Australian pop singer Cody Simpson realizes that most of his fans practically live on the Internet. The 15-year-old got his start recording Jason Mraz and Justin Timberlake covers in his bedroom and posting them to YouTube, racking up millions of views and leading Atlantic Records to sign a deal hoping to replicate his Web success offline.
Two years after joining the imprint, Simpson remains a strong force in the digital space. His YouTube page has almost 425,000 subscribers and more than 140 million views. On Twitter (@CodySimpson), he’s amassed more than 3.3 million followers, and secured 3.2 million likes on Facebook. With his debut album, “Paradise,” out Oct. 2, Simpson hopes to finally tap the resource that elevated his profile.
“I’m always online, 24/7 Facebooking and tweeting, because that’s where my fans are,” Simpson says. “I’m looking for new and innovative ways to connect with them.”
To prep for “Paradise”‘s release, Atlantic has several initiatives to reveal album-related content and new material. The label brainstormed with personnel at Warner Music Group’s YouTube channel the Warner Sound and filmed an interactive movie that allows viewers to choose their own adventures by clicking annotations to cue the next clip. Shot in April, “Finding Cody” follows two girls on a quest to sneak into Simpson’s concert at Anaheim, Calif.’s House of Blues, where he performs songs from Paradise. In the first 24 hours of release, the videos got tens of thousands of views.
“Ultimately, what we’ve wanted to do with Cody is find unique ways to market him,” Atlantic VP of marketing Chris Stang says. “We didn’t want to do the traditional things people do to connect with kids, especially in a place where they’re seeking out music, which is YouTube. It just made a lot of sense.”
Digital initiatives on Twitter, where Simpson debuted the cover art for “Paradise,” involved Atlantic partnering with social media app company MetaBlocks to create a program for the album. To unlock the image, fans had to tweet the hashtag #ParadiseOct2nd a combined total of 10,000 times, a quickly achieved goal that spawned several trending topics on the social network.
Simpson’s build has been gradual during the past few years. His breakout single “iYiYi,” featuring Flo Rida, debuted in 2010, but it wasn’t until last year’s “On My Mind” that he cracked the U.S. charts, peaking at No. 39 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart. With three EPs under his belt, Simpson took his time recording Paradise-which features contributions from Dr. Luke, Taio Cruz and Ryan Tedder-so he could fully enjoy his adolescence.
“Putting out your first album is a milestone for an artist, something that you’re remembered by, your first impression,” says Scooter Braun Management’s Matt Graham, who manages Simpson. “It’s very difficult to make a first impression at 13 or 14 years old. You don’t have that much to say. In the past two years, he’s had a whirlwind experience. It took time to find what he wanted to say, and, when you look at this album, this is a kid who’s really grown up.”
In anticipation of “Paradise,” Simpson released his Smitten With Cody Simpson app for iPhone and Android, and signed on as a brand ambassador for Build-a-Bear. He is scheduled to open for Justin Bieber on six tour dates, and is eyeing February 2013 for a U.S. tour. For now, he’s hoping that fans notice his growth, both personally and musically.
“I have some stories to tell and I’ve experienced relationships with girls, etc, so I have more to tell right now,” Simpson says. “I know my sound and my lane, and that’s something they’ll hear when they hear Paradise.”
Cody also ranked number 12 on Billboard’s 21 under 21 list this year, a one-spot improvement from last year’s ranking as number 13, and a big jump from rank 20 in 2010. Not bad, Cody, not bad at all.