The Man Who Made Justin Bieber

"Wherever there's talent, there's talent manager," wrote Lizzie Widdicombe in this New Yorker article. Mozart had his father Leopold, Elvis had Colonel Tom Parker. The Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync had Lou Pearlman (who turned out to have committed one of the largest and longest-running Ponzi schemes in American history, but that's another story.)

Well, this one is about an impressario turned music mogul named Scott Samuel "Scooter" Braun. Scooter who? You may not know him, but you've heard of his musicians. Here's one:

Braun’s first encounter with Bieber, via YouTube, has become a pop legend. While doing consulting work for the singer Akon, Braun stumbled across a clip of a twelve-year-old Bieber singing a Ne-Yo song at a talent show in Stratford, Ontario. At the time, the Jonas Brothers, a teen group who appeared on the Disney Channel, were huge, and Braun was looking for an act in a similar vein. He remembers telling Chaka Zulu, “I’ve got to find a kid who can do what Michael”—Jackson—“did. I said, ‘There’s a place in the market for a kid who can sing with an angelic, soulful voice.’ ”

When Braun saw the Bieber clip, he told me, “I was like, ‘This is the kid I’ve been looking for.’ ” Braun became obsessed with signing Bieber, and called all over—to the theatre where the talent show had been held, to the Stratford school board—until, finally, he tracked down Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette. They talked on the phone for two hours, and, Mallette said, “we really connected.” She agreed to bring Bieber to Atlanta for a no-strings-attached trial period. Eventually, Braun said, “I flew him and his mom down, got them a town house, bought all the furniture for their place, and started paying their bills.”

Instead of hawking his new talent to record companies, Braun set about building a bigger following for Bieber on YouTube, where his videos had already attracted tens of thousands of views. In Atlanta, he and Mallette made and posted low-fi videos of Bieber belting out R. & B. covers. Braun made sure to show Bieber playing instruments—drums, a guitar that looked too big for him—to emphasize that he had musical chops. Bieber was urged to get rid of the “cheap church suit” he’d brought from Canada, and told to be just a kid in a baggy T-shirt.

Oh, and that viral sensation Carly Rae Jepsen and her Call Me Maybe? Also Scooter.

Read more over at The New Yorker: Link


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