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The business side of K-Pop 9 replies to this topic Started by sadude , Jan 13 2012 12:57 PM · 

#1 sadude

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 12:57 PM

Here's an interesting article I found on the business side of K-Pop.

http://askakorean.bl...s-of-k-pop.html

Here is a fun article from late last year about the business side of K-pop, and how the "idol industry" is dictated by business concerns.

* * *

YG-Version of Girls' Generation -- The Answer Lies In the Stock Market

On November 21, the media reported news about a new girl group by YG Entertainment ("YG") with a sensational headline. The headline from OSEN [TK: an entertainment newspaper] read: "YG's New Girl Group Contracted Not to Have Plastic Surgery." The story reported: "In its exclusive contract with a seven-member girl group to be debuted early next year, YG Entertainment is reported to include a clause that prohibited plastic surgery." It also quoted comments from a YG representative: "The new girl group is entirely consisted of members who did not receive any plastic surgery, and their contract with the company specifies that they would not receive any plastic surgery in the future." The representative further said: "The contract was made possible because the company focused on creating a new girl group that emphasizes the members' natural beauty."

The representative added: "This girl group began with looking at the pretty singers from other management companies, and wondering what color they would take if they performed YG's music. The previous color for YG emphasized talent, but good looks are now included as well. It will be a group that has not existed in the pop music market previously. This group already garnered attention because it would include Kim Eun-Bi, from Mnet's Superstar K 2. Right now it has seven members, although it could add one or two more. They are planning to debut by early next year."

The purpose of this news article appears to be rather clear, considering the timing and the content. The article ran two days before YG's initial public offering with KOSDAQ. It is common-sensical to view this as an information leaked in order to create a buzz right before the IPO. Regardless of the type of business, releasing information about a promising new product right before an IPO is not even a strategy -- it is just common sense.

YG Announces Plans to Benchmark Other Management Companies

But actually, the article was rather shocking, not in the least to the fans of YG, because the girl group described in the article is contrary to YG's original image as a label in every conceivable way. It was akin to YG attempting to imitate SM Entertainment, DSP Media or Core Contents Media. To a certain extent, it could be seen as a betrayal of YG's original direction. The article blatantly states: "This new girl group is the first group where YG can confidently say that we took the looks into account," and plastic surgery was unnecessary because of their excellent looks. By adding the extra bit about how they were "looking at the pretty singers from other management companies," YG reveals that it is benchmarking other management companies.


And some choice quotes from the continuation of the article:

[...]a successful IPO of an entertainment management company is much more than how much domestic market share it has.


The world's second-largest [entertainment] market, i.e. Japan, is 30 to 40 times larger than Korean market.


In Japan, YG is less successful than SM with Dongbangshinki and Girls' Generation and DSP with KARA.


Given these [sales] numbers, the prevailing analysis is that 2NE1 is not headed toward a greater commercial success [in Japan] than Big Bang.


As most analysts still believe that 2NE1 is better suited for the American market than Girls' Generation[...]


Currently, through 2NE1, YG is moving away from the hip-hop/R&B image of the label. "Ugly" by 2NE1 is deep into rock and electronica. It is a good strategy to keep fresh the existing groups with slightly different musical colors[...]


We already knew this to be the case, but isn't it fun to see music you like exposed at such a level as simply the result of background dealings by a profit-oriented company? :joyful:

#2 The☆AEUGNewtype

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 09:52 PM

I'm planning to read through all of this at some point, but I'm a little overwhelmed right now, but just a few quick impressions:

Damn, I didn't know it was a pretty accepted thing in K-pop for girls (and probably guys) to get plastic surgery, especially to the point where they'll basically admit it in press conferences. That really kinda makes my view of the whole Kpop industry a little bit lower than it was before. I knew there was always rumors about it, but damn.

This kind of analysis is the kind of analysis I do in my mind pretty often involving all kinds of music, be it Korean, Japanese, American, whatever, I'm always thinking about how a certain artist, genre, or style fits into the current market of any given country. It does make me sad to see how focused Korea is at "making it" in Japan, but their efforts always end up second-rate compared to domestic artists in Japan. There have been lots of discussions on why this is, from racism to the style just plain not fitting with Japan's music industry image, but I've seen this time and time again since the early 2000s. After they saw that BoA had become successful there (even though her management was handed to Japanese management companies, they didn't try to keep it internal at SM,) all the Korean management companies started trying to port over their most successful acts at the time, and none of them truly took off. Even while some of them had pretty good music and everything, they just aren't really something that can become a mainstay in Japan, for whatever true reason or combination of reasons it may be. I see it happening right now, again, with SNSD and KARA and all of these groups. They release things on the same day as a few other domestic artists and get absolutely destroyed in sales numbers every time. And again, while that probably brings them some profit over what they managed to pull in with Korean releases, but I don't think its a success that can be sustained for very long, and not one that will be able to overtake domestic Jpop or become mainstream.

