Jonas Brothers not just phoning it in
Tonight, you might begin to wonder if something dreadful has happened to the tween demographic because they are not out and about. Fear not. Most likely they are watching "Camp Rock," the Disney Channel movie musical starring members of the hyper-popular Jonas Brothers.
Not that they needed one, but a half-million Jonas Brothers fans got a quasi-personal reminder on their phones today from the band members touring in Germany saying how excited they were about the movie. And if a fan wants, she can call the band's phone number, (818) 748-8887, and leave a message about the "Camp Rock" slumber party she's hosting. When she calls, she can choose to receive recorded calls from the boys or text alerts every time they issue a new voice message (the service doesn't work if you call from a number with caller ID blocked).
Connecting celebrities and fans by phone seems positively retro, admits Nikhyl Singhal (we incorrectly spelled it Singhai in a previous version of this post), chief executive of SayNow, the Palo Alto company that runs the service. Surely someone in Motown ...
... did this in the '60s? In a world where every hot musician and celeb knows his iMeem from his iLike and all the other social networking sites, he said, there's something about getting a telephone message from someone famous that appeals to people.
SayNow is sort of a phone messaging service, Singhal explained today during a visit to my office in San Francisco. It gives the artist a phone number that he or she then gives out to fans (and no, it's not the artist's real cellphone digits). The actor/R&B singer Tyrese is among the famous people leaving messages about their day and what they're thinking.
"It gets you closer to the fan and allows you to interact with them when they are offstage," Singhal said.
SayNow and the artists make money not from the phone call charges but from the advertising that accompanies the message as well as from sales of tour tickets and other items. In 15 months, the Jonas Brothers have gathered a virtual army of 500,000 people who have said they want phone messages from the band. When the group was in New Jersey, the brothers left a message saying they wanted a bagel. They were greeted with bag upon bag at their next gig.
"They could get them to do anything," Singhal said. "Tell them to register to vote, they would register to vote."
Other artists using SayNow include R. Kelly, Janet Jackson and the rapper Lil' Fizz. Hoping to capture different kinds of audiences, SayNow plans to expand into comedy, sports and possibly politics.
Woody Allen ("I shot a moose once") isn't on the list yet, but one can hope.
-- Michelle Quinn
Photo: From left, Jonas Brothers Nick, Joe and Kevin, along with co-star Demi Lovato from the movie "Camp Rock" on the Disney Channel. Credit: Bob D'Amico / Disney Channel