The American Country Awards, which aired December 5 on Fox, had plenty of outstanding musical moments. In addition to format superstars like Toby Keith, newer faces like Pistol Annies and Thompson Square also had the big platform to expose them to new audiences. Tracking the show’s effect on music sales isn’t clear-cut because the show aired the week after Black Friday and the opening of holiday shopping season.
According to Nielsen SoundScan data from the week ending Dec. 11, album sales were up nearly 16% across the board, likely due to increased holiday spending.
MusicRow spoke with one of ACA’s producers, industry vet Fletcher Foster, who says the show’s impact can be more directly felt with regard to individual tracks, rather than in albums. “I went specifically back to tracks people performed on the show to see if there was a correlation,” says Foster. “You saw the huge sales from Toby. From the tracks standpoint, everybody who performed did well.”
According to SoundScan, digital sales of ACA show closer (and Artist of the Decade) Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” were up 90% for a total of 96k units. Other performers also experienced increased digital track activity: Pistol Annies’ “Hell On Heels” was up 168% to more than 15k units, with very little radio support. Following Chris Young’s performance of “Voices,” the track had a 211% jump. Similarly, Thompson Square performed “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” on the telecast and it experienced a 140% sales increase despite it not being the current single.
One aspect in which the ACA show stands out from the rest is its commitment to giving new artists a chance to play. Last year The Band Perry had one of its first big performances on the show, right on the cusp of that group’s chart dominance. This year the group returned with a triumphant and memorable run through “All Your Life.”
“We wanted to be the show that can help break acts,” explains Foster. “Last year we had The Band Perry, and they’d just gotten a Grammy nomination the week before. This year Eli Young Band, Pistol Annies, some really cool acts, got opportunities they maybe wouldn’t get on other shows. As long as you can have those acts that really drive viewership [like Blake Shelton], then you can have some fun and really develop other acts too.”
It’s a trend the show’s producers plan to maintain, to hopefully serve as a bridge in the space between the CMA Awards and the Grammys. With the ACA ratings improved over last year’s inaugural show, network home Fox is pleased with the results and Foster feels optimistic about its future.
“We’ve found more of a balance to give people a really great platform to have their talent exposed,” says Foster. “We’ll look at it again next year, but Fox was really happy—not just with ratings—but the balance of awards and performers.”
And importantly, country music seems to have found an ally in Fox. Its presence can be felt through music heavy shows like American Idol, and the network may have access to a younger-skewing demographic still eager to seek and discover new music.
“It’s definitely a record-buying music-driven network,” remarks Foster. “They have brought music to the forefront and hopefully we can take advantage of that for country.”