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A few weeks ago, on an NBC primetime special spanning two summer nights, viewers watched while Justin Bieber caused chaos in cities around the world, just by showing up. This was no surprise. But what may have been a more insightful sign of the times was what we saw happen when the “behind the scenes” crew encountered the crowd – chaos. Okay, so it wasn’t Bieber-brand pandemonium, but it was the kind of reception that another A-list celebrity might find satisfying. Justin’s manager, stylist, musical director and PR person were greeted with authentic appreciation, not just anticipation for the star who they brought to the party.

In youth culture today, the finders’ gain much more than a fee…They get their own chance at fame. Simon Cowell may have paved the way for the producer-turned-celebrity, but even established rockers are finding that selecting or showcasing the next star might make them more relevant than releasing a new single. From J. Lo and Steven Tyler (who was hardly top-of-mind among today’s teens before he chose Idol as his latest gig), who leveraged temporary stints as talent scouts on American Idol into fresh fame, to Justin Bieber’s own “pay-it-forward” tweets to introduce the world to Carly Rae Jepson (and her often imitated hit “Call Me Maybe”) and most recently, 13-year-old Madison Beer, today’s biggest stars know that using their platform to promote others brings the spotlight back to them.  And today’s tweens and teens are used to meeting the momager behind the celebrity (think Kris Kardashian). But what does this tell us about what youth want from their stars?

  • First, they expect altruism alongside talent.  A Twitter account is not meant for only self-promotion, but for propping up a voice in need of visibility.
  • Second, they see celebrity as a business, and know the ones who make it happen are as important as the ingénue. Contrary to what is sometimes said about this generation, they know that fame requires effort – but they also know it takes a team.
  • And finally, they want recommendations from the curators of their choice. This cohort has grown up expecting that every website they visit, every purchase they make comes with a follow-up recommendation for something else they might like.