A fortnight ago you didn’t know who they were, now their Anglo-Irish haircuts are everywhere. So who’s riding the barely-legal boy band behemoth that is One Direction?

Sony Music and Nine Entertainment Co are the two entities promoting the band’s local tour, which celebrity agent Max Marxson estimates has received in excess of $10 million worth of free publicity this week.

“Had you heard of One Direction a week ago? [No.] Exactly, the teenage girls aged 12-16 know who they are, because it’s their market. Now it’s mainstream media,” he tells The Power Index.

The band is the brainchild of Simon Cowell, the notorious X-Factor judge who runs global entertainment company Syco with Sony. The fresh-faced five-piece placed third in the X-Factor show in Britain, before singing to a reported 2 million pound contract with Syco.

Now, they’re in Australia as part of a “promotional tour” (there’s only four shows, including one matinee) which will lay the foundations for a full tour next year. The support slots will be filled by contestants from local versions of talent shows Australia’s Got Talent and the X-Factor.

“The talent shows are the new black,” says Marxson. “If you’re a record company and you’ve got an artist and you want to launch them you sit there and think ‘what is our TV moment?’ … What you’re getting from the reality shows is they’ve already had their TV moment.”

Locally, Nine Entertainment Co, parent of Channel Nine, is one of the biggest vertical integration winners. Promotions arm Nine Live is putting on the band’s hugely-anticipated four-leg promotional tour, while Nine’s online box office Ticketek has sold the tickets.

On screen, Nine’s awards night staple the Logies is also cashing in, as the pop act take the stage this Sunday for an exclusive performance. It will be just one of the band’s long list of media appearances.

On Wednesday, the band appeared on Nine’s breakfast television show Today (as well as Seven’s Sunrise), while their every movement was tracked by TV choppers chasing anything that looked like a 1D scoop (like this one).

And it’s not just television. Radio stations have dedicated wall-to-wall coverage to the band (they even appeared on Alan Jones’ 2GB show), while newspapers have rushed to put the band on their front pages. Online news sites have been filled with photo galleries of the band topless.

Veteran music industry watcher Phil Tripp says it’s not album or iTunes sales which form the roots of the One Direction money tree but merchandise, alongside music placement in commercials and soundtracks. The band has already sold more than 4.2 million units of its debut Up All Night.

“Sony wants to get as many sales as possible out of them, but they’ve also got their claws into other aspects of the artists — which include merchandising,” said Tripp, “And when you’ve got Simon Cowell involved, well let’s face it he’s got a lock on everything.”

Last week, the band opened its own “pop-up shop” in Pitt Street Sydney, which hawked a range of One Direction branded memorabilia including hoodies, iPhone covers and wristbands. And for those who couldn’t stand the huge queues and hoards of screaming teenagers the band’s website sells everything from dolls ($30) to hot water bottle covers ($18).

Max Marxson says it’s the ability of bands to be able to go viral quicker than ever on the internet which is boosting the sudden popularity of bands like One Direction.

“If something’s big in one country it’ll very quickly come to another country now,” he said. “They definitely aren’t The Beatles, but if they get two or three years out of it well done to them.”

*To comment and for more visit The Power Index

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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