Got Charts? Expect ‘O Brother’ Sales Boost After Unexpected Win

Album of the Year winner traditionally flies off store shelves after Grammys.

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In this week’s chart and sales analysis, we take a post-Grammy gander at the Album of the Year victory by the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. We’ll also review what such a Grammy win means in terms of boosting a record’s sales in the weeks following the hallowed awards show.

‘O Brother,’ A Grammy Shocker?

Aside from Alicia Keys’ impressive Grammy showing, undoubtedly the biggest surprise from this year’s awards show came when the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack was named Album of the Year.

In winning the award, the roots and bluegrass compilation from the Coen Brothers’ cinematic retelling of the Odyssey became just the third soundtrack to win Album of the Year, joining the ’70s disco sounds of “Saturday Night Fever” and, more recently, “The Bodyguard” soundtrack featuring Whitney Houston and her show-stopping rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”

Heading into the Grammys, most oddsmakers felt that U2′s All That You Can’t Leave Behind and Outkast’s Stankonia were the heavy favorites to take Album of the Year honors, with a few hinting that Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft might be the sentimental or “mature” choice of Recording Academy voters. In truth, we felt much the same.

When Got Charts? first sized-up the contest for Album of the Year back in early January (see “Got Charts? Making Grammy Predictions, Counting Crowes” ), it was easy to see why Outkast and U2 were the favorites. At that time, the Atlanta rap duo’s Stankonia led the nominees sales-wise with 3.79 million copies sold — 240,000 more than the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack and 490,000 more than All That You Can’t Leave Behind.

Even though U2 trailed “O Brother,” the Irish rockers were perceived to have a slight edge, as it seemed unlikely that the Recording Academy would make the soundtrack the second “country” LP to win Album of the Year. Glen Campbell’s By the Time I Get to Phoenix won Album of the Year in 1968, but it was more of a country-pop crossover record than a true, dried-in-the-mud country disc.

U2 seemed an even safer bet following the group’s emotional, spine-tingling set at Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. After the performance, it seemed as though the Grammys would again be a “Beautiful Day” for U2. But that would be forgetting the SoundScan numbers. And the numbers never lie.

By the time the Grammys were handed out in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack had pulled ahead of the four other nominees, sales- and chart-wise. According to the latest SoundScan figures, “O Brother” has sold nearly 4 million copies to date and is holding strong on the Billboard 200 albums chart at #15. Those numbers were good enough to leapfrog past Stankonia, which has sold 3.81 million copies but is no longer charting on the Billboard 200.

Despite the Super Bowl bump that elevated All That You Can’t Leave Behind back into the top 30, U2 have not been able to keep pace with “O Brother,” mustering only 3.52 million in total sales. The other two nominees, India.Arie’s Acoustic Soul and Dylan’s Love and Theft, both lag far behind in terms of sales, with Arie at 1.16 million (#32 on the Billboard 200) and Dylan at 619,000 (#175).

Of course, it seems unlikely that Grammy voters could have known that the “O Brother” soundtrack would end up being the biggest-selling LP of those nominated for Album of the Year when they cast their ballots, but ya never know. Whether it was just a product of good timing or a happy coincidence, the SoundScan totals prove that the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack winning Album of the Year was certainly no fluke.

Following The Post-Grammy Bounce

Regardless of its unlikely Grammy outcome, there’s one thing for certain: the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack will get a sizable sales boost in the following weeks because of its big win. As past years have consistently shown, music fans tend to rush out and pick up a copy of whatever wins Album of the Year immediately following the Grammy ceremony.

Last year, Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature had been off the Billboard 200 for six months when it was named Album of the Year. The week after the Grammys, it shot back up to #54 with 31,000 copies sold, a tenfold increase over the previous week. The win provided the LP with another two-month chart run and has helped the record reach the million mark in sales.

Dylan also received a nice chart boost when Time Out of Mind won Album of the Year in 1998, shooting from #122 to #27 after the Grammys. Dylan’s rebound would be short-lived, though — Time Out of Mind slid off the Billboard 200 just a few weeks later. With more than 875,000 copies sold to date, Time Out of Mind remains the master singer/songwriter’s best-selling LP of the last decade.

When The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill won Album of the Year in 1999, Hill got caught in a rather unusual chart anomaly — her record sales increased significantly following the victory, but she actually got bumped down the chart. The week of the 1999 Grammys, Miseducation was the #2 record in the country (behind Britney Spears’ … Baby One More Time) on sales of 122,000 copies.

After winning Album of the Year (and several other Grammys), Miseducation‘s weekly sales almost doubled to 234,000 copies — but the record dipped to #3. The reason for Hill’s unlikely one-step forward, two-steps back? The #1 and #2 debuts of TLC’s Fanmail (which sold 318,000 copies) and Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP (283,000 copies). Hill would regain her #2 footing the following week by selling another 200,000 copies, and the album has since gone on to rack up more than 6 million in sales.

The biggest post-Grammy sales bounce in recent memory belongs to Latin guitarist Santana and his career-defining Supernatural. The record was already #1 with sales in excess of 219,000 copies a week when it cast a spell over Grammy voters and won Album of the Year two years ago. In the week after its win, Supernatural enchanted 583,000 record buyers and held onto the #1 spot, a chart-topping streak that Santana would continue for the next three weeks, during which the disc would sell more than a million copies. The LP has since gone on to sell more than 10.98 million copies and stands as the sixth-best-selling album of the SoundScan era, nestled in between “The Bodyguard” soundtrack (11.69 million sold) and ‘NSYNC’s No Strings Attached (10.92 million).

So, if the recent Album of the Year winners are any indication, look for the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack to roughly double in sales — a move that could send the album into the top five of next week’s Billboard 200.

Aside from the “O Brother” soundtrack, another album that should get a hefty post-Grammy sales boost is Keys’ Songs in A Minor, currently at #20. Even though Keys’ album has already sold more than 4.59 million copies, the singer’s five Grammy wins could spur interest in Keys’ accomplished debut from newer fans.

Of course, a lot depends on Alanis Morissette and her new record, Under Rug Swept, as we think it would take a Harry Potter-sized broom to keep her “swept out” of the #1 spot on next week’s albums chart. Just thought that you oughta know.

[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan's audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]

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