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Grammys Help Boost Touring Acts
February 06, 2009
By Mitchell Peters, L.A.
A recent study by Billboard parent the Nielsen Co. has proven that Grammy nominations, wins and television performances can help boost album and digital sales (Billboard, Feb. 7). But can recognition by the Recording Academy have the same impact on an act's touring career? Some industry observers believe so and have witnessed it firsthand.
Most booking agents, concert promoters and managers agree that it's difficult to gauge what direct impact the Grammy Awards has on concert ticket sales. But they all agree that exposure from the show gives an artist significant visibility in the marketplace, which can potentially lead to better support slots on tours, larger crowds and higher performance fees.
"It's just another tool for awareness to the public of what the artist is worth," Live Nation San Francisco VP of booking Michael Bailey says. "If you can say that an artist has won a Grammy it adds certain credibility to the whole thing."
The 51st Annual Grammy Awards will be held Feb. 8, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles and again broadcast on CBS. Rapper Lil Wayne leads the nominations with eight, including album of the year and best rap album for "Tha Carter III." Other leading artists are Coldplay, who earned seven nominations, and Jay-Z, Ne-Yo and Kanye West, who each scored six.
This year's Grammys will feature performances by Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, M.I.A., Smokey Robinson, Robin Thicke, Allen Toussaint, Terence Blanchard, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, Estelle and Kanye West, Adele, Chris Brown, Sugarland, U2, Kid Rock, Rihanna, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, Jennifer Hudson, Jonas Brothers, Lil Wayne, Paul McCartney (with Dave Grohl on drums), Katy Perry, Radiohead, T.I. and Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood, and the quartet of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, T.I. and Kanye West.
Kirk Sommer, a booking agent at the William Morris Agency, represents British singer Adele, who is nominated for four Grammy Awards, including best new artist and record of the year. He says that the weeks leading up to the Grammy Awards are the most significant for an artist, especially if the act has upcoming concert dates.
"What happens on the heels of the Grammys is where you really feel it," says the agent, who also books five-time Grammy winner Amy Winehouse. "It certainly comes into focus this week, when everybody stars writing about the Grammys."
Adele has U.S. theater and ballroom dates booked in March, and is also confirmed to perform at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on June 28, according to Sommer. "My march dates are almost sold out," he says.
Country singer Jamey Johnson is up for three Grammy Awards (best country album, best male country vocal performance, best country song) this year for his album "That Lonesome Song," which debuted at No. 28 on The Billboard 200 last August and has sold 274,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
In the weeks following the 2009 Grammy nominations last December, Johnson sold out approximately 15 club dates across the United States, according to his day-to-day manager Emilie Marchbanks. She says a number of factors led to the sellouts, but doesn't doubt the nominations played a big role.
"I don't know if it's coincidence or a factor of the Grammys, but the nominations came out [Dec. 4] and since then we've sold out every show in January and it looks like February is right on target to sell out again," Marchbanks says. "It definitely doesn't hurt anything."
Bailey, who books the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco, has observed how the Grammy Awards can impact concert on sales. "It helps when you do an on sale with a show right after a Grammy Awards that someone has performed on," he says. "When you put a show on sale the day or a week after, people say, 'Ah, I just saw that person, so that will help me buy tickets.'"
AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips agrees, pointing to Prince's performance with Beyonce on the 2004 Grammy Awards. He says the appearance contributed to the Purple One "blowing up 88 arena shows" that followed the awards show.
"I don't think a Grammy will affect a tour unless the artist performs," Phillips notes. "Just getting a Grammy doesn't motivate people to buy tickets for a show."
Others in the live business disagree. Nederlander Concerts COO Alex Hodges says that a tour following Santana's eight wins at the 42nd Grammy Awards in 1999 "doubled his [ticket] sales" in many cities. "[The Grammy wins were] the only thing identifiable that changed at the moment," he says, noting that Santana has always been a consistent seller at the box office.
Hodges notes that Grammy performances and wins can also help touring acts demand higher performance guarantees. "You may already have an offer out and they say, 'We want more money now,'" he says. Marchbanks doesn't rule out that a Grammy win could potentially boost Johnson's guarantees.
"Jamey's live show is incredible and that helps, but anytime you can say that he's won a Grammy it would make a difference in guarantees and ticket sales," the manager says.
In that same vein, exposure from the Grammy Awards can potentially move artists into larger sized venues. "For new artists, it might take them out of clubs and into theaters or co-headlining larger venues," Hodges says. "It's hard to put a specific to it, but it's a real boost."