HotStar: Justin Bieber

The first thing you notice when talking to teen heartthrob Justin Bieber is just how normal he is – no freaky wise-beyond-his-years or manufactured-child-star vibe here.

Just an ordinary 16-year-old kid who loves what he’s doing and is having a really, really good time doing it.

OK, an ordinary 16-year-old kid who can sing circles around people three times his age; plays piano, drums, guitar and trumpet; inspires the same kind of hysteria among his fans as The Beatles and Elvis did for theirs and so impressed Lionel Richie that the singer handed over his solo in the “We Are The World” remake earlier this year.

All of that might go to a lot of people’s heads. Not Justin. His credo is “have fun.” And he’s not above making himself the butt of the joke. For April Fool’s Day, the singer was approached by Will Ferrell and company with an idea they had for their “Funny or Die” Web site.

“Basically they changed the site so it was ‘Bieber or Die,’” the singer told Pollstar. “I thought that was a funny idea. It’s fun to laugh at yourself. You can’t take yourself too seriously.

“So I’m just having fun with it. Everything’s been going really smoothly. I’m really excited that everyone’s liking the music and that I’ve got a No. 1 and a No. 5 album.”

To the casual observer, Bieber suddenly appeared last year – a phenom who’s released two albums within the space of four months and will be headlining arenas when he hits the road in June.

In reality, the transformation from a kid whose mom posted videos of his performances on YouTube for the benefit of distant relatives into a budding superstar took a lot of time, hard work and the faith of one man in particular – his manager, Scott “Scooter” Braun.

Braun told Pollstar his relationship with Bieber, with whom he’s been working since just before the singer’s 13th birthday, happened completely by chance.

“I actually stumbled upon him, funny enough,” Braun explained. “I was working on another artist and came across his videos on YouTube when he only had about 60,000 or 70,000 views.

“I saw him sing Ne-Yo’s ‘So Sick’ and I just loved his tone, but really, it was just that my gut was going crazy.”

Braun immediately sought out the young artist and set to work developing him, with the goal of presenting him to Usher and Island Records’ Antonio “L.A.” Reid.

“People think the story is we came to Atlanta and saw Usher,” he explained. “But it was six months after I started working with him that Usher saw him.”

Just how involved is Braun in every aspect of Bieber’s career? His answer, “You want to know the truth? Beyond.”

That almost paternal interest in the singer seems to extend to everyone who works with him, including AEG’s Randy Phillips, who won a bidding war with Live Nation for this summer’s tour.

“I first became aware of Justin’s music through YouTube,” Phillips told Pollstar. “I saw some of the early videos he did and then I met with Scooter Braun at CAA. They set up two meetings – one for my company and one for Live Nation.

“It was offer and counter-offer, but that was a pretty short process because Scooter and Justin’s agent, Mark Cheatham, knew what they wanted. It’s what we would call an earn-out deal, where you have a certain guarantee pegged to a number of shows for what I would think would be an entire album and touring cycle. It’s similar to what Live Nation did with the Jonas Brothers.

“I was totally amenable to that because my belief in Justin transcended just one or two singles. He was precocious in a good way. This is a young man who plays four instruments. And just the way he delivers a song is way beyond his years.

“He’s the kind of person that if you’re going to make a bet – and a lot of times you’re betting on the person and not just the career or the music – he’s that kind of person. The truth is, the way Live Nation and AEG execute tours is similar in many ways, but a lot of the time these decisions are made on personality and how you relate to each other.”

Speaking of relations, Bieber and his team are taking full advantage of 21st-Century tools to connect him to his fans – to astounding success.

“I think my fans appreciate how much time I give them and that I’m able to interact with them on Twitter and other places,” the singer explained.

“I’ve never seen a closer, more interactive relationship with a fan base than Justin has,” Phillips added.

“People think it’s phony. You know, ‘It can’t be him.’ But what do you think teenagers do?” Braun said before emphasizing one other thing.

“The most exciting thing about Justin is every time he performs a live show, he wins over adults.”

And here’s an early warning for the parents of all those tweens and teens who have been smitten by Bieber: He’s not stopping with music.

“In the deal we made with him, we made a commitment to make a movie,” Phillips revealed. “That truly is one of the differentiators between us and Live Nation: We’re in the film business.

“We were able to give him certain career tent poles that he wanted besides our just being tour promoters. And I was very anxious to be further involved in whatever ‘Team Justin’ ultimately becomes.”