LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Holiday spending at the close of 1991 meant money in the bank for folks like Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Nirvana. With the holidays over, Grammy givers now have a chance to keep the spurt alive.

Despite the recession, consumers didn't completely foresake the record stores during the holidays and even managed to cause a modest increase in sales compared to a year ago although they were cautious, one industry survey showed.

The impact of the year-end sales increase on the industry's total performance for 1991 remained unclear, however. The mid-year report from the Recording Industry Association of America found that as of June music shipments were down 11 percent from the previous year. RIAA spokesman Tim Sites in Washington, D.C., said final figures were still about a month away.

''I think if I were to guess, for the total year, units might be up 1 or 2 percent and dollar volume 7 or 8 percent,'' said Jay Berman, president of the RIAA. ''Considering the recession, it's a pretty good performance.''

The Christmas upswing was good news for Grammy Award contenders who can get a second wind for records that have been on shelves awhile - if they score a top honor such as album or record of the year or best new artist.

Likely nominees for the 34th annual Grammy Awards include Brooks and his ''Ropin' the Wind'' album and Natalie Cole and ''Unforgettable.'' ''Time, Love and Tenderness'' was sure to make Michael Bolton a contender, along with Georgia's R.E.M. with its ''Out of Time.''

Bryan Adams, Metallica, Mariah Cary, C and C Music Factory, Guns N' Roses, Color Me Badd, Hammer, and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince also were expected to receive Grammy bids.

Nominations, to be announced Wednesday in New York, will not include Jackson's ''Dangerous'' album or U2's latest, ''Achtung Baby,'' because the cutoff for qualifying releases was Sept. 30.

Holiday business was up 3.7 percent over last year, according to the ninth annual retailer survey by Macey Lipman Marketing, a Los Angeles-based independent music industry marketing company.

The MLM survey polls 200 retailers nationwide at year's end. Those polled range from headquarters of retail chains to the mom-and-pop stores.

Asked if holiday business was up, down or the same as a year ago, 60 percent of respondents said business was up, 24 percent said it was down and 16 percent said it was the same.

Fifty-seven percent said purchases by credit card were up; 13 percent said they were down and 30 percent were the same as the 1990 holiday period.

However, the survey found that unlike years past, people buying big names like Nirvana, Jackson and U2 were less likely to also pick up another recording on impulse before heading to the cash register.

Forty-three percent reported multiple purchases were up, 27 percent said they were down and 30 percent said they were the same.

Eighty-five percent reported a noticeable change in the categories of music sold in the past year, and country was the most frequently mentioned category, followed by alternative and pop.

Respondents had to list more than the hugely popular Brooks alone to qualify for an increase in the country category, the survey said.

Industry-charting Billboard Magazine said Bryan Adams' ''(Everything I Do) I Do It For You'' was 1991's best single seller, followed by Color Me Badd's ''I Wanna Sex You Up'' and C and C Music Factory's ''Gonna Make You Sweat.''

Mariah Carey's ''Mariah Carey'' was the year's top album, followed by Brooks' ''No Fences,'' and The Black Crowes' ''Shake Your Money Maker,'' according to Billboard's year-end charts, issued in early December.

In Billboard's week-to-week charts, Jackson's ''Dangerous'' closed out 1991 at No. 1 on the hot singles chart with ''Black or White.''

Surprise newcomers Nirvana led the album charts with ''Nevermind,'' followed by Brooks' ''Ropin' the Wind,'' Hammer's ''Too Legit To Quit,'' U2's ''Achtung Baby,'' and Jackson's ''Dangerous.''