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NEAR TRUTHS: GRAMMY NUMBERS

WHEN’S MATLOCK ON?: The verdict on the Grammys telecast—from bizniks and critics alike—has been nearly unanimous: It was the best show in years. Music’s Biggest Night worked so well in part because Ben Winston and team (including Jesse Collins, Raj Kapoor and Fatima Robinson) booked the top available stars, playing to a younger audience. This may have limited its ratings on upper-demo net CBS, but it was absolutely the right call for a contemporary music show. Would the key 18-35 audience have tuned in to see Sir Paul, Sir Elton, Bruce, Cher and Dolly once again? Trotting out these senior stars may have been appealing to the network’s customary viewership, but let’s be honest: They exist outside the new ecosystem of pop culture. The show’s lineup—led by Harry Styles, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Cardi B, DaBaby, Lil Baby and Dua Lipa—represents the essence of today’s business, and their millions of fans simply don’t consume media via broadcast TV or iTunes anymore. Those metrics exemplify old-school thinking, so much so that Nielsen will end up fighting for relevancy in the near future.

Downloads and physical retail represent a small fraction of the marketplace now. The business is about 80% streaming, and that number will only increase. Therefore, it’s hard to measure the halo effect of the show with traditional yardsticks. To the extent that performances move the needle, the effect will materialize most significantly in ticket sales and social-reach branding opportunities.

Meanwhile, if a newer, critically admired act that remained below the commercial radar had given a truly compelling performance that resonated in the larger arena of pop culture, they might’ve moved the needle by broadening their small-to-moderate base of rabid fans.

It was clear, though, that the top acts were deeply involved in the look and feel of their performances, which afforded the Grammys a musical heft and production value that seemed to align organically with each artist’s vision.

True, the kneecapping of The Weeknd by mysterious forces within the Academy—who were determined, for some reason, to keep him off the show—was a blow. But even this glaring absence couldn’t prevent Grammy 2021 from becoming the strongest telecast in recent memory.

TALE OF THE TAIL: The Grammys didn’t have a dramatic impact on marketplace activity, but for key stars there were some notable upticks in the four days immediately following the show. That pop generally led hip-hop in this short-term growth is perhaps unsurprising, given the broadcast’s largely white, upper-demo viewership.

As the charts below indicate, Pop Vocal Album winner Dua Lipa saw an appreciable boost for her Future Nostalgia, which moved up to a project peak of #3 on our Top 50 chart, and a lift for both songs she performed on the show. Billie Eilish’s album count ticked up as ROTY winner “everything i wanted” gained ground. Taylor Swift’s AOTY-winning folklore jumped up the chart to join her more recent evermore. Harry Styles gained in albums and saw a significant spike for “Watermelon Sugar.” BTS were hoist on their hit “Dynamite.” Miranda Lambert and Black Pumas raised their (admittedly modest) album numbers, the latter more than doubling their total.

The biggest boosts in streaming (by Harry, Dua, BTS and Billie) were in the neighborhood of 15-20%, suggesting that these already big records earned some new fans—perhaps some of the pandemic’s converts to subscription streaming and/or upper-demo viewers of the telecast who were newly discovering them. The larger increases are significant, and spikes at the playlist level can continue to spur growth for a long time, thanks to the format’s long tail.

The tendency of mainstream (i.e. young) music consumers to time-shift or view clips online puts the show’s ratings into greater perspective. What’s more, as the Top 10 viewed performances graphic shows, the key artists racked up a significant post-telecast viewership for their segments.

Drilling down into the social impact of the Grammys, meanwhile, shows the same group of acts reaping the greatest benefit. It also shines a light on how a performance, a win or both can spark greater visibility for an artist brand.

BTS earned a staggering 20.4m mentions on Twitter, but that was just a 28% increase from the previous week; the K-pop phenoms occupy a frenzied lane all their own. Other superstars, though their totals were smaller, saw big increases. Harry earned 1.1m mentions (more than a 100% lift). Billie, Beyoncé, Dua, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Lady Gaga and Doja Cat also saw significant tweet spikes. Dua and Taylor were big winners on the older-skewing Facebook with 1.74m and 1.5m mentions, respectively (+161% for Dua and nearly a 2,000% increase for Tay), while Harry racked up 640k mentions (nearly a 300% hike).

In Internet time, though, the Grammys are already ancient history. These artists and the custodians of their brands have all moved on to the next opportunity to stockpile fan love, spark engagement and command the field amid the relentless sturm und drang of the social sphere.


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