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Image: Kevin, Nick and Joe Jonas
Charles Sykes  /  AP
Don't expect this trio to go away anytime soon. Unlike most Disney acts, they were a band before they came a tween phenomenon.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 2/24/2009 9:35:14 PM ET 2009-02-25T02:35:14

Steve Greenberg, the CEO of S-Curve Records, is the man responsible for discovering the Jonas Brothers. He was working at Columbia Records in 2005 and was sorting through a pile of CDs to determine which artists the company would keep and which it would let go.

“In the pile was a Christian pop record made by Nick Jonas,” he said. “It was a very bland Christian pop record. It was awful, but his voice was great.”

Amy Doyle, the executive vice president for music and talent at MTV, recalled attending an event in 2005 at Planet Hollywood in Times Square in which the Jonas Brothers — well before their massive success — were holding a signing and listening party for their new record.

“There weren’t a ton of fans,” she remembered. “But the fans that were there were really, really excited. That’s when we felt there was something there.”

Miranda Monarch, a 14-year-old from Los Angeles, said she first became aware of the Jonas Brothers a couple of years ago while reading a teen magazine.

“Their music was pretty catchy,” she explained. “And two of them are cute.”

Right now, the entertainment industry thinks all three of the Jonas Brothers are absolutely adorable, because they’re enjoying the kind of success that boy bands in garages all across the globe can only dream about.

Their concert tour in 2008 grossed over $41 million. Their last album, “A Little Bit Longer,” has sold over 2.1 million copies worldwide. They have a film, “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience,” opening Friday. They were interviewed in the first segment on Barbara Walters’ annual post-Oscars special Sunday night. They’re all over the Disney Channel.

But how long will they last?

‘They’re a very different model’
Do they represent the pre-packaged, skillfully marketed Disney youth entertainment phenomenon of the moment? Or are they a uniquely talented group of musicians and songwriters who promise to have staying power?

The short answer: Who knows? But Greenberg offers a hint.

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“Very simply, the Jonas Brothers are different than every other Disney musical act,” he said, “because the Jonas Brothers were a band first, and they developed a following and a fan base, and then they were promoted in the Disney system. Everybody else, all those other people, started out with TV shows on the Disney Channel, or Camp Rock, and then got spun off.”

For that reason, Greenberg said, the Jonas Brothers have at least a shot at holding a place in the spotlight for longer than the customary 15 minutes.

“They’re a very different model,” he said. “Most Disney acts have trouble maintaining their popularity after the TV show goes away. That’s what happened with Hilary Duff and ‘Lizzie McGuire.’ Once she aged out and the TV show was gone, there was no context for her.”

Slideshow: Jonas Brothers Disney has boasted, at various times, Duff, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, the cast of “High School Musical,” Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and The Cheetah Girls. There may not be a better place to be for a young musical performer than under Disney’s umbrella. But such cover can also raise doubts about whether kid artists can survive outside of it.

“The thing about Disney’s bubblegum acts is that they have more marketing muscle behind them,” noted David Smay, co-author of the book “Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth,” along with Kim Cooper, as well as the new Tom Waits narrative “Swordfishtrombones.”

“They own a TV station, which is something the 1910 Fruitgum Company didn’t have.”

‘Just good, clean family fun’
Mark Zoradi, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group, was actually on his way to the premiere of the Jonas Brothers concert film Tuesday night when he took time out to explain why the names Jonas and Disney go together like Mickey and Minnie.

Video: Jonas Brothers' treat for fans “Their form of entertainment just fits like a glove with Disney,” he said. “They’re a huge music sensation, so they’re involved in our record company. They’re involved with TV on the Disney Channel. We saw how successful their concert tour was, just good, clean family fun.”

Smay said Disney tries to make sure that each of its acts is able to develop a distinct following, which at least creates the potential for a band like the Jonas Brothers to develop a long shelf life.

“It’s the same market, but they’re hitting it from different angles,” he said. “They don’t want to copy themselves. Each has a particular appeal, so they don’t tread on each other. ‘High School Musical’ and ‘Hannah Montana’ have some overlap, but not much.

“(Disney is) extremely smart. They’re up there with Apple in terms of marketing.”

‘They really do care about their fans’
Apparently the Jonas Brothers, their parents and their advisors have a little on the ball, too. They recognize, said MTV’s Doyle, that young fans today have a ravenous appetite for information, a need that the Jonas Brothers are only too eager to address.

“They really do care about their fans,” Doyle said. “They make it a part of their mission to connect and to have an ongoing dialogue with their fans on a regular basis. They do everything to peel back the curtain and reveal their world, which is really important. Fans don’t want mystery artists; they want as much access as possible.

Video: Inside ‘Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience’ “Over the last few years there’s been a shift. Fans are demanding more access, and they want more music made available on more platforms. The amount of choice for fans in terms of music is massive. In order for artists to cut through, they have to cut through not just to fans but also potential fans. They have to give them something new — a new song, a new video, a tour blog.”

The 14-year-old Monarch said she’d love to see the boys live in concert someday, but tickets are too expensive. So she appreciates the access the band provides. “I notice that they try to make connections with their fans. They try to make fans feel they’re just like everybody else,” she said.

In the end, whether the Jonas Brothers stick around will come down to their ability to churn out good music.

“Their music will grow with them,” Zoradi said. “As they grow up, their music won’t sound exactly like what they did before. I don’t think they’ll be a flash in the pan. They’re extremely talented. They’re not a manufactured group. They have genuine musical and vocal talent.”

Said Doyle: “I think it’s great pop music, pure and simple. They write hooky songs with great choruses. They play their own instruments. It’s a simple formula that works.

“Pop music is not going to go away anytime soon.”

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