Actresses/singers Aly Michalka, left, and AJ Michalka of the band Aly & AJ perform onstage during the Radio Disney Totally 10 Birthday Concert.
Actresses/singers Aly Michalka, left, and AJ Michalka of the band Aly & AJ perform onstage during the Radio Disney Totally 10 Birthday Concert.
Getty Images For Radio Disney

In the Concert Hall, It Smells Like Tween Spirit

By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 6, 2006


When we got the initial invite from Radio Disney to an event described by their octopussian marketing arms as Generation Z's first "tweenstock," a mega-concert featuring the hottest stars in the fifth-grade demographic, it was OMG, the relentlessly infectious family-oriented happy-message music?

We're there!

Promises were made: All access. Backstage passes. Interview ops. Commemorative glow sticks. An assigned seat.

The "Radio Disney Totally Ten Birthday Concert" at the Arrowhead Pond arena in Anaheim? To be huge. Aly & AJ. Jesse McCartney. The Cheetah Girls. The July 22 event sold out. Seriously, Internet scalpers were asking $129 for the cheap seats. The crowd? An ocean of tweens -- and their moms (a joined entity, we would learn later, known in marketing circles as "the four-legged consumer"). When we arrived in the parking lot that Saturday night there was already a line of limos. Reflect on the awesome power of an economic system capable of producing the almost Willy Wonkian construct: limousines filled with children.

Still in the lot, one chaperon told us that her three charges had spent the entire day pre-listening to the night's performers on their iPods while doing hair, nails, makeup, outfits. "They're exhausted," said mom Judy Chan of Orange County. Funny, they didn't look exhausted. The three girls, Chan's daughter and two pals, all 10 years old, cute as a pail of puppies, seemed positively radioactive with anticipation. "Okay," Chan said. " I'm exhausted."

Entering the arena's giant maw we saw this: white go-go boots, green micro-minis, raspberry berets, blue platform flip-flops and sparkly hair scrunchies.

And the girls -- not afraid of pink.

There were boys, too. But not tons of boys. More like little brothers. There was, however, a decent representation of cool dads, some of whom we meet in the beer line during intermission.

Attention, senior citizens, age 21 and over: In case you've missed it, it's time to GET OUT OF THE WAY. The tween demographic, formerly known as "children," roughly 7 to 13, is red-hot. Tweens are the new teens who are the new adults who are the human ATMs making limousines filled with children possible.

Research reveals that tweens "spend" between $38 billion and $59 billion a year, depending on how one defines the exact age of the cohort and the verb "spend," meaning who is signing the credit card receipts vs. who is ripping the plastic wrapping off the CD jewel cases while still in the store.

Forget dolls. These kids get surprisingly thin cellular telephones. They want spa treatments. They're 9. And beyond what they consume themselves, they shape parental purchasing of everything from vacations to cars to electronics.

CONTINUED     1              >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company