Early last year, the Jonas Brothers -- Kevin, 20; Joe, 18 and Nick, 15 -- were just the Jonas brothers. They'd just been dropped from Columbia Records, having sold fewer than 65,000 copies of their first Christian pop record, "It's About Time." Their biggest concerts attracted 300 kids, according to their manager and dad, Kevin Jonas.
Then, last February, they plugged into the Mouse House. Result? Ka-boom.
Their new album, "Jonas Brothers," has since sold more than a million copies, as well as some 2.5 million digital tracks, according to Hollywood Records -- a feat in no small way attributable to being the opening act in Disney's "The Best of Both Worlds" Miley Cyrus concert film. They'll also star in an original Disney Channel movie ("Camp Rock," out later this spring), release their third album in July and star in a new Disney Channel series that starts shooting this fall.
Oh, and then there's also the two-year, 140-city touring deal with LiveNation that just began last month. (The 11 most recent shows reported to Billboard Boxscore so far this year have grossed $2.6 million and sold 59,731 tickets, with shows running at 98.7% capacity.)
How -- and, as important, why -- could this happen so quickly? Simple: Disney leveraged its considerable cable TV, film, record and radio assets to cross-promote the band.
While the Clearasil crowd learned about the Jonas Brothers largely through the power of Disney's noncommercial cable network, the channel learned a lot about how to build a brand from "High School Musical." The 2006 Disney Channel original movie that turned into a billion-dollar franchise for Walt Disney Co. is also transforming Disney's Hollywood Records into a farm team for the company's TV and movie talent.
"If there was any lesson we've learned from 'High School Musical,' it was this: We should be looking for properties that aren't just TV shows," said Adam Bonnett, senior VP-original series for the Disney Channel. "Because when music is part of a movie or series, it's a much easier way to create a relationship with an audience. They don't have to just wait for the show; they can listen to the album, or watch their [music] videos anytime."
Added Mr. Bonnett: "We now take meetings every week with talent from the [Hollywood Records] label."
The way the Hollywood label and Disney Channel work hand-in-glove to market and promote has been given new luster to the shop-worn term synergy. Radio Disney gave Jonas Brothers singles airplay, and the channel embraced their music videos. "They had four videos out before the album was even released," said Ken Bunt, senior VP-marketing at Hollywood Records. "That almost never happens."
Two weeks after the Jonas Bros.' second album was released on Hollywood Records, the channel aired their guest stint on the episode of "Hannah Montana" that immediately followed the debut of "High School Musical 2." More than 10 million tuned in.
Hitting the road
But with the onset of the writers strike, a sizable crimp was placed in the Channel's plans to launch "J.O.N.A.S.," a new Disney Channel series that has the three brothers working their day jobs as rock stars but also night gigs as governmental covert operatives engaged in espionage.
And so, with no writers writing, the brothers hit the road, first with Miley Cyrus and now on their own. "The writers strike created touring opportunities for people who'd otherwise be shooting," said Jason Garner, CEO of North American Music for LiveNation. "We started out playing various [LiveNation-owned] House of Blues [venues], but they broke building records. The future holds far bigger ... venues for these guys -- soon."
Mr. Garner was so enamored of the brothers Jonas, he signed them to an atypical two-year touring deal. "None of us want to have a one-night relationship," he said.
The Jonas' squeaky-cleanliness is also serving them well with sponsors. The brothers recently signed on as sponsors of Breakfast Breaks, packaged combinations of portable breakfast foods (provided by major brands such as General Mills and Minute Maid) for kids.