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Asher Smith

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'Bieber Fever' Is a Symptom of What Ails the Music Industry

Posted: 02/15/11 03:48 PM ET

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Or Justin Bieber fans staying up past their bedtimes on a Sunday night.

Some were surprised when the Grammys awarded Jazz artist Esperanza Spalding with their "Best New Artist" recognition. Beiber's creepers, however, just became enraged. Below are some of the tweets recorded by the entertainment blog "Pop2It" after Bieber was denied the award:

"you have a 3D movie? do 86 concerts? sell out MSG in 22 minutes? have 7mil followers? no? uh..why da f**k you win a grammy?"


"@ESPESPALDING @THEGRAMMYS Congrats u ppl! U just crushed a 16yr old boys dreams...hope ur proud of urselves! -_- #JustinDeservedIt"

"So, @EspeSpalding just won with less than 10,000 followers on twitter. LOL. Sorry, I must have accidently turned my t.v to Punk'd. #Grammys"
"@EspeSpalding hate u"

This isn't the first time Bieber's fans have thrown joint, public temper tantrums. When photos surfaced of Bieber and Disney star Selena Gomez sharing a kiss, the Internet-tubes were clogged with death threats from disillusioned überfans. (One favorite: "whore cancer whore..like i'mm kill myself cuz i saw you and Justin kissing well thankyou Selena thankyou now i'm killing myself.") Kim Kardashian received the same treatment when she directed a benign public gesture of affection Bieber's way.

So why is this considered acceptable, when any other public figure would be held to some degree of culpability for their fans' out-of-control and potentially violent shenanigans? Kardashian quickly laughed away the threats as benign, while gossip and entertainment blogs reported the anti-Esperanza Spalding tweets after the Grammys with barely an eyebrow raised in surprise.

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that it's widely appreciated that these raging Bieber fanatics are elementary and middle school aged children, with little recourse to act on their obsession outside the realm of social networking sites. But if the whims of children are to be ignored when evaluating the madness surrounding Bieber Fever, their still needs to be an adequate method of weeding out the effects of childhood ravings on the rest of the music world.

Look at any list of top-selling albums, and it's clear that the aggressively-young demographic is exerting a disproportionate impact on the music industry. With access to their parents' credit cards, an iTunes account or both, the youngest among us can exert an influence on online commerce in ways never before imaginable. Stories such as the one detailed by a BusinessWeek article from last summer telling of a $375 iTunes "hack" by the author's stepdaughter, and the recent moves by Apple to reform its App stores to make "stealth" purchases less easy to execute are symptoms of this new reality. With song and album purchases a click away -- and more savvy potential customers downloading their music from other sources -- the least informed can enjoy the most influence over sale figures.

The consequences of the new normal, however, are abundantly clear to anyone who has ever had the misfortune of listening to a contemporary rock station. Nickelback claimed the mantle of top-selling hard rock and metal album of 2010. Linkin Park was second. A glance over at the "On Demand" section of the site of Atlanta's Project 96.1 contemporary rock station shows offerings from Papa Roach, Stone Sour, Buckcherry and Hinder in their top 20 list, bands more likely to appeal to listeners with undeveloped musical tastes. (It's also possible that Atlantans have generally poor taste in artists. But let's try to be charitable.)

As with many other parenting issues there does not seem to be an across-the-board answer to this scourge. Perhaps Bieber should publicly air what -- one would hope -- must be his displeasure with his fans' antics. It would be better, though, if parents of young and teenaged children to maintain vigilance regarding their childrens' Internet habits. Don't let junior onto Twitter if he (or she) uses it to direct death threats at pop stars. And for the love of all that is sacred, never, ever let them download anything by Chad Kroeger. Those of us without satellite radio depend on your help.