Analysis of the K-Pop Industry and Its Eye-Catching Marketing

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K-Pop (Korean pop music) refers to ‘Korean pop music, or popular music from Korea, including dance music, modern rhythm, and blues, pop music, hip hop music.’ (Wikipedia, 2019) This industry can fit in Richard Caves’ seven economic properties.

Firstly, in terms of A list/B list, the three biggest managing agencies in South Korea are SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment, which is known as ‘The Big Three’. Besides, Big Hit Entertainment has ranked in the top 4 in recent years. These four companies can be classified as A list company as they are the top 4 Korean entertainment companies that earned the most sales revenue in 2018. (Kpopper09876, 2019) So that they got enough money to search for A list singer, dancer, and rapper (commonly known as idols), etc.

According to the 50+ Best K-pop Groups Of 2019, Ranked by Fans, the top 10 of the most popular K-pop Groups comes from ‘The Big Three’ and Big Hit Entertainment such as ‘BTS’, ‘BLACKPINK’, ‘Twice’ who can be classified as A-List idols with their popularity. It showed that these four companies can generate better idol groups who have a higher reputation due to their financial support. Moreover, K-Pop entertainment companies would hold audition in Korea and global audition in many foreign countries. Some trainees may also be scouted on the street.

Those trainees who can enter the agency must have an attractive and unique appearance or talented. Furthermore, to spread into the overseas market, ‘the Big Three have their strategies to train their idols stars in foreign languages. For example, SM Entertainment: Language learning through everyday experience and opportunities for learning abroad. YG Entertainment: School system and regular classes. JYP Entertainment: One-on-one training.’ (Kim, 2012) Given the successful and dominant of ‘the Big Three’, A list’s talented people are more willing to enter these companies and debut in the future in the hope of enhancing their competitiveness and fame. Also, there are many types of ranking among the idols that can become references for determining A list/ B list idols, such as ‘Most Popular K-Pop Idol Groups Based On View Counts Of Debut MV In First 24 Hours’ (Ranker, 2019).

Secondly, in terms of infinite variety, there are several industries related to K-pop, for instance, music production houses, event management companies, music distributors, entertainment companies, etc. After spending money and time on creating the perfect trainees and formed a group by the entertainment companies, the companies would decide the concept of the group. Each group will release a single album, full-length album, or special album, etc. Those albums have one promotional song called ‘Title song’ released from it. Moreover, each release is called ‘Comeback’. (90DAY KOREAN, 2019)

According to a K-Pop profile, there are around 450 idol groups, including those who are existing, sub-unit, pre-debut and disbanded. These groups have different styles, but they are doing similar things like performing their title songs on the stage of various music shows. K-Pop fans will have their preferences in choosing which companies and which idol groups. And under the idol groups, they can choose to listen and support which concept, album, styles, and songs.

Thirdly, in terms of Motley crew principle, every idol has their character and position in the group, for instance, leader, vocalist, rapper, dancer, visual, center and ‘maknae’ (the youngest member of the group). (Koreaboo, 2018) Some of their styles are sexy, cute, sweet, cool, etc. ‘Every group needs at least one member with an incredible singing voice, and usually one with some rapping talent as well. Each group also needs a visual member, the ‘pretty’ or ‘handsome’ member of the group that draws the crowd’s attention even if they’re otherwise not the most talented one, as well as a member that could rock everyone’s socks off on the dance floor.’ (90DAY KOREAN, 2019) Each group member utilizes their potential and strength, complement and cooperate with each other to generate special ‘chemical reaction’. Furthermore, idols who are talented in composing, lyrics and choreography can participate in the production of the album.

For example, a K-pop male group called ‘AB6IX’, the members Park Woo Jin, Lee Dae Hwi, Im Youngmin, and Kim Dong-hyun has been participated in producing and writing the songs in their first album ‘B:COMPLETE’.(Genius, 2019) It showed that members and producers can exchange different values and their styles and coordinate diversity to make a perfect album that suits the trend and the style of the group.

In terms of Nobody knows principle, K-Pop industries have many uncertainties as the trend is always changing and nobody can predict the outcome. On one hand, despite the popularity of ‘The Big Three’, entertainment stocks have long been neglected in the Korean stock market, owing to the fact that their performance has fluctuated constantly and stock prices have risen up and down repeatedly due to good and bad news, such as the debut or disbanding of a group. (The Dong-A Ilbo, 2011)

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On the other hand, after being a trainee, they will experience long hours of singing, dancing and language practices before they can make their debut for several years. And even then, they cannot guarantee whether they will have an opportunity to debut or not. (90DAY KOREAN, 2019) Many trainees are suffered from anxiety due to the uncertainty of their future. They believe that ‘practice makes perfect’ and thereby non-stop training after school, on weekends and holidays. Moreover, each group has its core image to distinguish itself from other idols attempting to break into the K-pop industry at the same moment. (90DAY KOREAN, 2019) Furthermore, there are a lot of idols, some of them are popular but some are not. The companies cannot ensure which songs and in what time the groups can become popular and successful.

