A New Kind of Star: Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber.  If you have never heard of him then you are obviously not a tween and not spending a lot of time with tweens or teenagers.

Justin Bieber is the current pop sensation of the “fans scream hystercially at the mention of his name” kind. In the same vein as Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson, he is causing pubescent females the world over to spontaneously riot on a wave of hormone induced, starry eyed, love struck fantasies.

When I say riot I am not exaggerating. People the world over have been endangered by Tsunami’s of training bras and braces surging dangerously out of control in Bieber’s wake. This doe eyed Canadian teenager has had shopping centre appearances in America, and a concert in Australia, canceled due to stampeding fans putting people in hospital.  These marauding hoards of traumatised teens even trampled Bieber’s own mother while trying to lay a hand on their object of desire in New Zealand.

So if you haven’t heard of him you soon will – either for his music or his ability to generate popular uprisings in established democracies.  If you can’t wait to find out via the grapevine check out the page at Wikipedia for the hysteria-free story so far, or for the genuine Bieber experience try his fan site on facebook and go from there.

For those who can’t summon up the care factor to do any of the above Justin Bieber is a 16 old singer who was discovered after his mother posted videos of him singing on Youtube when he was 13. A canny music agent signed him and introduced him to an established grown up pop star, Usher. Two years later his first album debuted at number one, went platinum within months and is the first album ever to produce 7 singles that have made it into the Billboard top 100. Ever since he has been ticking off the usual rocket to stardom checklist with appearances on Oprah, Amercian Idol, Saturday Night Live, the front cover of People magazine, and a special performance for the president of the United Sates at the Whitehouse.

But this is not what makes Bieber interesting (unless you have pigtails and acne).

What makes him interesting is that he is probably the first superstar of the digital revolution and the social media network.  This is not only because of how he came to fame, but the way his star is continuing to burn.

Bieber was plucked from the new global buskers alley – Youtube.

He cultivated his fans by releasing new videos on Youtube – to the point that millions had downloaded his videos before his album was released

He continues to connect with fans via Facebook and Twitter.  He has 4.2 million fans on Facebook and 2.5 million followers on Twitter.

This is a new type of stardom generated by the incredible feedback loop made possible by the internet, social network technologies, and a globalised 24 hour news cycle. Every fan is a mini promoter feeding into the global promotion network that in turn continues to feed exponentially on its growing fan base.

Love him or have overwhelming ambivalence towards him, Justin Bieber is likely to be a star that burns for some time longer.  No matter how extensive his career, his name will be associated for years to come with being the first digital mega star whose rise to stardom and trajectory was channeled primarily via the technologies and networks of the digital age.  In this way he is a trailblazer, maybe not musically, but as a social technology superstar he is pioneering the way through the ups and downs of networked fame.

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