All About K-Pop

By William Koestiono

On May 22, 2013, Big news for every Kpop music lovers, we have an upcoming Kpop surge (Hallyu) in USA. Psy starred in a Super Bowl ad, Girls Generation performed at Madison Square Garden, and 2NE1 was voted as Best New Band by MTV Iggy. The Korea Society observes and studies the current sensation of the Kpop nationally and the projections of Kpop’s future with prominent guest speakers in the discussion forum. The discussion topic was ‘Could Hallyu be temporal or is it the foundation of an initiative to US music market?’

The discussion forum was begun with a brief introduction of the panelists. The panelists are Jeff Yang, Johnny Noh, Nicole Curry, Chritine Love Lee, and Jeff Benjamin. Jeff Yang is our moderator in the forum, he is a communication expert, he launched a new weekly column, Tao Jones, for the Wall Street Journal Online. Johnny Noh is the founder of 6Theory Media, allkpop.com and tokyohive.com. Nicole Curry is the first fully American person auditioned at “K-Pop Star”. Christine Love Lee was ranked fourth at “Super Star K 3” run by Mnet in Korea. And Jeff Benjamin is a Billboard.com’s writer for Kpop column, K-Town, and Fuse.tv, he helped news about PSY signing U.S. record deal.

We know the Kpop has begun invading USA since last year Psy’s Gangnam Style break the record in Youtube. Jeff Yang brought up an idea about ‘Why Kpop is universally acceptable? Is it unique? Why is it marketable around the world?’ But first he has a question for the other panelists ‘What is the process to become a Kpop star’. Johnny explained that Kpop stars are recruited when they were very young, they undergoes rigorous training period, battling with other trainees similar to hunger games – minus the killing part, and has a very low chance of success. Nicole and Christina explained in order to become a Kpop star you need to have a strong passion in Kpop music and have a good mental to withstand intimidation if you come from other countries. This is especially true because Korean singer is a very competitive job, there are millions of people competing with others to become a successful star. And the process to become a millionaire star is not as simple as training in music or dance club. It is a life changing process, you will become people’s idol not only in Korea but possibly around the world like Psy.

Although the chance of to become a successful star is slim but they are very hardworking and keep pursuing their dream to become a star. When they become a successful star, it is relatively easy to market them. In Korea, the entertainment company marketers are targeting schools and universities to advertising their rising star. But if it is only local market, the Korean music entertainment does not have a problem. The problem is how they market their artists to overseas market. They need to find a way out and finally found a way to market the artists using a simple Internet tool that is open to public and has plenty of audiences, Youtube.

Youtube is one of the simplest online marketing for music stars beside facebook, tweeter, and blogs. Kpop is easier to market unlike other music such as Jpop (Japanese Pop) because Youtube blocked the access to most of the Jpop songs. Youtube has an agreement with Sony Entertainment to block every licensed songs posted online. Kpop entertainment companies does not request Youtube to block their songs uploaded instead they use this big opportunity to mass media their songs globally so people could freely access the songs. Why is this important for them to use Youtube as a marketing tool? Johnny further explained that buying music cd in Korea is like buying a gift/souvenir. People generally download the music online, piracy happens everywhere and it is very hard to contain piracy. And when Psy’s Gangnam Style was viral in Youtube, suddenly everyone knows about how cool Kpop is. This would be a foundation for people to know more about Kpop culture.

Johnny adds a little comment on the development of Kpop music globally. He explained that it was started during the Asian Economic Crisis around 2000s. Korea heavily invested their money repairing their infrastructure to create more job opportunities, and one of them is entertainment. We know that Kpop is more into entertainment, not just a simple music. When we watch the Kpop shows in the Youtube, the stars are in variety programs, drama, and talk shows. They are trying hard and pushed their bodies to the limit to be in the television. If you are not in the major labels, it is nearly impossible to participate in the TV shows. If you do not stand out in the crowd, people will not recognize you.

The forum closes with Jeff asking the panelists, how to make Kpop star very sustainable in the U.S. music industry? Most of them answered, that depends on what Kpop star’s gender, the female Kpop star is generally easier to sustain in U.S. market industry, but for the males, they are harder to be in the U.S. market. This idea is true because the popularity of the female Kpop groups is way higher than the males. Wonder Girls, Girls Generation, and 2NE1 are more marketable in USA because they are easily attracting fans due to their pretty appearances. The answer is actually depends on the demand of the fans and the popularity of the Kpop stars. If their music becomes viral in Youtube like Psy, they think it is possible to become success in USA. Jeff also asks panelists, which Kpop star would they bring to U.S. if they have funds to support the star. All of them answered the same question: G-Dragon from Big Bang. Although he is a male Kpop star, he has a talent to go overseas. His English is quite good and currently he is doing a world tour to 8 different countries in Asia.

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