Candy Jelly Hate – understanding k-pop business decisions

It doesn’t matter what the situation is, everybody’s got an opinion about how k-pop agencies should run their artists.  Surely with such a wealth of business knowledge coming from both Korean and international netizens, it’s a wonder that any k-pop agencies ever lose money and have misfortunes at all!  If only k-pop agencies took heed of the plethora of free advice and popular opinion out there on the Internet, nobody in k-pop need ever fail at anything ever again!

honghead

So why do k-pop agencies continue to act like they know what’s in their own best interests?  Why don’t they just listen to us and do what we want?  Read on as Kpopalypse demystifies the mystical mysteries of some of k-pop’s more mysterious business decisions!

Like many Kpopalypse posts about the business side of k-pop, this post might get a little bit lengthy and wordy.  I know that some of you guys are attention-span-challenged and don’t like tl;dr so I’ve prepared a special short version of this post just for you.  Just click on the picture of “the best ever cum in your life” Seo Jisoo below to access it:

jissojiss

Now you can skip all the inconvenient text below and go straight to your favourite forum or website and start whining about how much of an asshole I supposedly am for writing free content for your entertainment.  Let it never be said that I don’t think of and carefully consider ALL my readers!

For the rest of you who actually enjoy reading my long-winded garbage, let’s take a look at a few case studies.  Also, people are always asking me about my opinions on this type of shit, so this post should satisfy some of you “what does Kpopalyspe think about this shit” type folks out there.  The rest of this post may be obvious to some of you, and I’m sure I’ll get “oh Kpopalypse is so condescending, I already knew this shit” type comments, and that’s fine.  Of course everybody reading this knows all this shit already.  That’s why there’s so many rational k-pop fans out there.  Oh wait.

Wonder Girls’ “failed American advancement”

The story we all hear:

It’s well documented that Park Jin Young aka “JYP”, CEO of JYP Entertainment, tried his hardest to break The Wonder Girls in the USA for many years and didn’t succeed.  This refocus into the American market not only lost money in the United States, but scuttled The Wonder Girls’ momentum within Korea, meaning that his label lost out and The Wonder Girls’ lost their chance at iconic status to competitors such as Girls’ Generation and 2NE1.  It’s been suggested that JYP doesn’t even belong in the “big three” k-pop labels anymore due to declining sales and that without “breadwinner Suzy” from miss A keeping the company afloat with her constant endorsement money, he’d be fucked.

The reality:

At the start of 2013, JYP finally conceded defeat in the USA and withdrew from the American market completely, by folding his American subsidiary JYP Creative and getting the fuck out.  The net loss recorded for the last year’s worth of activities in the USA was $1.718 million.  Oh no, so sad, right?  Sad until you realise that JYP is rich as a motherfuck.  JYP’s sales the following year was $43.7 million with a net profit of $7.07 million, so he made the money back no problem.

Why go out on such a limb at all though?  Wouldn’t it have been better to keep building on The Wonder Girls’ Korean success rather than trying them out in an unknown market?  People who operate businesses know that being stagnant is death – your competitors will overtake you.  So any businessman in a highly competitive industry where nothing is guaranteed long-term is always looking for ways to expand the business and keep in front.  American success might seem unlikely to us and it might’ve even seemed unlikely to JYP, but a couple million dollars as a gamble for something way bigger in that kind of context is worth a shot, and JYP was uniquely positioned with a lot of capital and a hot girl group to give it a go.  JYP wasn’t going to go out on all that much of a limb, after all he folded the American branch of his company pretty quickly once it became clear that money was never going to be made, but the fact is that he wouldn’t have spent a million dollars on The Wonder Girls if he didn’t have that kind of money to burn in the first place.  With all that income from 2PM coming in (contrary to popular belief, it’s 2PM that is JYP’s biggest earner, not Suzy) JYP has a secure financial base from which to work from while trying this kind of thing out.  If it fails – oh well, not that big of a deal, return The Wonder Girls to Korea and move onto the next venture, like perhaps a new clothing line:

jyppants

K-pop fans are one-eyed and struggle to get with this kind of thinking.  JYP on the other hand is looking at it like a business, not like a fangirl scared that their bias group is under threat.  Once you forget about your emotions for Wonder Girls and look at it from a business perspective, JYP’s actions are easy enough to understand.

f(x)’s “unfair treatment”

The story we all hear:

Poor f(x).  They’re on SM Entertainment, the biggest label in k-pop, but they just don’t get the support they deserve.  They don’t get a proper concert, their comebacks are always cut short and usually coinciding with EXO or some other big boy group, they don’t even have an official fandom!  What’s up with that, does SM just hate them or what?  They’re so popular, with a little extra love from the label and some proper promotion they could be huge!

