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Why Justin Bieber Is Such A Big Hit

image from (UPDATED) GUEST POST: Jay Frank is the author of Futurehit.DNA and SVP Music Strategy of CMT. You can download a free chapter of his great book on his blog and Hypebot's Kyle Bylin interviewed him earlier this year. In this guest post, Frank looks at the factors behind the meteoric success of teen idol Justin Bieber using the FuturehitDNA methodology.

image from Justin Bieber mania has arrived.  With the release of his new album, My World 2.0, and a sure thing #1 debut, many people are wondering how it happened.  Teen phenomenons can certainly happen fast, but rarely without the help of a Disney show in recent years.  By my rough calculations, after the first week sales of his new album are accounted for, Justin will have grossed approximately $15 million in total recorded music sales, not including ringtones, streaming revenue, T-shirts or posters in less than 9 months.  And that’s just in the United States.  For a music business in “trouble” and an artist aimed clearly at teenagers and below, this is a success, especially because the train is really just leaving the station.

So the question is, how did this become so successful so quickly?  There’s been plenty of other artists who have been released in the same timeframe that can’t count this level of success in this short of a period.  What made it work?  There are a lot of specific elements in each song which I’ll detail shortly, but readers of Futurehit.DNA know the answer lies in Chapter 7 of the book.


Look at this time frame of songs being released:

  • APRIL 2009 – Release of “One Time” single
  • JULY 2009 – Release of “One Time” video
  • AUGUST 2009 – Release of “Favorite Girl” YouTube Video w/Taylor Swift
  • OCTOBER 2009 – Release of “One Less Lonely Girl” single + video
  • NOVEMBER 2009 – Release of My World 8-song Album
  • JANUARY 2010 – Release of “Baby” single
  • FEBRUARY 2010 – Release of “Baby” video
  • MARCH 2010 – Release of My World 2.0 Album

Did you get all that?  In a world where many people are in the game of milking singles for all they’re worth, Justin just kept releasing content.  A new official video has been released every 3 months.  Two album releases.  18 total tracks have come out.  All within 9 months.  Considering that most artists are at a pace that’s nearly twice that, it’s not surprising that Justin runs rings around them.

And this all occurred by focusing on the fan and constantly feeding them content rather than just chart positions.  The first two singles didn’t crack the Top 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.  And Justin’s biggest hit, “Baby”, reached #3.  Meanwhile, #1 songs are regularly engaging in much less commerce.

And Justin’s songs regularly engage in a Futurehit.DNA formula to engage his young audience:

SHORT INTROS (Chapter 1)

image from “One Time” has a 7 second intro.  “One Less Lonely Girl” has no intro.  “Baby” has a positively long 14 second intro.  Yet both “One Time” and “Baby” make use of Justin utilizing an “ay” and “woah”  vocal during the intro.  Since Justin has a young higher pitched male voice, one could make the argument that he is creating a distinctive vocal right from the get-go so you know who’s singing.

LONGER SONGS (Chapter 2)

Justin Bieber’s songs are hardly epic with lengths of the singles ranging from 3:30 to 3:50.  However, considering that Ke$ha’s big hits don’t even reach 3:30, he’s definitely competitive in his category.  Regarding length, Justin’s songs actually fall right into the range of the majority of Top 100 songs at the moment.


There’s not a lot of chord changes going on in Bieber’s hits. However, he puts the dramatic changes where it counts.  I often talk about the need to change things up around the two minute mark, and Bieber does this regularly.  In “One Time”, the song drops all instruments except drums giving Justin a moment to sing acapella, which given his talent is very distinct.  In “One Less Lonely Girl”, a very distinct key change occurs.  And in “Baby”, there is a significant drop out towards the end of the 2nd verse that’s attention grabbing that then leads into the Ludacris verse.  Nothing earth-shattering, per se, but all effective in engaging the listener at a time that counts.

REPETITION (Chapter 10)

If there’s anything that occurs in Bieber’s songs, it’s repetition.   

And to hit the teen and tween market, it’s almost too obvious that this technique would be utilized.  The title of “One Time” is repeated 32 times in the song, with the word “one” used an additional 17 times.  A long song title doesn’t prevent “One Less Lonely Girl”  being repeated 39 times.  For “Baby”, they probably went for the world record with 55 mentions of the title.  Within the rest of the songs, there are numerous other instances of repetition to just add to the effectiveness of repetition.

Again, all of these elements and more contribute to the phenomenal success of Justin Bieber.  Towering above them all, however, is the super serving of the audience thru constant releases.  This is an element that can occur on any scale with any style of artist.  The more you keep momentum within your audience and the more you keep them engaged, the more likely you will succeed.  If more artists followed this formula, a $15 million US gross for recorded music would be a more regular occurrence.

