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  • “You can’t compete with Disney and Nickelodeon”

    When Justin Bieber’s My World Acoustic was released exclusively through Walmart, it was one of many landmarks in his supersonic career that has taken him from webcam sensation on YouTube to one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.

    It wasn’t easy though. In spite of a heavyweight co-signer in Usher, the record labels were reluctant to sign an artist without a major platform. In a recent interview with Billboard, Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun explains how the labels told him that Bieber had no way of breaking out through YouTube alone. The common knowledge was that you can’t compete with Disney and Nickelodeon.

    In a lot of ways Justin Bieber is a pre-cursor of where we all are heading. Justin Bieber got his break on YouTube, and currently holds the #1 spot on the platform with  400 million views of the music video for Baby. More important than a marquee clip of Baby caliber though, is Bieber’s constant interaction with his fans through lo-fi video messages and tweets.

    On a slightly smaller scale the two latest hip hop franchises, Drake and Nicki Minaj, also got their breaks with very little major label backup. Drake’s Best I Ever Had, off his selfreleased mixtape So Far Gone, was an international hit last year. He was the grand prize in a bidding war where Sylvia Rhone and Universal eventually had to back up a very big money truck in order to secure a deal, and he found himself nominated for music awards before he even had an official release out.

    Nicki Minaj was featured on pretty much every single remix released for almost a year leading up to her album release. She surpassed 1 million Twitter followers months before her album Pink Friday scored the highest first week sales for a female rapper since Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of… in 1998.

    So do we need to rethink what it takes to break a new franchise artist? What part should the record labels play and is there room for brands to associate with these artists BEFORE they become mainstream? Could Walmart have been an integral part of the Justin Bieber saga in 2008 instead of acting as a mere distribution channel in 2010? If brands are to be a relevant part of music and culture in the future, perhaps they need to step up to the plate and enter the game at an earlier stage?

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