Many people have pointed out, and I think it is also one of the biggest factors for these groups, is they notice how different the groups are, in their style, discipline, and overall image. Kpop groups that I've seen in Japan tend to have a fairly "un-idol" image for themselves, yet the idol industry is really the only one they can hope to fit into of all the vast sub-genres of the Japanese music industry. Yes, their music sounds American/shitty/whatever, but they're mostly just bringing over girl groups and boy groups which are, 90% of the time, part of the idol industry. They also have the very "militaristic" image that pretty much all Kpop groups have, where they train for years to reach this form of "perfection" so-to-speak, in looks, singing, and dancing, and they don't give off the vibe or message that they have the potential to get any better, its just more of a "this is what we are, and we will always be this way." This is the opposite of the idol industry, who, as most of us know, pride themselves as the performers that you follow through their training and years of hard work to keep making themselves better, or watch them mature into better performers on a constant basis. Kpop seems to have a somewhat forceful image, one that almost has a "we deserve this success" kind of attitude, where idols are the opposite, constantly thanking fans for supporting them and acting very humble and grateful about their success. I think there is also a little niche part of the market for those people in Japan who want something "exotic" but are tired of all the American imports that their market is already flooded with (even though most Kpop sounds American, they don't look it or speak it) and I think that may be another part of their success, but this part of the market is far from the majority or the mainstream opinion.

I was actually just looking about 4 or 5 Japanese music industry magazines earlier this morning at the bookstore, and all of them features blurbs or articles about Kpop artists, and it was interesting to see how differently the images were, when you could turn the page and see artists like Sakura Gakuin, Hello! Project, or even Johnny's groups or mainstream J-music artists.

I've also noticed recently that these Korean management companies are trying to pull the same bullshit they pull in Korea with their "repackaging" album crap, but doing it in Japan now, where music costs about twice as much. I can't see this as being a smart move. Of course, you'll always have the super-fans that will buy stuff like that, but in general, people really don't want to buy the same expensive-ass CD twice.

Obviously there is a business side to all kinds of entertainment industry, and coming from a background of marketing and business study, I think pretty deeply about this stuff a lot, but I just don't like the way Kpop goes about their marketing or business practices in general. They seem to ultimately want nothing more than the end-line dollar sign, and really don't have much concern about actually producing entertainment on the level or art or just plain appreciation, where even low-budget idol acts from Japan seem to nail the "fan-service" aspect right on the head, giving fans what they want and appreciate, and focusing on those people who are already hooked by providing quality content, some of which is actually fan-driven or fan-influenced. I think this is somewhat opposite of what Kpop does, where Kpop shoves stuff that you're supposed to like in your face, based on the market research and current trends, where idols basically establish a small name for themselves and grow themselves very selflessly within their current group of fans, and eventually, you can start making lots of money even just off a small amount of fans, if the fans appreciate your work enough and you have enough merchandising for them to soak up. Kpop tries to get everyone and their mother to like things right off the bat and hope it lasts, where idols also seem in the game for more of the long-run of business.

Those were the few ideas I could get a pretty good handle on in my mind at the moment, but I may post more later.

#3 Anderei

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:03 PM

I'm planning to read through all of this at some point, but I'm a little overwhelmed right now, but just a few quick impressions:

Damn, I didn't know it was a pretty accepted thing in K-pop for girls (and probably guys) to get plastic surgery, especially to the point where they'll basically admit it in press conferences. That really kinda makes my view of the whole Kpop industry a little bit lower than it was before. I knew there was always rumors about it, but damn.


For the most part, I don't think it's gotten to the part where they'll openly admit it. Most of them still deny it, unless they've gotten so much done that it's hard to deny (BEG, Seo InYoung, Solbi are the main ones I can think of who have admitted to it). It's still pretty much the custom to insist you're all natural.

#4 The☆AEUGNewtype

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:09 PM

For the most part, I don't think it's gotten to the part where they'll openly admit it. Most of them still deny it, unless they've gotten so much done that it's hard to deny (BEG, Seo InYoung, Solbi are the main ones I can think of who have admitted to it). It's still pretty much the custom to insist you're all natural.

I wasn't thinking or saying it was an industry standard to talk about it openly now, but the fact that it was admitted at all pretty much sets a certain precedent in the mind of the public, and I'm sure many people are having the same thoughts as me right now, thinking "damn, I bet a lot of those rumors are actually true" and possibly "this might happen more than we think."

