Although he's frequently compared to Justin Bieber, Cody Simpson is ready to prove there's room under the spotlight for more than one teen king.
The 14-year-old Australian sensation arrived on the scene in 2009 when producer Shawn Campbell (Missy Elliott, Ciara) discovered Simpson on YouTube. Shortly thereafter, he signed to Atlantic. His first U.S. single, "iYiYi," sold 38,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan; his first EP, 4U, peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart.
Now Simpson-who has racked up 1.3 million Twitter followers, 1.6 million Facebook likes and more than 85 million YouTube views-is celebrating the Sept. 20 release of his second EP, Coast to Coast, available at major digital and physical retailers as well as Claire's, Toys R Us and Justice. Lead single "On My Mind," which peaked at No. 39 on the Mainstream Top 40 tally, has sold more than 86,000 downloads, according to SoundScan. Two days before the EP's release, Simpson wrapped up a nationwide mall tour, sponsored by Claire's and anti-bullying website Defeat the Label. Kicking off in Lake Grove, N.Y., and ending in Los Angeles, the tour drew more than 3,000 fans at each of its nine stops, according to Atlantic.
Simpson isn't just making waves with catchy pop singles, however. He's also the centerpiece of a merchandise campaign. EP preorders came with bundles featuring a Simpson locker poster, T-shirt, four-string backpack and button pack. Fans who purchased a limited-quantity preorder package through QVC also received a Simpson back-to-school kit that included a poster, silicone bracelet and No. 2 pencil. The artist's website posted a similar back-to-school offer featuring "143 sunglasses"-teen slang for "I love you," inspired by the chorus of "iYiYi"-and recently added a 16-month school calendar. Simpson also has his own cereal: Cody Crunch is available exclusively at CodyCrunch.com.
"[Simpson's] fans want to own as much as they can of the things associated with him," Atlantic director of marketing Chris Stang says. "For this audience, merch is an important part-not only of the marketing of an artist but of the fan experience."
Fans will soon be seeing a lot more of Simpson. Having appeared on the Sept. 23 episode of Disney's "PrankStars," the teen will perform on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (Sept. 27). He's slated for "Live! With Regis and Kelly" (Dec. 8) as well as guest spots on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and Nickelodeon's "Bucket and Skinner" later this year.
Next up: a tour of Australia and a brief stint in Japan before returning stateside to finish recording his full-length album, tentatively scheduled for early 2012.
As for the Bieber comparisons? Simpson doesn't seem bothered. "When you listen to the EP, you can tell it sounds different [from Bieber]," he says. "It's not a competition."