After the Grammys snubbed the maturing teen idol's latest album Believe, CBS was forced to watch as Justin Bieber dominated Twitter throughout most of the 2013 broadcast despite not being nominated, not performing and not even being mentioned.
While we were following the Trending 10—the most tweeted musicians at any given moment—on Fuse's Heat Tracker last night, Bieber's Twitter mentions-per-minute were 10 times that of the runner up. In other words, Bieber had the population of a small city tweeting about him every minute, while enough people to fill a small village were tweeting about every other artist at the Grammys.
So how did Bieber earn three times the tweets of any artist actually present at "music's biggest night"? Well, he played a little dirty: JB not-so-subtly scheduled a one-hour live chat with fans at 8pm ET… exactly when the awards show kicked off. Even though technical problems derailed the video chat—too many Beliebers caused both Livestream and Ustream to crash—his fans kept the Biebs trending far above the artists winning awards and performing at the Grammys.
Also, it probably didn't hurt that he posted a shirtless shot and dropped a half-finished track in "apology" after the live chat failed.
But don't think a skin pic can account for Bieber's momentously large Twitter numbers. He wasn't merely the most-tweeted-about musician from about 7pm to 9:30pm ET: He received more than double the social mentions per minute than the rest of the Trending 10 artists combined. (And keep in mind that CBS trotted out LL Cool J three separate times to urge viewers to tweet about the Grammys with the "tantalizing" proposition that he might read their tweets on-air.)
For a tweet to tweet comparison, Ed Sheeran's red carpet tweet got nearly 5,000 retweets before the show kicked off, a high number for any artist at the 2013 Grammys. But Bieber let loose with multiple tweets that received between 163-213k retweets. There's no comparison.
When Bieber stopped trending on Twitter around 10pm ET, the number of music-related tweets dropped about 70%. The lesson is clear: Bieber engages more people than the Grammys, and more importantly, he engages people that otherwise aren't interested in the TV broadcast.
And while he never explicitly dissed the Grammys last night, he made his point loud and clear: The Grammys might be music's biggest night, but he's music's biggest star—and without his involvement, the Grammys are ignoring a huge segment of the music-listening public (most of whom are part of the most desirable advertising demographic).
I'm not trying to sound a death bell for the Grammys—the show still pulled in a staggering 28 million viewers, the second-best rating in 20 years. They're doing fine without kowtowing to him. But then again, by not including Bieber, he's shown them how many viewers they're shutting out. And even if the Grammys don't care, you can bet the advertisers do. And that means we should expect a more Bieber-friendly awards show in years to come.
[Feb. 12. This article was edited to correct a typo. We meant "public" not "pubic"... but we'd really love to find a "music-listening pubic" whenever possible!]