Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Just watched: The darker side of Kpop

Perhaps prompted by the two sell-out concerts in Paris recently, the BBC ran a story on the Kpop wave. From the title, I was expecting the worse. Like most entertainment industries, Kpop has enough skeletons in the cupboard that any journalist could portray it as a centre for plagiarism, over-bearing fans, shady deals between management companies and the media, and the endless obssession with physical perfection. This would give quite an unfair image of kpop as it makes its first steps into the West, since the same accusations apply anywhere.

Watching the news report, you can tell the journalist doesn’t take the Kpop scene seriously. Describing the extensive training that Kpop acts go through as “a couple of years of singing lessons” is a bit of an understatement, but it’s hard to tell if that’s because she can’t imagine Kpop taking hold in Western markets, or if she’s just dismissive of pop music in general.

Having said that, I was quite relieved that the story focused on contractual problems. This is undoubtedly a problem in Korea, to the extent that falling out with your manager can end or seriously damage your career, so I think it’s a valid story. It also covered the pricing policy of digital downloads and how cheap they are. All of this pointed to some performers not earning much at all. Certainly, I remember seeing a survey on allkpop which said the average wage of a singer was some way below that of an office worker.

And it ends by saying that the industry is changing. How could it not? As it spreads into more lucrative markets and artists see more sales coming in, management contracts will have to keep pace.

All in all a fairly balanced piece, and not as sensationalist as I feared from the title. I do wonder, though, how long the BBC is going to keep reporting on the Kpop music industry without actually playing the music itself.


  1. It's interesting to see, no? How Kpop is expanding - last time it was Super Junior on... not Talk Asia, but an actual story when they did iKorea.

    Now the BBC. I did note that tone in the journalist's voice - I think she finds it baffling. I mean, who wouldn't just be a little skeptical when being shown some SNSD video, and then telling you that's the next big thing.

    The problem with digital downloads for pop music in general, not only kpop, is that the fans are used to single tracks. The only solution to that would be to teach the fans to buy the original product - I think they do pretty great with all those special edition repackages with pretty pictures.

    I haven't bought any Kpop product... only a Seo Taiji album, and his Symphony 3-disc edition, as well as some DBSK albums my friend gave to me. But I do understand buying something because it's got your idol on. LOL I've bought Photobooks and imported magazines just because I feel obligated to support my idol. xD

    by the way, we were on the SM Town Paris concert. xD

  2. I wonder when one band is going to try and make a push to get into the West. I worry that they're going to go all out, with media, publicity and big name collaborations. The media like their music to be "authentic" and if they see new bands buying there way into the headlines, they may not take it seriously. I'd much rather a Kpop band (or two) just released something first - nothing much, just an mp3 download - to see how it does.

  3. I think 2NE1 is the one getting in the closest. I don't know how I would feel with them singing in English though, I'd much rather they released original English material. However, I do feel the essence of Kpop is... well, singing in Korean.