The reality:

By the time that f(x) were ready for debut, SM already had established the hugest of huge k-pop girl groups that were ever huge in the history of huge k-pop girl groups being huge, Girls’ Generation (SNSD).  SM Entertainment doesn’t need to run two Girls’ Generations at once, and it would be stupid for them to do so, because market share would then get divided between the two similar groups, they’d just be dividing their existing audience up.  So SM came up with another idea, to push their new group f(x) into completely different markets, and rather than get existing SNSD fans hooked on them instead to try and tap into a brand new audience that SM didn’t have yet.  So f(x) are their experimental pop project group who are deliberately positioned in the market a little bit off-centre so as to appeal to the kind of punters who wouldn’t necessarily go for the slick commercial pop of SNSD.  So while f(x) may not get big-ass Korean concerts they do get to do slightly different things like play the prestigious SXSW festival in Texas with a bunch of Korean rock and punk groups, something that wouldn’t have worked at all for just about any other act on SM apart from them.  f(x) also get the weird artsy presentation (check out any of their CD photobooks), more individual activities instead of group stuff and no fandom name because the kind of person who SM Entertainment is marketing f(x) to is the kind of person who thinks that fandoms are a special people’s club.  Paradoxically, f(x) are huge because of this type of treatment, not in spite of it – if they were just another girl group in the SNSD style you probably wouldn’t like them as much.

Don’t just take my word for it though, if you’re an f(x) fan who still feels hard done by, watch this great v-log below.  Contrary to a popular belief held by every fucktard who wildly misreads the tone of my writing and thinks I’m trying to be Angry Video Game Nerd, I’m actually a pretty chilled, relaxed kind of guy, however I actually fucking hate v-logs with the passionate fury of a thousand suns, so if I’m actually telling you to watch a v-log, that means the content here was actually good enough to overcome my knee-jerk loathing of v-logs in general and that’s right up there with “that girl from that nugu k-pop group looks a bit like Raina” in terms of Kpopalypse recommendations.

Pledis won’t bring back After School because “there’s no money”

The story we all hear:

Pledis is broke!  Some After School members recently tweeted that they’d love to comeback but the label just can’t afford itOh no!  Is Pledis in the red?  Will they go bankrupt?  Will After School have to work for a tenpro to make a living?  If so, does anyone have contact details on exactly where plus information on cheap flights and hotels in Seoul?

The reality:

There’s plenty of money.  There just isn’t money for After School.  Difference.  Pledis are if anything quite frugal – they’re certainly not the type to throw money out there unwisely (I know from experience that this is true – info in a forthcoming post) and an After School comeback isn’t needed right at this minute, and probably wouldn’t make money that the label aren’t already earning, so they’re not spending on it – instead they’re spending on the things that matter more right now.  There’s plenty of time for Orange Caramel who have come back about 57 times both as a group and with solo projects since the last After School promotional activities, because those OC girls are all crazy popular and all make a shit-ton of cash in endorsements.  There’s plenty of time to debut a new boy group called Seventeen with expensive-ass music videos too.   Contrary to their name and also disappointingly, Seventeen actually have only thirteen members, but that’s still a fucking lot and it takes serious capital to train and debut a group of that size – we’re talking millions spent before anybody even sets foot on a stage.  It probably took a solid few months of Nana doing back-to-back TV commercials to make that cash.

After School will probably get their turn, or they might not if the group falls apart or has some other behind-the-scenes internal issue, but the cold hard reality is that it really doesn’t matter much, Pledis are thinking about their future and the next steps, and if After School fits into those plans, they’ll get a comeback.  If not, they won’t.  If you’re a fan and that bothers you – oh well.

Why are Woollim hanging onto Seo Jisoo?

The story we all hear:

Right when girl group Lovelyz debuted, rumours sprang up about Lovelyz member Seo Jisoo being a buttplug-inserting blackmailing, sexcam-taping, puppy-kicking lesbian rapist which is one hell of a resume that pretty much guarantees her Kpopalypse support whether true or false.  Jisoo left the group for a while, obviously traumatised by the bullshit rumours, while the agency Woollim swiftly went around cracking skulls.  Then after her mental health hiatus Jisoo recently returned to the group, and out came a fresh crop of rumours right on schedule, coinciding with the groups’ activity just like Hwayoung’s titties popping out of some ill-fitting clothing whenever T-ara are about to come back.  Whether true or false, clearly Jisoo is a liability to the group’s image at this point – wouldn’t it be more sensible if Woollim got rid of her?

