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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16959/biebermania-and-its-lessons-for-our-time/

Biebermania and Its Lessons for Our Time

May 16, 2011 by

Even given his notable talent and hard work, Justin Bieber owes his fame and fortune to the organizing power of human action and choice. FULL ARTICLE by Jeffrey A. Tucker


Jkillz May 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

All that you’ve said is fair, and I frequently must remind myself of the validity of most of your points. That said, subjective tastes still apply, and I would never use Bieber as exemplary of anything. There are plenty of underground, anti-traditional music artists putting out music for free — hip hop artists, indie bands, jazz and R&B aficionados twisting the genres in new, exciting ways. In addition to sonic experimentation, there is (to me) far greater lyrical depth and emotional heft in these circles than Justin Bieber offers.

Of course Bieber has talent. He even has skills working a crowd which are impressive given his age. Hopefully, one day he will make music that has appeal for me, ’cause honestly I can’t enjoy his material. It’s simply not enough for me to support him just ’cause his rise to fame has been unconventional and against the Luddites that are the major record labels and the RIAA.

For anyone interested, given Jeffrey’s preference for classical, there is a laugh-worthy “Justin Bieber vs. Ludwig van Beethoven” entry in the Epic Rap Battles of History series on youtube (probably NSFW due to some strong language).

J. Murray May 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

It’s unlikely to ever appeal. The music is designed for a very specific age group and gender. Men don’t have much interest in listening to love songs and women outside the teen age bracket are either too young to have that kind of interest or too old where it’s either creepy or the message, coming from a teen, is way too clumsy and unappealing even to those two years older.

Unless he changes his image, his career will likely crash down just as fast as it rose. Vocal talent only goes so far, if the image and the songs performed fail to all align properly, the career is done. No one really wants to hear high school love ballads from someone in their 20s. Even then, it may be difficult to shed the association, which usually alienates existing fans who expect a certain sound and new fans are unlikely to be acquired due to the reputation of a certain genere.

KK May 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I don’t know if you’re right on this. I’ve never heard any of his music, but it seems unlikely someone so clearly gifted in the art of working a fan base wouldn’t be able to shift to maintain his appeal to his current fans as they too become adults. In fact, almost every major pop star* began singing the same sort of songs, with the same teenage girl appeal. They all went on to successfully change their sound while keeping many of their existing fans. Of course, there’s still a chance he flames out in a year, but it seems unlikely to me.

*[Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson]

J. Murray May 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Those examples are market rarities. Music is far more than just talent, ability to play an instrument, and song writing, especially singing. A major factor is the vocal pitch. Certain pitches just don’t work well with certain types of music. You’ll unlikely find The Bieb being able to play metal, for instance. Also, physical appearances strongly influence fan bases with a soft, young appearance working against an older artist. Changing sounds rarely works for bands and usually indicates they’re close to breaking up or retiring.

Jordan Viray May 16, 2011 at 5:10 pm

To be fair, Mr. Bieber’s voice and appearance will change through puberty which will affect both his range and appeal. Even with the changes, I doubt he’d re-purpose himself in metal even if his range allowed it.

Did you mean timbre instead of pitch? I’m sure he is capable of hitting most of the notes in metal.

J. Murray May 17, 2011 at 7:24 am

That was just a random example. The point I was making is that once a particular artist obtains a specific image, it’s next to impossible to shed it. Elvis and the Beatles are rare exceptions to the rule, and even they had relatively short productive careers and found themselves out of the most popular list in about a decade.

For example, here’s the Top 100 from 1962:


And here’s the Top 100 from 1968:

76 bands made up the Top 100 in 1962. Only 10 of them survived to 1968 (Beach Boys, Beatles, Dion, James Brown, Jerry Butler, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Tommy Roe, Valentinos, Volumes).

Comparing it a scant 12 years after 1962, only 3 of those bands were still popular, leaving Ben E. King, Marvin Gaye, and Neil Sedaka as bands or singers that had any relevance over that period.

The public these days are just as fickle. Only 11 out of the 76 bands or artists in the top 100 managed to retain their popularity from 2002 to 2007. By 2010, only 2 bands or artists in 2002 remained popular in 2010. Using the 12 year period I selected earlier, only 1 artist survived from 1998 to 2010, Usher.

