LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Many artists dream of “packing out stadiums or selling a bazillion records,” says Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group. But to Reid there’s a more important achievement. “I still hold the Grammys as the highest honor an artist can win.”
On Sunday, Coldplay, Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss and Radiohead will vie for the album of the year prize at the 51st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
As in years past, Grammy nominations can help boost artist awareness and album sales. Last year, in the days following his nomination for album of the year, Herbie Hancock’s Joni Mitchell tribute “River: The Joni Letters” experienced an 80% sales increase. A week after its surprise win, “River” exploded 967% to 54,000 copies sold. It peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, the jazz legend’s best sales week since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991.
Similarly, in the week following Plant & Krauss’ nomination for “Raising Sand,” the Rounder release -- which also garnered nods in four other categories -- had an 88% boost in sales. The duo’s first collaborative album has now sold more than 1.1 million copies in the United States, according to SoundScan.
Rounder GM Sheri Sands doesn’t expect the sales to stop there. “I anticipate when they win that we will see somewhere in the neighborhood of a 1,000% increase,” Sands says. Last year Plant & Krauss received a best pop collaboration with vocals Grammy for the track “Gone Gone Gone.”
Nick Gatfield, EMI Music president of A&R for the United Kingdom and North America, says Coldplay’s nod for “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends” (Capitol) could help expose additional material on the album. Its biggest-selling track, “Viva La Vida,” has sold 2.7 million downloads, according to SoundScan.
“Sometimes when you have a song that big, it’s very hard for the other material to push on through,” Gatfield says. “This will give an opportunity to get more in-depth into the album and hear beyond just ‘Viva La Vida’ about how great this record is.”
Coldplay’s set debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and was the second-best seller of 2008, behind Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III,” with 2.1 million copies. With seven nominations, Coldplay is also up for record of the year and best rock album. “What Coldplay have always delivered is songs that touch people in many territories, lyrically and musically,” Parlophone president of A&R labels Miles Leonard says.
Then there’s Lil Wayne, who leads the field with eight nominations stemming from “Tha Carter III,” which is at 2.8 million to date. The set sold slightly more than 1 million units in its first week of release last June.
“Not too many people get a chance to do it like that,” Cash Money president/CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams says. “I always said that we would do million-plus records, and people would look at me like I was crazy.”
Meanwhile, Ne-Yo’s album of the year nomination for “Year of the Gentleman” will come in handy for future promotional efforts, according to Reid, but Def Jam is more focused on getting the slick-dressing R&B artist a performance slot on the awards show.
“That would be more important to me, because his fans draw from the emotional connection, and that’s the driver that really sends people to the stores,” Reid says. “Year of the Gentleman,” which has sold 731,000 copies, is also up for best contemporary R&B album.
TBD Records co-founder Phil Costello says label staffers were “picking up ourselves off the floor” after discovering that Radiohead’s critically acclaimed “In Rainbows” had been nominated for album of the year. The British rock outfit astonished the music industry in October 2007 after announcing that it would allow fans to name their own price for the digital purchase of the set.
“I was afraid people would look at it as an old record, even though we didn’t street it until January 1, 2008,” Costello says. “I was also wondering how the Recording Academy would view the way that the band delivered it, frankly.” The physical release of “In Rainbows” has sold 654,000 U.S. copies.