(Note: This post was written by Evolver.fm contributor Matt Hausman and edited by Eliot Van Buskirk.)
Are you (or is someone you know) wondering what Justin Bieber is up to? There's an app for that -- in fact, several: Justin Bieber News, BieberFeed, Justin Bieber News App, Just Bieber, Follow Justin Bieber, the Justin Bieber Unofficial iPhone Fan App, and over 70 more for the iPhone alone.
The vast majority of these are unofficial, as the teen heartthrob has spawned a cottage industry of app developers hoping to cash in on the trend -- a real measure of what fame looks like in the age of the app. Our research into the world of Bieber apps revealed that there's money to be made in celebrity-themed apps, even if they're not particularly original or well-made.
The Android Market, too, has a serious case of the Fever, bearing 62 apps devoted to the teen heartthrob at our last count. Many of the apps in both stores might fairly be accused of lacking substance, regardless of what one thinks of the Bieb. Mirac Development's Countdown/iCountdown Bieber (iPhone or Android), for instance, features merely a countdown clock to the sixteen year old idol's eighteenth birthday, yet generated 30,000 downloads within the first week of its release. Mirac Development founder David Moretz deflected speculation about its implications, responding, "the app was designed for his younger fans."
That appears to be a wise tactic, given the demographics of Bieber's adoring listeners. And judging from app store comments, they care more about the name attached to the app than what it can do -- another likely reason for this heavy proliferation. Five-star reviews in the iTunes store regularly proclaim the reviewers' love for the idol, with little or no mention of the apps.
Justin Bieber True or False, Justin Bieber: True or False, and True or False -- Justin Bieber comprise only a small portion of the approximately twenty trivia apps dedicated to the singer. Meanwhile, the existence of answer-sheet apps like Justin Bieber Bieberpedia, Justin Bieber Life Facts, and over 30 others means the sixteen-year-old Canadian pop star has more iPhone apps dedicated to his life story than President Obama, with only four -- and they don't appear to be selling well, judging by the lack of reviews.
Still, the Bieber Bubble may already have popped, leaving app developers in search of new stars around whom to build apps. One developer of multiple Bieber apps who declined to be named complained that his apps' "success was visible to many other developers who quickly jumped in on the action."
Like prospectors to the Yukon, developers followed the Bieber Rush in the hopes of making a quick buck. But just as in the Yukon, the pie has been split too many ways.
"The market is pretty saturated and it wouldn't make any sort of financial sense to try creating a Justin Bieber app," said the anonymous developer, as a possible attempt to discourage others from cashing in.
The lesson here for app developers is clear: There's a bundle to be made in unofficial artist apps, and plenty of competition for those dollars. By creating a scalable solution (such as we proposed MySpace could do) and tailoring it for multiple artists, these developers might stand a better chance not only of beating the rush, but of standing out from the crowd.
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