Most artists, even the ones viewed as highly talented, tend to have incredibly short careers, usually two to three years, before vanishing into obscurity. The reason we remember The Beatles and Elvis is becuase we’ve enjoyed a good 40 years to allow our memories to forget the Little Evas and the Ruby & the Romantics.

That’s the main reason I’m thinking Beiber won’t be around for very long, at least not on the most popular list – mainly because very few artists ever are.

Jordan Viray May 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

@J. Murray

It’s almost a mathematical certainty that long-lived top success in competitive activity is improbable. That applies to Justin Bieber the same as it applies to any other artist or company etc. No one here, including Mr. Tucker, is suggesting otherwise.

The point I was making is that while Bieber’s pitch range may not be particularly wide, you are wrong to suggest that it is not wide enough to sing metal. Songwriters can accommodate his particular range if need be.

His timbre, on the other hand, is what would prevent him from switching to metal or many other genres.

Perry May 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I don’t like Bieber’s music myself, but the way he was able to become a commercial success is what stood out to me the most. There are a lot of counter-establishment musicians but few become “mega-stars.” It’s always interesting what you learn on mises.org.

Thom Brogan May 16, 2011 at 9:39 am

Loved the essay, but the idea of comparing Bieber to Helen Traubel or Lauritz Melchior (to name a few Met divas) scares me. Here’s hoping Bieber learns to sing instead of croon and doesn’t lose his current fans as a result.

J. Murray May 16, 2011 at 9:47 am

I’m wondering what chain of events led Jeffrey to watch that movie in the first place.

WMD May 16, 2011 at 10:31 am

Probably had something to do with his kids. :)

J. Murray May 16, 2011 at 10:33 am

He’s a lot more understanding than I. I’d be, “You want me to spend $8 per ticket plus inevitable concession items on WHAT? Wait for the DVD, we’re going to see Thor.” ;)

Hard Rain May 16, 2011 at 11:16 am

Thor, too, is entertainment engineered for a specific market. During the film I came under the impression it was aimed more for teenage girls, to be honest.

J. Murray May 16, 2011 at 11:21 am

I went to see things getting hit with hammers, and I didn’t leave disappointed. Then again, my approach to parenting is if you want my active involvement in a passive activity (watching something for instance), I’d better like it, too. I’ll be miserable playing pretend or engaging in toys (and do a good job pretending I like it), but I draw the line at spending a premium to watch a documentary about someone I don’t know anything about nor care to. Wait for Netflix to have it so I don’t have to physically be there, watching, to supervise.

The specific market comment was aimed at the above comment, “Hopefully, one day he will make music that has appeal for me”. Unless you’re approaching that market or mindset (such as aging into it or earning a higher salary), if you don’t like something today, you’re unlikely to like it tomorrow and the provider is unlikely to change enough to reach that point.

Austro-Liberterian May 23, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Really? How shocking! I was so SURE it would be targeted at 70+ year old men…

Jim P. May 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm

This article convinced me of the goodness of Socialism.

Freedom Fighter May 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I’m not sure I understand, could you please elaborate a little bit on why you think that Justin Bieber’s success and the methods with which he got his success proves that Socialism is good ?

Under communist Russia, or Communist China or Communist DPRK, Justin Bieber would be working himself to death at the Gulag.

Is that why socialism is good ?

Jordan Viray May 16, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I’m pretty sure that was the joke. It’s fashionable to dislike the singer.

Freedom Fighter May 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

I don’t know why you say that it’s fashionable to dislike the signer, I dislike him.
But there are more people who like him than dislike him.

I thought that a fashion was determined by the tyranny of majority, in this case the majority likes him, even if this majority is women, teenage girls, pre-pubere girls, the record industry, the media shills etc. They outnumber the haters, so I thought the fashion was to like him, no to hate him.

The haters are the counter culture, the anti-culture, the underground.

I confess, I’m an envious rat, at least I am honest as to why I hate him, because I envy his quick artificial fortune. Just like I hated the whole pottermania and I’m not a big fan of J.K. Rowling either.