#5 Ap2000

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:23 PM

Even while some of them had pretty good music and everything, they just aren't really something that can become a mainstay in Japan, for whatever true reason or combination of reasons it may be. I see it happening right now, again, with SNSD and KARA and all of these groups. They release things on the same day as a few other domestic artists and get absolutely destroyed in sales numbers every time.


I wouldn't say SNSD and Kara have been doing that bad in Japan.
Kara's albums sold 200k~500k. Arguably their singles did a lot worse with about 50~160k sold.
SNSD's Mr. Taxi sold around 140k and made it to #46 on the 2011 Oricon singles charts. Their album sold a lot more, you do the math.

Source for the Kara numbers:
http://www.generasia...ese_Discography

If anything, SNSD and Kara did exceptionally well, especially with their album sales.

#6 Anderei

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:30 PM

SNSD's Japanese album has almost hit 800k. The original, I mean. I don't know how the repackage has sold.

#7 The☆AEUGNewtype

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:34 PM



Even while some of them had pretty good music and everything, they just aren't really something that can become a mainstay in Japan, for whatever true reason or combination of reasons it may be. I see it happening right now, again, with SNSD and KARA and all of these groups. They release things on the same day as a few other domestic artists and get absolutely destroyed in sales numbers every time.


I wouldn't say SNSD and Kara have been doing that bad in Japan.
Kara's albums sold 200k~500k. Arguably their singles did a lot worse with about 50~160k sold.
SNSD's Mr. Taxi sold around 140k and made it to #46 on the 2011 Oricon singles charts. Their album sold a lot more, you do the math.

Source for the Kara numbers:
http://www.generasia...ese_Discography

If anything, SNSD and Kara did exceptionally well, especially with their album sales.


Yeah, the albums did ok, most placing in the top 20, with only SNSD's doing significantly well on sales, but the singles did very badly, with the highest Korean artists' single being SNSD at #46 for the year, and the next one in line was KARA at #64. Singles and albums market in Japan are very different, as well, considering how much each costs to make, market, and manufacture and how much extra marketing potential there is with many multiple releases per year (singles,) so it sheds a light as to what kind of products Japanese people are actually buying from these groups, with all signs pointing to "we'd rather just wait for an album with all the songs than buying the singles to support them along the way." Or maybe there are Korean super-fans importing the JP version of the album to Korea? Oricon does track a few online sites...

#8 Anderei

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 11:33 PM

I've actually been pretty impressed with most kpop sales in Japan. Most of them are doing much better than many jpop groups.

#9 Ap2000

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 12:13 AM




Even while some of them had pretty good music and everything, they just aren't really something that can become a mainstay in Japan, for whatever true reason or combination of reasons it may be. I see it happening right now, again, with SNSD and KARA and all of these groups. They release things on the same day as a few other domestic artists and get absolutely destroyed in sales numbers every time.


I wouldn't say SNSD and Kara have been doing that bad in Japan.
Kara's albums sold 200k~500k. Arguably their singles did a lot worse with about 50~160k sold.
SNSD's Mr. Taxi sold around 140k and made it to #46 on the 2011 Oricon singles charts. Their album sold a lot more, you do the math.

Source for the Kara numbers:
http://www.generasia...ese_Discography

If anything, SNSD and Kara did exceptionally well, especially with their album sales.


Yeah, the albums did ok, most placing in the top 20, with only SNSD's doing significantly well on sales, but the singles did very badly, with the highest Korean artists' single being SNSD at #46 for the year, and the next one in line was KARA at #64. Singles and albums market in Japan are very different, as well, considering how much each costs to make, market, and manufacture and how much extra marketing potential there is with many multiple releases per year (singles,) so it sheds a light as to what kind of products Japanese people are actually buying from these groups, with all signs pointing to "we'd rather just wait for an album with all the songs than buying the singles to support them along the way." Or maybe there are Korean super-fans importing the JP version of the album to Korea? Oricon does track a few online sites...


... or maybe they're new in the market and people first want to see the full range of music, in form of an album, before buying every single single ?

Stop being so extremely anti-modern-Kpop, man. =/

#10 The☆AEUGNewtype

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 03:19 AM

... or maybe they're new in the market and people first want to see the full range of music, in form of an album, before buying every single single ?

Stop being so extremely anti-modern-Kpop, man. =/

Your ideas probably hold as much possibility of being true as mine do, since this is all really just speculation, but as for your second statement, I don't know how one can be expected to support something that they don't believe in and don't get enjoyment out of.