The proximity of the Grammy Awards show to the Super Bowl is a pertinent coincidence.
The comparison of audience sizes isn’t close. This year’s Super Bowl drew an average of almost 115 million viewers. The 2014 Grammy Awards drew 28.5 million viewers, peaking at nearly 31 million halfway through its three-hour show, the second-largest audience since 1993.
But in a popular culture that has split into niches and pigeonholes, the Grammy show, like the Super Bowl, is the rare event that attracts a large audience and prompts a widespread reaction, instant Twitter-fication and next day analysis.
And the attraction isn’t about who wins and who doesn’t. Unlike the Academy Awards, which draw plenty of predictions and often heated reactions, there’s not much debate over the Grammys, about whether Beck, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams or Sam Smith deserves album of the year. Or whether Smith, who has the most nominations this year (six) should be crowned best new artist.
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Who can immediately remember who won those awards last year? (Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” won album of the year; Lorde’s “Royals” won song of the year; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were best new artist.)
It’s all about the performers. The Grammy producers figured out years ago that people tune in to watch their favorite stars perform live, hoping for something spectacular, such as Pink’s aerial performance in 2010; something controversial, such as Eminem’s duet with Elton John in 2001; or something disastrous, such as Taylor Swift’s performance with Stevie Nicks in 2010.
Producers of this year’s award show, which airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS and CBS.com, have enlisted almost three dozen performers and scheduled more than 18 performances, assuring that the show will be more about live performances than distribution of trophies.
A late addition to that list is Katy Perry, fresh off her performance at the Super Bowl halftime show, which drew 118.5 million viewers by itself, a record for a halftime show. It outdrew even the game itself, which drew 115.3 million, a Super Bowl record.
The Grammys were once dismissed as an exercise in rewarding artists and bands for record sales. But these days, sales of recordings have dropped precipitously. Only two albums cracked the 1 million mark in 2014: the “Frozen” soundtrack (3.5 million) and Taylor Swift’s “1989” (3.6 million).
Nielsen Music, which tracks sales of albums and singles and streaming of music, has reconfigured the way it compiles those numbers, using processes that combine sales of physical and digital albums and streamed music.
These days, performers have to consider all means of promoting their music and racking up bigger sales. Getting on TV in front of a large audience is one way.
After Perry’s Super Bowl performance, sales of her music jumped 99 percent. Sales of songs by Missy Elliott, who joined Perry for a short medley of Elliott’s hits, jumped 996 percent. Even Lenny Kravitz, who performed briefly with Perry, got a Super Bowl bump: Sales of his music jumped 102 percent.
After last year’s Grammy show, Rolling Stone magazine reported that Daft Punk’s Spotify streams rose more than 200 percent, the single “Get Lucky” (which won record of the year) jumped to Shazam’s Top 5 list of tracks purchased and sales of “Random Access Memories” jumped from No. 51 to No. 3 on Amazon’s list of best-selling MP3’s.
Billboard reported that 13 albums in the top 40 of its Billboard 200 chart experienced a significant surge in sales thanks to the Grammy show.
Producers have once again scheduled an array of collaborations, some of which have a natural symmetry: Common with John Legend; Dwight Yoakam with Brandy Clark; Adam Levine with Gwen Stefani.
Others are more novel and intriguing: Herbie Hancock, John Mayer and Questlove with Ed Sheeran; Rihanna with Paul McCartney and Kanye West; Hozier with Annie Lennox; Electric Light Orchestra with Sheeran and Sia.
In between all those performances, host LL Cool J and his presenters will hand out some trophies, and the winners will bestow respect on their fellow nominees and thank their producers and loved ones.
But the most thankful will be those who get a chance to show off their talents to a large audience and get a spike in sales in return.
The 57th annual Grammy Awards show will be broadcast on CBS and streamed on CBS.com at 7 p.m. from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
A list of scheduled performers at Sunday Grammy Awards show:
▪ Tony Bennett with Lady Gaga
▪ Eric Church
▪ Common with John Legend
▪ Ariana Grande
▪ Hozier with Annie Lennox
▪ Jesse J with Tom Jones
▪ Miranda Lambert
▪ Katy Perry
▪ Adam Levine with Gwen Stefani
▪ Rihanna with Paul McCartney and Kanye West
▪ Pharrell Williams
▪ Beck with Chris Martin
▪ Mary J. Blige with Sam Smith
▪ Dwight Yoakam with Brandy Clark
▪ Herbie Hancock, John Mayer and Questlove with Ed Sheeran
▪ Electric Light Orchestra with Ed Sheeran and Sia