The reality:

If you were reading the above paragraph’s question and started thinking to yourself “yes, well actually, that seems reasonable” – congratulations, you win the Kpopalypse Worthless Oxygen Wasting Cunt Award for thinking like a Korean netizen by prioritising public image and superficial appearances over truth.

Woollim are hanging onto Jisoo for dear life for one really obvious reason that I can sum up for you in one word – Tablo.  Tablo was signed to Woollim who were unsupportive as fuck when all that “he didn’t really go to Stanford” Tajinyo bullshit happened which you can read all about at this excellent article here if you haven’t.  History hasn’t judged Woollim kindly on that front – forever now known as “that label that didn’t stand up strongly to the Tajinyo bulllies”, Woollim are understandably eager to show that they’ve learned from their previous mistake.  Woollim would also know for sure if the rumours are true or false, so the fact that they’re willing to go hardball as fuck by not only chasing the rumour spreaders and bringing Jisoo back into the group but even calling the new fucking album “Lovelyz8” signifying the complete lineup speaks volumes.

At worst, Jisoo is guilty of being homosexual and having a lover’s tiff which got a bit heated (hence the jilted ex-lover out for career-destroying revenge) – for dumb-dumb fangirls that might be a bit of a deal but within the industry itself that’s not even registering a blip on the give-a-fuck radar, so therefore nobody cares.  As for the media outlet “The Fact” who got involved, they used to be called “Sports Seoul” and they’re about as reliable as Allkpop when it comes to fact-checking, so take anything published there for what it’s worth, which isn’t much (people who read k-pop news sites often fail to take into account the credibility or lack thereof of the original Korean sources of the information).  But no way are Woollim going to fuck around with their business model any more than they absolutely have to.  Jisoo like all the other girls has had years of training invested in her and the company is not going to throw that money down the drain unless she did something actually really seriously wrong – and if she had, Woollim would probably let her go faster than you could say “spunkmop”.

THE THRILLING CONCLUSION

Now that we’ve looked at a few case studies, you might have noticed that there’s a common theme emerging here.  Or if you haven’t, allow me to point it out for you.  All of the above situations are easily justifiable from a business perspective and could be easily cleared up with a little bit of open and honest communication from the agencies concerned to the artist’s fanbases.  However, that’s not happening.  Why isn’t it happening?  Let me explain by way of a fun blind anecdote and share some of my personal experience.

Many years ago, I was hanging out at a venue with a singer in B, at the time a nationally well-known girl group in my country with a big teenage audience, they were riding high off the fame of a recent #1 hit single and doing some touring.  It was setup time before the show and we were both chatting in the venue’s front bar, passing time while lights and sound systems were being set up and tested.  She started checking something on the free Internet cafe in the bar and I asked her what she was looking at.  I could see it had her group B’s logo on it.

“Oh, just checking my group’s forum, our agency just set this up for us the other week.”

“Okay.  What’s on there?”

“Oh just a bunch of stupid shit.  Our fans are all fucking retarded, I swear.  The agency wants us to participate in it but I really couldn’t be fucked, it’s hard enough for me just to read it, I swear I can actually feel my brain cells dying one by one when I read their shit.”

“Really?”

She laughed.  “Sure.  Take a look.  What a bunch of losers.”

I had a look at the forum.  She was right, her fans were fucking stupid.  Thread after thread of incredibly inane shit, similar to and equally as bad as any k-pop forum I’ve ever seen.  There were one or two intelligent discussions on there but the rest of it was all shit and I mean total shit, a mixure of crazy fangirling and the absolute worst troll threads on OneHallyu, Allkpop forums etc.

I couldn’t help but empathise.  “I feel sorry for you, having to read this.  How often do the agency want you to check it?”

“Oh there’s no real rules – just whenever we can, not that I’ve got the time for this shit but I try and get to it if there’s a break or whatever.  The agency posts all the official stuff like news and so on, but they like it if we have a presence too, and the fangirls go crazy if you reply to them.  Man, if those girls only knew what we were really like… ”

I thought about some of the things I knew about her, like the various drugs that the group takes, their sexual habits and preferences, the massive amounts of infighting and friction within the group, how right at that moment one half of the group wasn’t even on speaking terms with the other half, and so on.  I could only nod my head in agreement.  No wonder the agency goes to great lengths to keep the inner workings of the group hidden – they’re worried that their very young fanbase couldn’t handle it… or that their parents couldn’t.

