Super Bowl vs. Grammys: Analyzing Their Sales Impact on Artists

Bruno Mars Super Bowl Performance 1 - H 2014
AP Images

Bruno Mars Super Bowl Performance 1 - H 2014

The Super Bowl draws millions of viewers annually, but the event is a hit or miss in sales for halftime performers.

Even though record label executives tend to choose the Super Bowl halftime show as the most powerful marketing tool in Billboard's annual Maximum Exposure issue, the event can be hit or miss in driving sales for the artist who perform there.

This year, Katy Perry has the honor of having all eyes on her, as she is expected to sing some of her big hit songs, with a little help from Lenny Kravitz along the way.

A look back at sales reveals that some artists have benefited from the Super Bowl halftime event, like last year's performer Bruno Mars. But Beyonce's performance in the 2012 Super Bowl didn't yield as much in sales.

Nowadays, another big factor must also be taken into consideration: how many fans will go to YouTube or Spotify and stream Perry's songs, all of which will generate revenue somewhere down the line -- instead of buying CDs or downloads.

Because Christmas is right before the Super Bowl and the Grammys is right after, it's sometimes hard to determine how much of a sales bump the Super Bowl itself is responsible for. Also, sometimes there are other drivers going on the same time as the Super Bowl, whether that be a tour, a hit song on the radio, or some other television appearance that could be driving sales as well.
Given all of that, Mars' album Unorthodox Jukebox received quite a big bump after last year's Super Bowl, more than the show historically has delivered for performers. But that may have been because this was the first high-profile appearance for the artist, reaching those beyond music fans into the mainstream consumer, which is what executives hope for from high-profile events.

Between Christmas and the Grammy's, Unorthodox Jukebox had generated between 9,000 and 11,000 units in the two-week lull for the ones ending Jan. 12 and Jan. 19. But then sales started to accelerate in the week before and week of the Super Bowl. They went up to 15,000 the week before and up to 42,000 in the week ending on Super Bowl Sunday. Then sales really took off in the week right after the Feb. 2, 2014 Super Bowl, when the album hit 81,000 units -- it kept performing well for many weeks, tallying about an incremental 300,000 units in all before sliding back down to under the 10,000-units-a-week mark for the week ending March 30, 2014.

Mars' first album, Doo-Wop and Hooligans, also received a decent sales bump. The set went from around 4,000 units a week it had been averaging in January 2014, up to 16,000, 26,000 and 13,000 in the three weeks from Jan. 27 through Feb. 17, before sliding back downwards.

Mars played or quoted six of his songs during the 2014 Super Bowl and they all received a little sales bump in track downloads. "Locked Out of Heaven" performed the best. Its sales ranged from 10,000 to 19,000 units in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl performance, then growing to 49,000 and 64,000 on the week ending the day of the show and the week following the show. In total, that song might have received an incremental 150,000 units, thanks to the Super Bowl and whatever else he had driving sales during that period, although he doesn't appear to have performed on the Grammy show that year.

In the prior year, Beyonce and Destiny's Child didn't fare as well in the sales department after their Super Bowl performance. Although to be sure, they too outperformed many a prior Super Bowl half-time performers. Going into Christmas 2012, Beyonce's 4 album appears to have had the biggest sales gain. Looking at the sales patterns before and after the Super Bowl, Billboard estimates that album picked up an incremental 20,000 units, with sales ranging from 4,000 units to above 7,000 units for about five weeks, after averaging about 1,500 copies in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

Between sales gains for her I Am… Sasha Fierce and Dangerously in Love albums, Beyonce might have picked up an incremental 10,000 album sales units. But how much did her winning the Grammy for best traditional R&B performance have an impact on sales in the week subsequent to that show on Feb. 10?

Meanwhile, Destiny's Child's four platinum albums combined might have picked up an incremental 15,000 units. That's pretty good for albums that were all generating scans of under 1,000 units a week to three of them going above 1,000 units for three or four weeks.

Song-wise, none of the Beyonce tracks saw much in the way of sales gains. Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious" received a pick-up of about 14,000 units in the week their appearance at the Super Bowl was announced, but nothing much from the show itself or its aftermath.

Going further back to the Rolling Stones' Super Bowl performance in 2006 when digital downloads were still near their infancy, "Start Me Up" saw scans jump from an average of about 2,000 units to nearly 5,000 units the week after the show, but no sales pick-up on the other two songs. The band's albums hardly saw any sales pick-up at all, combined maybe a few thousand incremental scans.

Going into the Super Bowl, industry prognosticators expect Perry to enjoy a sales pick-up somewhere between what Mars experienced and how Beyonce did.

But to reiterate, the Super Bowl never had the sales impact that the Grammys can have on an artist's career. For example, Adele's 21 album had scanned 6.6 million units going into Grammys, and in the two weeks leading up to the show her sales jumped from 122,000 units to 237,000 but exploded to 730,000 in the week after the Feb. 12, 2012, ceremony. Likewise, Norah Jones' Come Away With Me hit 621,000 units in the week after the 2003 Grammys.

But that's when sales were, well, sales. Nowadays, the game is changing, but will streams be able to generate  as much revenue in the short-term as the Grammys or the Super Bowl once did? Or will big other revenue surges begin to disappear, just like the Christmas holiday selling season is expected to when streaming completely takes over the industry's digital model? We may know the answer to that question after we see how Perry's music performs in terms of sales scans and stream detection, during this year's Super Bowl.

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