Selena Gomez: The Billboard Cover Story
''It's a transitional stage,"
To bring music from Gomez's third album to fans of her TV series and a broader audience, the key, Konowitch says, has been the employment of multiple platforms. The video for the first single, "Who Says," which plays during the film's closing credits, received a 30-second sneak peek on E! before the full version aired on Disney Channel. Ryan Seacrest, rather than Radio Disney, played the song first on his syndicated radio show before it went to other stations -- an attempt to avoid getting a "kiddie music" label stuck to her new songs.
Video: Selena Gomez & the Scene, "Who Says"
Her promotional activities since the single's release have all been directed at an audience that most likely has never seen an episode of "Wizards of Waverly Place." She has already appeared on "Dancing With the Stars" and "Late Show With David Letterman." Upcoming stops include "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," "Good Morning America" and "Today."
"In the last two years she's gone from a novice to someone who stands for something -- with a real audience," Konowitch says. "Her song selection is about messages. What's important is that people have learned to respect Selena as the artist we think she is. Not just the consumers, but the industry and the gatekeepers . . . People want to work with her. People believe she can be big. But the stars have to align. Those stars have not aligned for others."
"When the Sun Goes Down" is Gomez's third album in 21 months. Her first, "Kiss and Tell," outsold the second, "Year Without Rain" -- 778,000 vs. 609,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- but the second disc achieved a higher position on the Billboard 200, No. 4 vs. No. 9. Her total track sales hit 7 million in early June.
"Who Says," which has sold 844,000 copies and peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100, is being used in U.S. trailers for "Monte Carlo" and will be used in European trailers as well. "Love You Like a Love Song," the second single, will be released on iTunes a week before the album and is already in trailers in Europe. Kmart, which carries Gomez's "eco-friendly" Dream Out Loud clothing line, will use both singles in promotional campaigns this summer.
"She's become a style icon with the tweens and teens," Fox 2000 president Elizabeth Gabler says. "Classy but sassy." One other song, "Bang Bang Bang," was released as part of iTunes' Countdown promotion, but isn't an official single.
Hollywood Records started setting up the album six months ago, presenting the music in Europe to the label's international team and then to Fox for it to be considered for the film. "Selena is benefiting from longer setup time than most of our artists allow us," Konowitch says. "More time was spent in the recording process [because] she has a keen sense of where she was going versus where she had to go. She wasn't living within any kind of restriction or a creative box -- and many times [young pop] artists feel they are."
Hollywood, Fox 2000 and the concert promoters involved with her 29 shows have the benefit of a summertime launch. Gomez, who finished her high school studies a year ago, has had limited availability to tour or promote previous releases due to commitments to films and TV. It helps, too, that Gomez specializes in dance pop.
"It's techno dance," Gomez says. "Pop is something I'm most comfortable with and these are producers who know me and know the direction we want to go in. The songs are tailored to me and my style. I'm very lucky."
BIG DREAMS AND HARD WORK
Named for slain Mexican singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez, Texas native Gomez showed an interest in acting as a child. Her mother, Mandy Teefey, took her to TV auditions well before Gomez ventured into singing. Little Selena, who spent her ninth birthday auditioning for "Barney," performed for two seasons with the purple dinosaur before taking on a series of smaller roles, one of which was as a guest on "Hannah Montana." Gomez was cast as Alex Russo in "Wizards of Waverly Place" in 2007, which led to her first starring role in a feature, the straight-to-video "Another Cinderella Story" from Warner. A co-starring role followed in Fox 2000/Walden Media's "Ramona and Beezus."
"My mom has been my manager since day one," Gomez says, a hint of family pride swelling in her voice. "She helps me make choices correctly. She protects me." She singles out the career of Shia LaBeouf as one she would want to emulate. Like Gomez, LaBeouf's career kicked into high gear when he was cast in a Disney Channel series, "Even Stevens," while still in junior high school. He made the transition to adult actor in the "Transformers" films, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." LaBoeuf, of course, doesn't have a concurrent music career.
"He did it really well," says Gomez, her compact sentences a reflection of training as both an actress and as a key piece in the Disney machine. "He's talented and doing wonderful things. Everybody has their own vision of how they want things to play out . . . Eventually I hope to make a record in Spanish. I don't do anything that's not organic. I don't like putting my name on anything I don't approve."
Fox 2000's Gabler is a firm believer in Gomez's talent, noting that she carries herself in a manner of "actresses who have built careers in feature films, like Dakota Fanning."
"Among young actresses in movies that have a pop presence she stands out," Gabler says. "She has a special quality in that she just doesn't -- and this is no disrespect to anyone else -- work out of just a sitcom style of comedy. There's a bit of self-deprecation, and she shows vulnerability. She's also able to do serious themes."
In the social media universe, Gomez is already a superstar. She has nearly 6 million Twitter followers and 20.5 million "likes" on Facebook. While those numbers are below those of her boyfriend Justin Bieber -- 10 million and 28.6 million, respectively -- she is the Internet queen of Disney. On Twitter, Demi Lovato is followed by 3.3 million and Joe Jonas by 2 million. On Facebook Cyrus counts 13.9 million likes; the Jonas Brothers, 8.7 million.
Video: Selena Gomez & the Scene, "Naturally"
"The key to Facebook is 'like' and Selena has the highest likability of any artist we have ever worked with. It crosses over into all of her business," Konowitch says. "It's a gift. And she has it at a level that is remarkable." On Vevo, her video for "Who Says," posted in March, has been watched more than 37 million times. The clip for "Naturally," the first single of her career, has been viewed 104 million times and "A Year Without Rain" has been clicked on nearly 68 million times.
Gomez also recently lit up the Internet when photos from her vacation with Bieber were posted just days after the couple shared their first public kiss at the May 24 Billboard Music Awards. Compared with the nude shots of "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens and Cyrus' bong photos, the Gomez-Bieber pictures were child's play. Gomez takes it in stride.
"I have a love-hate relationship with the Internet," Gomez says, noting she does all of her own tweets. "I don't like it in general -- it's vicious. But it's also incredible that I can connect with fans, because I love to hear their feedback and let them know about my life."
The challenge now for Fox 2000 and Hollywood Records is to convert those online fans into actual consumers. They're starting by putting Gomez in front of her fans by filling her June calendar with events that combine music and film. The Fox 2000 marketing team has her cutting across the country to visit upscale shopping centers to promote the film, and in many of those cities, she'll promote her album on radio and TV. In some cases, Gomez will perform with acoustic guitar on the radio. "I love stripping the music down to bass and guitar," she says. "[It] gives the songs a whole new meaning."
That effort -- piling radio and TV atop the mall visits -- is another quality that singles out Gomez, Gabler says."She's a hardworking girl -- very few work as hard as she does -- and she loves it," Gabler says. "She's going around the country, going out to see the audiences. You can't get more connected than that."