People who run K-pop agencies think you’re probably a fucking moron, and while you may in fact be very intelligent, because k-pop attracts a young audience the people behind it tend to assume that most of you won’t be intelligent.  Therefore, they don’t think you can handle the business perspective, so they won’t give it to you – they think you might use the information against them or to hate them or their group, so they go by a “the less we can get away with telling you idiots about what really happens, the better” policy instead.  Sometimes they may be right about that, sometimes not, but that is definitely how they feel, because they know that at least some of the audience are fucking morons who won’t get it so they play directly to the lowest common denominator of fangirl idiot.  You can see the utter contempt that k-pop labels have for the stupider levels of fans in their obviously written-while-taking-a-shit bullshit press statements and deliberate misinformation, they wouldn’t even write half of that shit if they thought you were an intelligent human who was able to think.  You can also see their contempt in the incredibly sloppy handling of events where you get herded around like dumb livestock, lied to and robbed, regardless of your age, income or intelligence level (of course that’s not restricted to just k-pop events, but k-pop events are particularly good at being bad, that is, when they even happen).  Organisers could handle events better but because they think you’re a little dumbass, only the barest minimum of effort and respect is given – if you’re lucky.  Agencies, promoters and people in the business want you to pay your money, give your attention when required and be as little bother to their business model as humanly possible, and they really couldn’t care less about explaining a damn thing unless it’s absolutely required.

Lucky there’s Kpopalypse who treats you like an intelligent thinking human adult and is willing to be a bit more candid and thoughtful on their behalf, hey?

hongfoot

18 thoughts on “Candy Jelly Hate – understanding k-pop business decisions

  1. Pingback: Understanding K-Pop Business Decisions | Asia Vibes

  2. About f(x) I somewhat disagree.
    SNSD was not always the huge girl group it is now. They debuted in august 2007 with the ITNW single without much success and were soon forgotten when WG dropped in autumn Tell Me. Kissing You, the Girls Generation cover and their debut album that they released in November 2007 were no match for the Tell Me craze that was at it’s peak.
    In march 2008 SNSD released the Baby Baby repackage that showed zero effort from SM. The title single Baby Baby had already been released on the original album and they didn’t even shoot an MV. The repackage had only 1 new song in it. The release went unnoticed.
    2008 is also the year when SNSD went through the Black Ocean incident.
    2009 is the year when SNSD achieved success when they had to switch from releasing the Mercy cover (Dancing Queen) to the surprisingly successful Gee.
    Also in 2 september 2009 f(x) debuted, but it’s a safe bet that given SM habit of careful preparations and difficulty of the choreography for La Cha Ta that f(x) was put together in 2008. Luna talked about lengthy rehearsals and SNSD rehearsed ITNW more than a year before their debut.
    My theory is that f(x) was meant to replace SNSD as SM main girl group because SNSD debut flopped, but this didn’t happen because of the success of Gee. In 2008 SNSD was seen as a lost cause but in 2009 the tide had turned by a stroke of luck followed smartly by some strong releases and a lot of work in variety.
    In a possible alternate history SNSD releases Dancing Queen in late 2008 and it flops being relegated to obscurity and dismemberment when in 2009 many strong new girl groups like 2NE1, T-ara and f(x) debut.
    f(x) was promoted in the beginning years as “Asia’s Pop Dance Group” and only later it became the electro pop experimental group that it is today.
    So while I agree with your assesment of f(x) as the junior group to SNSD (and now are being replaced even in that by RV) I think that they were pushed in this position by the success of SNSD in 2009 rather than by the initial design of 2008 when they were created to replace SNSD.

    • It’s possible that f(x) may have been planned for something different pre-debut, but by the time they debuted that had definitely changed. Nothing else in your long-ass comment contradicts anything I wrote at all.

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  4. Makes me wonder if the business people hold their idols in the same contempt as the fans. Certainly would explain why there are so many public clashes between companies and idols. Only in this case they actually loose money by alienating people with their disdain, no? That doesn’t add up for me.

  5. As always, a fun read. If you really want to know what is happening in K-Pop just follow the money. For example, APink’s Hayoung has grown tits. One knows they are real tits because A-Cube is not about to spend money on cleavage they can’t monetize.

  6. Pingback: Ahjummas Anon wishlist 2016 | Ahjummas Anonymous

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