Happy 19th, Niall -- the biggest star from Mullingar (since Joe Dolan)
Published 14/09/2012 | 06:00
The birthday boy's fame has gone stratospheric as One Direction dominate the pop world, says Joe O'Shea
For most teenage boys, no matter how civic-minded they are, 19th birthday celebrations are unlikely to involve hosting a Charity Golf Classic for the homeless.
But Niall Horan is not your average teenager. And with great power (at 6.3 million, Niall has more than three times as many Twitter followers as UK Prime Minister David Cameron) comes great responsibility.
So today, the One Direction star will return to his home town of Mullingar to host two charity events, raising money for Irish Autism Action (IAA) and local homeless charity TEAM.
The mere presence of one-fifth of the world's biggest boyband should also swamp the Westmeath town in hysteria.
Within minutes of news getting out about the two events, the website hosting ticket sales crashed under the onslaught of One Direction fans.
The Mullingar Park Hotel and the local golf club will be under the kind of security normally reserved for state visits after Niall told his Twitter followers: "I am delighted and honoured to be in the fortunate position of being able to give back to my community".
"The plan for my birthday . . . is to raise as much money as possible for IAA and TEAM and at the same time ensuring that both events are successful and fun for everyone involved".
Niall also asked his fans to forego sending him birthday presents and tweeted a link which would allow them to either buy one of the 500 tickets for the event in his local hotel or make a donation.
The One Direction star certainly has plenty to celebrate. The group (along with Rihanna) stole the show at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, winning three VMAs for their song 'What Makes You Beautiful'.
Their debut single, written by a three-man team of Swedish/ American hit-makers who have worked for everybody from Britney Spears to Celine Dion, has sold more than five million copies worldwide.
'What Makes You Beautiful' also helped the Simon Cowell-backed One Direction achieve what so many massive UK pop acts have failed to achieve before them -- break America.
One Direction are huge in the US, following in the boyband tradition that stretches back beyond the likes of Backstreet Boys and N'Sync to The Osmonds and The Monkees.
When they played live at the Rockefeller Plaza in New York for The Today Show in March, 15,000 fans caused gridlock in the Big Apple.
Time Magazine reported how their debut album, Up All Night, went straight into the US charts at number one, a first for a UK group. "The Beatles or The Stones? Please -- America is all about One Direction.", was the verdict of Time.
Their secret weapon, used as never before by a pop act, has been social media.
Sonny Takhar, the MD of Simon Cowell's record label Syco, said: "Social media has become the new radio, it's never broken an act globally like this before."
The importance of internet tools is not lost on Niall Horan, One Direction's only Irish member.
"Social media is the main thing that we're about," he said recently.
"If you ask our fans where they found out about us it's always Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook: it's the most powerful thing we have."
Horan and his fellow One Directioners are already millionaires. They earned an estimated €2.5m each in the months following the release of their debut album, despite having only come third in the The X Factor in 2010.
However, those earnings are set to be dwarfed by what they can achieve over the coming year.
Sony Music, who distribute the band's material via Simon Cowell's Syco Records in the UK, are projecting they could double their current net worth over the next 12 months and rake in over €80m.
Nick Gatfield of Sony Music UK recently commented on the band's estimated earnings of €40m to June of this year and said "We fully expect to double that figure next year".
As well as being a money-making machine, the five lads (Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Zayn Malik) are also major employers.
"The team around them including musicians, stylists, producers, tour managers and so on, is 90-strong. That's 90 jobs created by these five boys," said Gatfield.
The new Fab Five have been busy investing their money, mostly in property in London, where Zayn Malick recently bought a new home reported to be worth €2.7m.
Only recently off their first world tour, they will be back out around the globe again in the New Year, adhering to the punishing schedule that boybands follow to maximise earnings over a short shelf life.
All five members of the group have become directors of their own company to avoid potentially huge tax bills. They will earn a salary through 1D Media and Ppm Music rather than being paid royalties directly and will be able to claim tax relief for everything from clothes and travel to make-up.
Those over the age of 14 may regard One Direction as an expertly designed, even cynical exercise in mass marketing.
And the boys do have to follow the kind of strict rules not normally associated with the music biz superstardom. 'Snogging' is fine -- sex and drugs and any hint of bad behaviour is forbidden.
There has been some controversy. Their US invasion did spark some sniping from right-wing commentators, directed at Zayn Malik, who is Muslim.
However, One Direction fans struck back, ensuring that 'Happy Ramadan Zayn' became a trending topic worldwide on Twitter at the start of Islam's most holy month.
Breaking the US and spreading religious tolerance amongst the youth of the world? There really is no end to the powers of One Direction.