Jordan Viray May 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Justin Bieber is fashionable thanks to his sheer numbers of fans. Taking an active dislike toward him is also fashionable since he is so obviously mainstream; it is a way of signalling “superior” taste. When people who are defined by counter culture, anti-culture, the underground or whatever reach a sizable figure, e.g. hipsters, they create criteria that define what it means to be fashionable within their cultural subgroup.

Ethan May 18, 2011 at 11:26 pm


Jim P. May 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm

You hit the nail on the head. I want that kid to mine my table salt, not sing.

Tony Fernandez May 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Tucker is easily the most entertaining author on this blog. His pieces are always a fun read.

Freedom Fighter May 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Indeed, he’s the Mises blog super star. Our Justin Bieber, LOL :-D

The key to his success is that he finds common ordinary subjects and turns them into fun and entertaining articles all the while providing us with useful information. That stuff about TSP was quite fun to read about a subject that would normally be boring: soaps and detergents. And when he complained about low flush toilets and how in the good old time, they were better, the way he spined the subject was so fun I couldn’t help myself but fool around and got carried away.

Freedom Fighter May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

While I must admit that I am envious and jealous of Justin Bieber’s financial monetary fortune, I absolutely don’t want his fame. Appealing to the dumbed down 2 bit IQ stupid mass does not appeal to me. I find it somewhat disconcerting that in order to be successful commercially, a product of service must appeal to the stupid majority.

And also, Justin Bieber might have talent and stamina and nerves of steel, but he is absolutely not the only one in this world, he just happens to have been the chosen one of the industry and the media. They could have chosen another one and the result would have been the same.

Yes, Justin Bieber was an opportunity for the media and the industry, but they could have picked another one and they could have picked more than one.

I am not ready to concede that Justin Bieber is self made, he was also made by those who supported him. And as far as I’m concerned, his music and product is trash, just like McDonald’s.

Ask Gerald Celente what he thinks of Justin Bieber.

Realy, Jeffrey Tucker, I liked you better when you were focusing on toilets, diswhashers and phosphate.

Adam Berkowicz May 19, 2011 at 11:19 am

I think you all are focusing on the wrong part of what Jeff’s point is. No one is COMPLETELY self made and successful, because we’re all influenced and nurtured by a multitude of people. The larger point is that here we have what is a modern example of “spontaneous order”. Long before we were inundated with Bieber Fever, this young kid found a market and exploited it. It was only after the initial success that major industry execs caught on. This is no different from bands ranging from Incubus to Coheed and Cambria. The specifics of said market are irrelevant to the point: Entrepreneurs found something different and profited. For fans of pop music, this undoubtedly made the genre better.

Tim May 19, 2011 at 11:56 am

Perry understood.

“I don’t like Bieber’s music myself, but the way he was able to become a commercial success is what stood out to me the most. There are a lot of counter-establishment musicians but few become “mega-stars.” It’s always interesting what you learn on mises.org.”

J. Murray May 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm

You’ll have to get used to these blogs, the comments tend to go off on related tangents. I know I’m guilty of it (see above).

Rob May 22, 2011 at 1:41 am

I enjoyed the article. Frankly, I’ve never heard Justin Bieber before, and the sound quality of this video doesn’t allow me to form a judgement. But almost everything I’ve heard about him as been negative, and that has led me to sympathize with him. I figured that a lot of what I was hearing was just envy. This article confirms that suspicion. What we’re dealing with is a highly motivated, hard-working kid. As the saying goes, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Now I’m motivated to check him out. I’m a little old to be interested in teen-age music, but I’m also an amateur singer so I hope I can appreciate him on his level.

I’m not sure I will be able to. I recall how I thought David Archuleta was such a marvelous talent on American Idol singing those old ballads with such originality, but I really can’t relate to much of the music he’s putting out for his teen-age audience. He’s capable of singing much more challenging stuff.

Vanmind May 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm

As if.

Ooh, check it out, there’s this thing called the RIAA that uses the state to destroy competition so it can coerce radio stations into playing only the so-called “with a bullet” musicians from their own stables and then reap huge yet artificial rewards from mostly unsuspecting consumers — and I’m prepared to call it a market-based success story.


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