tabulated through Sunday evening and released every Wednesday. That means it won’t be until the Feb. 20 charts that the Grammy effect becomes evident, but some early trends are emerging if one looks at the sales charts of online retailers such as Amazon and iTunes.

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Already, Fun.'s “Some Nights” led the iTunes chart the morning after the Grammys, and the album was at No. 2 on Amazon. The album, at No. 25 on the U.S. pop chart heading into the Grammys, will easily break the million-sales barrier in the coming days, as it currently sits at 992,000 copies sold.

While iTunes is the world’s largest music retailer, Amazon will also play a big role in influencing the charts over the coming week. The retailer is selling Grammy titles such as “Some Nights,” the Lumineers’ self-titled debut and the Black Keys’ “El Camino” for $3.99 or less.


In terms of what song is looking to see the biggest sales jump, iTunes and Amazon purchasers seem unanimous in gravitating toward the Lumineers’ feel-good sing-along “Ho Hey.” The single was the leading song at both outlets early Monday. Already, the song has sold more than 3.5 million downloads and 118,000 tracks the week heading into the Grammy Awards.

Also look for a big sales spike for Rihanna’s “Stay.” The song is in the top 10 at iTunes and has been steadily rising today at Amazon, where it jumped into the top 100 for the first time. The single could use the boost, as thus far it has sold only 96,000 copies and was at No. 117 on the digital tracks chart in the week before the Grammys.


The Grammys may also help excitable pop act Fun. shed its “one-hit-wonder” status. The band performed its “Carry On” at the Grammys, and the track was at No. 6 on iTunes early Monday and in the top 20 on Amazon. Thus far, the song has sold 307,000 downloads.

Yet the Grammys may not have a life-changing effect on risk-taking R&B; star Frank Ocean. The artist performed his atmospheric, keyboard-drenched “Forrest Gump” on the telecast, and the song was nowhere to be found on the top 100 of either Amazon or iTunes. Meanwhile, his album of the year-nominated “Channel Orange” has failed to move into the top 10 on iTunes, but buoyed by a $4.99 sale price on Amazon was moving up the latter’s charts.


Adele’s “21" was the largest-ever post-Grammy sales bump. Previously, the record was held by Norah Jones, whose “Come Away With Me” sold 621,000 copies the week after she won five Grammys at the 2003 telecast. How much of an effect were the Grammys on those numbers? Jones’ “Come Away With Me” sold 144,000 copies in the week prior to the Grammys.

One doesn’t have to look much further than this year’s album of the year winner Mumford & Sons to see that the Grammys do have career-altering power. While the act was a slow-building success story long before it appeared on the Grammys as Bob Dylan‘s backing band in 2011, that awards-show moment catapulted the group to grander, mainstream heights.


Keyboardist Ben Lovett earlier singled out that performance as a pivotal moment for the group. “I think it introduced us to people who watch [awards] shows the way we grew up watching music on TV,” he said. “It makes sense that it would widen our audience. But we weren’t thinking about that at the time.” In the first full sales week following the 2011 Grammys, Mumford & Sons’ debut album, “Sigh No More,” experienced its best-ever sales week on the chart.

In 2011, album of the year winner Taylor Swift experienced a 58% sales jump for her “Fearless,” while performer Pink saw a massive 235% increase for her “Funhouse.” In the four years leading up to 2009, SoundScan reported that week-over-week post-Grammy sales increases grew from 10% to 17%.



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