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  1. I wish I could find fault in your thesis, but the proof is in the sale..I consider myself fairly “hip” when it comes to knowing new artists. Even at my old age. Stil my 12yo step daughter was in complete like with Justin before I had heard one song. Now that 2.0 is out and with the obvious strategy of not sitting on one single for months on end, Mr. Beiber will undoubtedly be playing in my hosue for much longer than I would care for.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with the content thing. You need to keep presenting valuable content at a regular pace to keep up with the entire world that has ADD. Just like on this site, if Bruce and company only posted 1-2 times a week, his traffic wouldn’t be as high as it is now with 3-4+ a day. We need to keep presence on this minds of our consumers. It’s tough, but it works.

  3. great article! A great read for those musicians think that it’s a shot in the dark. It takes wielding a sniper rifle(having key strategies) effectively to find success!

  4. The future of music is more like the Sixties. singles, singles, singles. Active all the time, not on 2-3 year cycles.

  5. was I the only one who read that as “screaming revenue”?
    “Wow,” I thought, “they’ve finally found a way to directly monetize the hysterical screams of 10 year old girls.”

  6. I think the frequency point is a valid one, but the musical analysis seems a bit less relevant. They’re just poppy R&B songs. What’s really the vital point here is that this is a cute young boy that sings catchy songs that in their packaging and presentation are perfectly acceptable for all parent’s out there, and most of all appealing to young teen girls.

  7. As an artist, this is a sobering and humbling point. But I can’t argue it at all; the name is bigger than the music at this point as I hear or see his name EVERY DAY but still haven’t heard his music.

  8. Great article.. many principles that apply to other retail businesses selling products apply to music. Keep designing a prototype, take it to market, but don’t sit around waiting. Keep moving and putting products in the market over time..Target marketing was used as well in their strategy.
    ….and #1
    Branding – just like Quiet Entertainer was alluding to.

  9. Some may find this racist, but the truth is, any white performer who can coop traditionally black musical/performance characteristics sells. Proof: Al Jolsten, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Vanilla Ice, Justin Timberlake, Rolling Stones, New Kids on the Block, Pink, Joss Stone, Christina Augilera, Eminem, Doobie Bros, Hall and Oates,…there are more, but you get the point.

  10. Active promotion by another established artist (eg Usher).This is a common method to break a new artist. I suspect that this has been more important in gaining Bieber national exposure than any of the issues mentioned by Jay Frank.

  11. Jay, you said “Considering that most artists are at a pace that’s nearly twice that.” Are you saying he has accomplished more by releasing less but timing the release of new song, video, and albums in a smaller window? 18 months seems like a short amount of time for two albums. Or are you saying he has released twice as many singles and albums as the typical artists, and keeping the delay between consecutive releases short so he has a steady stream of attention?

  12. This ties in with something I was thinking about earlier. Justin’s prime demographic is teens. It seems to me that increasingly, the massively successful artists will be in that space. As people enter adulthood, they tend to individuate themselves and derive some part of that identity from the musical niches that they enjoy, while teenagers have a much stronger need for commonality and peer acceptance. Essentially, on the ‘long tail’ graph, the left side is becoming dominated by teen-pop, where homogeneity is important, and the tail is becoming the domain of the 25+ crowd. This might seem like an obvious point, but I think it explains why the major labels are focusing so heavily on that market.
    I’m still waiting for the next punk or grunge to shake things up…

  13. Justin Bieber’s a top notch star, I don’t seem him going anywhere soon. But it’d be a shame if he ended up like other known stars that were once famous in their youth like Spears, Lohan, or Caulken.

  14. Just when you think you have it all figured out…you don’t. The waves of novelty within all media are rapidly decreasing. However, the arts media will tend to shoot an inexplicable leftfield and stump everyone, including the prediction machines. Systematising music trends is like any predictive act and hidden harmonic variables will always occur to shred the game plan. There are numerous music hit programmes and formulas that already exist. Some work (to a degree), some don’t. They won’t however, ever beat your intuitive brain, the finest computer in the known universe. Justin will have a definite shelf life because fashions move very very quickly. This particular case study is an old story. Good luck to him.

  15. Please. Almost all new musical forms have come out of the underclass, regardless of colour, since the high-classical period. From the folk melodies of Europe that emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries to the delta blues and bluegrass (which share very similar roots, many of which are from both black and white southerners) of the early 20th century, colour had very little to do with it. It is much more likely a result of having limited resources and being forced to improvise, which as they say is the mother of all invention.

  16. Justin Bieber is pop music’s newest sensation. The 15-year-old is making headlines, and selling out venues wherever he goes. Since his first hit single “One Time”, Justin has been in the top forty of the Billboard Hot 100 with four consecutive hit singles. The second half of Justin Bieber’s album, My World 2.0, recently debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200. Justin Bieber is now on his follow up tour, showcasing his hit album. has unbeatable Justin Bieber tickets to all of his stops along My World Tour.
    For Justin Bieber tickets visit

  17. This kid was trained and crafted for two years before he broke… money and time and more money and more time were poured into making this kid a star… the people who made this kid a star invested in a product with a lot of revenue and marketed the HELL out of it to see returns… There are TONS of other kids out there that they could have chosen and still been just as successful with… The music companies don’t find stars anymore, they make them!

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