It is possible that a group can be outstanding after a long period. Gives an example, a male group called ‘NU’EST’, their debut song ‘FACE’ has been ranked as the most-viewed record among K-pop male groups’ debut songs. However, their subsequent development is not smooth and facing disbandment, four members of the group attended a survival music program called ‘Produce 101 season 2′ for their last hope. Their outstanding performance in the program made them be recognized by the public again and is regarded as one of the retrograde icons. ‘NU’EST achieved their first win with the single ‘Bet Bet’ on the music program Show Champion seven years after debut.’ (Emlyn Travis, 2019) Success will happen with no predictions.

In terms of Time flies, time is essential in K-Pop Industry. The companies and idols have to catch up with the trend. To generate and maximize media exposure, an idol group need to be frequently promoting. As a lot of new idol groups debut in every year, so a ‘busier is better’ strategy has been embraced by many groups in order to survive in this competitive environment. The pace of the idol industry becomes faster and the idol groups are now making three to four comebacks within a year, which is more than before. (C. Hong, 2018) This implies they constantly training for the next album while promoting the latest album.

Besides, the collaboration between melodies, lyrics, and choreography by the producers, songwriters, and choreographers may have a deadline as the idol needs enough time for sound recording and practicing the choreography in order to create a perfect ‘comeback’. Also, some styles of music may become outdated if they missed the trend, so everything has to be well-prepared on time. Also, the companies should catch up on the submission deadline of the music award and festival. Furthermore, ‘In South Korea, all military-age males are required to serve, meaning K-pop idols sometimes have to put their career on hiatus for up to two years.’ (Travis, 2019) Therefore, some male idols would have a special concert or fans meeting or ‘comeback’ as many as possible before their enlistment.

In terms of Art for art’s sake, the idols care about their artistic achievement, they enjoy the process of preparing for or being an idol more than doing ‘humdrum’ jobs. According to South China Morning Post, a K-pop singer Jeon Sung-won said that ‘Music is what I truly love, so I think I am lucky to be doing this.’ Although he is exhausted after training and have confused about his future, he is satisfied and pleased to pursue his dream. (Dong, 2019) Additionally, idols would attend different award ceremonies like ‘MAMA’, ‘K-CON’, ‘Music Bank’ which held around the world. In 2014, a K-pop music award festival called the 2014 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) was held in Hong Kong.

Many K-Pop celebrities performed in front of fans. Park Geun-hye, the Korean president at the time gave a video message celebrating this cultural event. Apart from the declaration of the president, this ‘corporate’ event was engaged by the government. In exchange for hosting exhibitions of 57 Korean cultural businesses, the Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA) sponsored the prizes. Such commitments confirm the intention of the government to promote Korean cultural industries and their popularity in global markets and indicate the readiness of the government to develop ‘Hallyu’ as an industrial, transnational, cultural stream with Korean values. (Kim & Jin, 2016)

Also, the idols would show up on TV countdown Show like ‘Inkigayo’, ‘M Countdown’. One of the highest honors in the K-Pop industry is that an idol group winning a weekend music show or weekly chart countdown. (Romano, A., 2018) In these platforms with live performances, fans will scream alternating ‘fan chants’ to songs over musical intros, or a counterpoint to choruses, as a representation of unity and support.

Moreover, each group will have its own lightsticks which the fans would buy and bring along with, these LED sticks may be personally customized by the companies and idols based on their logo and commonly with their fandom color which can gain profits by selling them. In the ceremony or concerts, ‘you might get a sea of one singular color, or you might get an entire rainbow of color-changing lights.’ (Anderson, S., 2019) All these can show the artistic achievement of K-Pop idols.

Lastly, in terms of Ars longa, some idols who are skilled songwriters and producers may have certain songs copyrighted under their name, they can rake enormous earnings from the royalties of copyright. (Pok, S, 2018) It can secure the effort of the creators and they can gain profits with originality. On September 3, the Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) disclosed a significant increase in overseas royalties for Korean music. So far this year, Korean music royalties from abroad have reported a total of 11.3 billion won, a 140% increase from last year. A representative of KOMCA commented, ‘ The music of Korean artists such as BTS and BLACKPINK is receiving love from people around the world, and Korean artists are continuing to put on performances overseas. This is also the result of assigning specialized professionals to this department and using a strengthened system of monitoring music usage outside of Korea to avoid the omission of any K-pop royalties.’ (DY_Kim,2019)

Besides, the Korea Music Copyright Association has also indicated that it will do its utmost to guarantee that music creators can acquire the privileges they deserve. They have also paid in full for the use of Korean audio sources that happened abroad in recent years.

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