I don’t know about you, but I was surprised when One Direction hit Number One in the US with their debut album. This is an achievement that has smashed records and left other bands looking on in admiration (or more likely jealousy). With a collective age of 94 this young boy band has managed to succeed where bands like Take That, Coldplay and The Backstreet Boys have failed.
How?! Their songs are catchy, I grant you, and they are good looking (if you go for the young fresh faced look), but so were Take That and the Beatles and they didn’t enjoy elevated fame in the US half as quickly.
The answer, as Scott Mills pointed out on BBC Breakfast a couple of days ago, is social media. As of March 12th 2012 they had 2,156,782 followers on Twitter, with an estimated 3,000,000 fans in the UK and America alone. This doesn’t include Australia where there was a national outcry and petitions all over the web to get the band to visit the country.
The power of social media today is undeniable, especially with generating a fan base, and One Direction (or more accurately the social media experts behind the group) has successfully manipulated this medium. They created a dedicated fan base and a Bieber-esque sense of hysteria before they even stepped off the plane. Where bands used to have to tour America playing to empty halls, with very little recognition and very little reward, they can now start the process at home, on a laptop.
It means, in an idealistic way, that the world is united (or at least the world that has access to Facebook is). Fans across the globe can chat about their favourite band member, tour dates and just how exciting it all is on a daily basis. Through this international hysteria a band, or musician can unite a fan base, past language barriers and cultural divides to make one big happy family; hence the label ‘Directioners’ for One Direction lovers, ‘Twi-Hards’ for Twilight fans or ‘Beliebers’ for Justin enthusiasts.
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the band's instant hit in America and we should expect this to be the first of many UK groups to break the US market. Social media as a promotional tool can never be underestimated and for One Direction it is at the root of their success. Lets be honest, it’s not their original songs or manly good looks (apologies Directioners!).