By Robyn Frost
Confessions of A Convert
Typically with Netflix I find myself thinking ‘there’s nothing to watch’, (see also: full wardrobe and ‘nothing to wear’). I’m a die-hard crappy telly junkie so I’ll usually favour the Kardashians on E!, but this time I scrolled through Netflix and happened upon something seemingly worse than Dry January, tube strikes and my Christmas double chin rolled into one: ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’.
Can we dissect that title for just a sec? Those are some bold life instructions right there.
And we’ve all seen them before.
No newsfeed is safe from a smattering of nausea-inducing inspirational quotes shared by that well-intentioned friend. They’re super great in the split second it takes to read them, but do we really live by them? It’s not uncommon for them to feel a bit preachy and unfounded.
Despite the title feeling closely related to the ‘live, laugh, love’ family I usually cringe at, I had Marc’s holiday brief ringing in my ears – watch a film we’d never consider watching. ‘Never Say Never’ seemed appropriate, so I pressed play and my fate was sealed: I was in for 105 minutes of pure Biebs.
Jumping between life documentary and concert footage, the film is an intimate look at Justin’s life on the road as a solo child performer, interlaced with home footage and interviews with those closest to him. It’s pretty fast-paced, and they hit you in the feels right from the start. Smart move, whacking in some empathy from the get-go – lock that one away. We’re with JB when he discovers his talents as a toddler, drumming on a kitchen chair, and later busking outside a restaurant with a too-big guitar aged 7. He later returns to the same busking spot as a 14-year-old and tells a young violin playing girl to “never give up” and “chase your dreams”. This is fantastic, for three reasons:
1) It shuts down preconceptions
2) He remembers where he came from, proving that staying humble and being grateful are essential
3) He’s living, breathing, (albeit strutting) proof that serious success is open to everyone if you nurture a talent. This applies to every one of us. And this is where my qualms about a cheesy film title dissolved. Biebs is fully entitled to spout inspirational quotes, because he lives by his words.
I then started to wonder how Justin had become so successful in such a short space of time – just two years. He got his first big break uploading home videos to YouTube of him singing Usher songs, landing him Scooter Braun as his manager (sounds like an epilator on wheels, is actually top bloke). After two years of rejections from various industry figureheads, despite his rapidly increasing popularity on YouTube, he was picked up by Usher who went on to mentor him and get him an audition with Island Def Jam Music Group. Deal done. What’s interesting here is JB used YouTube to garner support from fans worldwide, (Twitter was still a foetus), yet still had to work his way through the cranky old-school record deal machine to cut his teeth.
With this in mind, here are some key things we can learn from Bieb:
Milk social media platforms for all they’re worth. Justin has roughly 90 million followers on Twitter – why? Because it’s the only platform that really lets him speak directly to his fans, and vice versa. It’s as close as you can get without actually following him down the street.
Nail that conversational TOV. If there’s any news about upcoming gigs, he Tweets his fans. It doesn’t come from his management machine. Make sure your words read as one person talking to another person.
Sell the product to a core audience. JB understands his market – predominantly 15-year-old girls. This was a genius move when he was starting out, because he felt accessible. He understood the fears, hopes and dreams of his fans and tapped into that with easy to remember, emotional lyrics. He’s since grown up (obviously) but so have those original fans who have only become more devoted, as they see themselves as the ones who have been with him from the start. Did someone say brand loyalty?
Care. Justin really gives a crap about his fans, and not just because they buy his music. He gets a girl from the audience on stage whenever he performs “One Less Lonely Girl” and gives her a bunch of flowers, sings to her and hugs her. He says it’s important to tell women that they’re special and appreciated. We need more Biebers.
Giving time is just as valuable, if not more so, than money. He’s donated millions, but visits children’s hospitals whenever he can.
Consistency. JB always delivers a killer show. He turns up and makes sure to start on time. He also wears the same clothes on stage as he does in his posters. Reinforce that brand image.
Work ethic. He hadn’t even hit double figures age-wise and he was out hustling at singing competitions. When he released his first song he performed it on hundreds of radio stations across the US – acoustic, to prove he can whip out the talent on the spot. He’s continued to work really bloody hard ever since.
Break me off a piece of that.
As the credits rolled, something happened. The words ‘looking for something else to watch?’ popped up, and there they were: One Direction. Just some guys, standing in front of me, asking me to watch their film.
I watched it.
They don’t compare to Biebs.
Is it too late now to say ‘sorry?’
I’m not and I won’t.