NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Belieb it, Justin Bieber sells gobs of music, concert and movie tickets. The kid even moves perfume. But in this twisted digital age, the 130 pounds of supposedly pure 18-year-old gold is not so flaxen after all.
Bieber's finances are not mere idle speculation for me. I have locked intellectual horns with some fearsome opponents: two neighbor girls. They ♥ Bieber's flick, Never Say Never. They've have seen it 13 times. Each. They ♥ his music. They ♥ his clothes. In short, they ♥ him.
So when I mused aloud that even their beloved Bieber has it tough in these digital days, I was quickly banished to my -- utterly uncool -- side of the street. So what started as a glance at Bieber's business to restore my teenage street cred has turned into a fascinating deep dive into the finances of the digital content industry.
There is no better case study as to what it takes to make money in these troubled digital times.Elvis and Sinatra 2.0
Unbeliebably, Bieber turns out to be a legit, new mold in the teen idol factory. Quite literally he is the Sinatra or Elvis of the social Web. He rose to fame without the benefit of a Disney (DIS) or Nickelodeon (VIAB) star turn a la Miley Cyrus or Zac Efron. Or really any traditional media industry support. His manager, Scooter Braun, found videos he had posted to YouTube. Social media still rules Bieber's kingdom, which relies on his 24.7 million (and rising) Twitter followers, 45.2 million (and rising) Facebook (FB) likes and a cool 2.6 billion (and rising) YouTube views to drive the brand. And this social media hurricane appears to throw off real money. As of mid-June, according to Forbes, Bieber has sold 15 million albums and grossed $150 million from a total of 157 concert dates. His concert movie grossed $98 million worldwide, according to BoxOfficeMojo. And his Someday fragrance -- one of two; the other is called Girlfriend -- grossed something like $60 million in six months. Bieber's cut of the action? An astonishing-sounding $55 million in the past year, again according to Forbes. So what's the problem? Well, considering the scale of Bieber's fame, the reach of his digital network and the power of his brand, "Bieber Inc." suffers from the same inability to get paid by social media-addled Web users as other digital giants such as Google (GOOG) and Facebook.
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