The Unbelievable Economics of K-Pop!
Pop Music In Asia
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Visiting Japan is like going on a journey into the future.
Robots serve and transport your meals, vending machines sell everything from umbrellas to puppies, 320-kilometer-per-hour bullet trains whisk you about the island, and the island's median age of 47.3, the second-highest in the world, warns of global aging on the horizon.
However, there is one manner in which Japan is locked in the past. You might notice something weird while walking through Tokyo, Osaka, or Kobe: an unusually high number of music stores. Japan has 40% more population than the United States yet nearly double the number of music stores.
The Japanese music industry is the world's second largest, yet it is unlike any other. Streaming has mostly supplanted physical sales in most areas of the world. In 2015, for example, digital music sales accounted for 66% of all music sales in the United States. In Japan, the situation is practically the polar opposite. This is owing to the country's tight copyright laws, licensing limitations, and rental culture, among other factors.
Korean Pop Music
However, in nations like Japan and South Korea, CDs are still popular for another reason: K-Pop.
Korean pop groups have compensated for piracy losses by selling glossy, expensive, collector CDs, which are frequently sold to fans who would never listen to them. CDs are instead marketed as swag, frequently with varied covers to promote multiple purchases, and occasionally as lottery tickets for a chance to meet your favorite performer. What's fascinating about K-Pop as a company is that practically everything is made as a consumer product from the start. Artists aren't discovered; they're moulded for maximum reach in a factory system over many years. It's no coincidence that they've had international success.
K-Pop is a government-funded initiative aiming at increasing South Korea's global influence. Making it exceedingly political in the process. The Summer Olympics in 1988 were a watershed moment for South Korea. It was a unique, historic chance to reshape the country's image overseas, similar to Japan's 1964 and China's 2008. Strict censorship regulations and monopolistic television networks soon gave rise to a new generation of artists. for new international markets Instead of waiting for demand, Korean entertainment snatched it up and produced it.
The institution translated a popular drama called "What is love" into Cantonese and delivered it to the Korean embassy in Hong Kong, where it was given out to a local television station for free. Hong Kong and its neighbor Guangzhou soon demanded more. Demand quickly expanded to Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, and even mainland China, which established diplomatic ties with South Korea the following year. This widespread cultural dispersion was dubbed "Hallyu," or "the Korean Wave," by the media.
After the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, when manufacturing industries in South and Southeast Asia suffered massive losses, the next turning moment arrived. President Kim Dae-Jung reacted by turning to the entertainment industry, engaging a public relations agency to develop a new national image. The cultural budget was expanded by 600%, and a new Ministry of Culture was established, complete with a K-Pop section.
With the viral smash "Gangnam Style" in 2012, the second Korean Wave began. Korean music, dramas, kpop fashion, and language piqued the interest of the whole globe overnight. While it didn't properly represent K-Pop as a genre, it did prove one important point: that a song didn't have to be composed in English to be successful in the West, as seen by songs like "Despacito." Nobody could have foreseen Gangnam Style's success, but the emergence of Korean entertainment in some manner was unavoidable.
The K-Pop Formula, in fact, was created for it. The fact that K-Pop is reverse-engineered based on customer tastes sets it apart from other genres. Unlike most performers, who begin by practicing in their parents' garages and are ultimately found by a record company, K-Pop groups frequently start, rise, and change paths from a conference room.
YG, SM, JYP, and Big Hit Entertainment are the four major labels. Although the term "label" is perhaps misleading, these firms are more like product designers than agents, as they build and shape every part of their groupings.
They begin by recruiting new members. Because K-Pop performers are as much public figures as musicians, the personalities they attract are crucial. Companies want a group of unique yet unified personalities in order to appeal to a broad audience while avoiding unneeded internal strife. Some labels make the recruitment process into a reality show, which is great for building fan devotion and dramatizing characters.
In 2012, 4% of the population of South Korea auditioned for Superstar K, the country's most popular singing competition. Other organizations hire only on the basis of looks, because training is the next step. Potential stars, as young as 11 years old, go through a grueling 5-to-10-year training process. A training routine can look like this: 5 a.m., get up; practice choreography, 5 p.m., practice choreography, 5 p.m., practice choreography, 5 Go to class, Leave at 3 p.m., practice vocals until 6 p.m., take language classes until 9 p.m., and then exercise until 11 p.m., leaving an hour to return home before Seoul's trains close for the night and 5 hours to sleep.
Despite all of this, only approximately 10% of trainees will ever debut after forsaking all other interests and goals, mastering English or Japanese. Long, uncomfortable hours, little salary, and unjust 7-year contracts with restrictions prohibiting them from discussing their personal lives in public and/or mandating them to keep a specific weight are among the complaints made by K-Pop singers.
Labels, on their part, maintain that these restrictions are required since they invest tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars and years in each trainee. Localization is the third and arguably most crucial factor.
It's difficult to pin down precisely what K-Pop is because it encompasses everything from pop to techno, rock, and hip-hop. The way it caters to a worldwide audience is one of the few unifying features that distinguishes it from, say, Japanese Pop.
TWICE, BTS, EXO, AOA are examples of group names that contain a short, readily remembered English term or acronym.
Another typical method is to have at least one member of the group who is Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Taiwanese. Songs and their lavish music videos are sometimes made twice or three times: once in Korean, once in Japanese, and once in Mandarin, with English phrases strewn throughout. This worldwide emphasis offers Seoul with something even more significant, albeit intangible, in addition to being extremely profitable. While soft power is difficult to quantify, it communicates a country's narrative in a manner that no amount of tanks or industries can. Because it portrays such a strong national image, K-Pop is extremely political.
As a result, South Korea sent the girl group Red Velvet to Pyongyang last year to perform for Kim Jong-Un. Separately, the United States began deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea in 2016 to counter prospective North Korean missiles. South Korean items began to vanish from Chinese stores soon after. Although it was never stated directly, China's government essentially outlawed K-Pop.
Tour groups were barred from visiting the South, and previously welcomed K-Pop acts had their appearances canceled or visas rejected. Music videos were also restricted on the internet, forcing bands to attend performances in Hong Kong and Macau until the restriction was lifted in 2017. It's another example of China utilizing its vast consumer market as leverage - similar to the current NBA debate - both demonstrating the unshakable endurance of Chinese patriotism - even greater than a Kobe Bryant or BTS super-backing. fan's Finally, every last millimeter of wasted space must be sold.
Paid endorsements, product placements, and sponsorships benefit greatly from high levels of fan loyalty. The 7-member boy band BTS is the classic illustration of the formula's success. Their Twitter account receives four times the amount of interaction as President Donald Trump's, they featured on the Ellen program, gave a UN address, and contribute an estimated $3.7 billion to the Korean economy each year.
According to one research, the country receives $5 for every $1 spent on K-Pop. It's currently constructing a themed zone in the capital, complete with a concert arena, recording studios, museum, and K-Star Road, modeled like Hong Kong's Avenue of Stars or Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Some criticize K-Pop for being excessively marketed, contrived, and... phony.
While other musicians create heartfelt origin stories, K-Pop is straightforward about their motivations: profit! Yes, it's overblown and mass-produced, much like professional wrestling. Yes, its admirers are aware of this. However, the fact that it's all so clearly contrived has a respectable authenticity to it. It may be a hoax, but the delight it offers to millions of followers throughout the world is genuine.