Monthly Archives: August 2011

K-pop’s Motown Connection?

The legendary Motown garage. Credit: britannica.com

I was reading about an event held last fall, at the end of 2010, called The Record Producer’s Motown Experience – The Secrets of the Classics. It sounds like a pretty amazing event, and I wish I had gotten to attend. Those who went heard not only about the stories behind Motown’s hit songs and the process of making of them but actual clips and tracks of the recordings, the isolated voices of young Stevie Wonder and Martin Gaye.

I was googling information about Motown’s structure, because parallels are sometimes drawn between K-pops entertainment companies and Motown. Both are modeled after in-house production companies intent on creating hit songs, and in that take a “manufacturing process” approach to doing things. Both sides are also reputed to hold strong degrees of control over their entertainers.

So how deep is the connection?

Famed yellow building of Korea's legendary SM Entertainment. Credit on photo.

I can certainly see similarities, ostensibly they’re all there. The company creator at the helm and forefront, heavy shaping of artists’ image and careers, the very intentional and rushed creation of music. However, Berry Gordy’s “Hitsville USA” was a monument in the 60s and 70s and dealt with a background barrage of racial tensions and discrimination. K-pop companies are working within the technological globalization of the new millennium and do not face the same racial obstacles (speaking with the domestic market at least).

In that sense, Motown had an extra dimension of something more to prove and was intent on bringing something new to the market. The decision team heavily included songwriters that worked with the company. K-pop companies are primarily invested in maintaining success and bringing in profit, and many songs are outsourced from American or European songwriters.

These are just some thoughts I’m bringing to the soup, trying to see the way these different music markets have gone and the differences in the products they produce, other than the obvious factors of being made in different places for different markets. Any thoughts?

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Read up more on Motown here.

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Anti-Hallyu Sentiment in Japan

Kind of ironic after that post about a Japanese idol coming over to Korea, recently there has been anti-Hallyu* sentiment in the form of staged protests. Fuji television is especially targeted for its support of Korean dramas and entertainers on its channel.

Photo Credit: Thai PBS through Google

The protestors highlighted in the article seemed quite harsh and their words unrefined, but I can understand their frustration. With the support Korean entertainment gets, even more from its own government, it can seem like the onslaught of cultural exportation is a systematized spread of cultural imperialism, though that’s more evident in flows to Southeast Asian countries.

At the same time, there is an obvious market for Korean entertainment goods. If there were no consumers in Japan or other Asian countries, Korean products wouldn’t have had a chance to get a foot in the door.

If people are really concerned about the high amount of cultural imports, maybe they can lobby for limits, like the ones that exist in Korea (half-joking). The screen quota in Korea has been credited as helping the local film market grow and flourish.

Any thoughts?

*Hallyu translates to “Korean Wave” and is thought to have been a term coined by Chinese media in the 1990s, referring to the popularity and spread of Korean pop culture in Asia.

Photo Credit: Soompi

A comment by cze under the Soompi article sheds some more light on the issue:

“Japanese people are angry not becuase they hate Korea and Korean culure,but because some TV networks, especially Fuji, have tried to fabricate what is callled Hanryu boom, even before people came to like it, by bombarding them with floods of Korean things, although Japanese programs and songs are still strictly banned on Korean TV(except on cable channels). What is more infuriating, the TV stations do so just because Korean content is extremely cheap, and also because they can get money through Dentsu(Japan’s largest ad agency from the Korean government, despite being public media companies granted the broadcasing license by the government. So this protest is not against Korea or Korean culture per se. Korean people should protest their government wasting their tax money for Japanese TV networks.”

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Articles from various sources here. It is interesting that most of the sources are from English-language Korean press.

International Songwriting Competition 2011!

For all aspiring and interested songwriters, an amazing opportunity!

MUSIC LUMINARIES SIGN ON AS JUDGES FOR THE 2011 INTERNATIONAL SONGWRITING COMPETITION (ISC)

Tom Waits, Tori Amos, Ozzy Osbourne, My Morning Jacket, Jeff Beck, McCoy Tyner, Duran Duran, And Kelly Clarkson Join Music Industry Executives To Select 2011 ISC Winners 

he prestigious International Songwriting Competition (ISC) has assembled a distinguished panel of judges for its 2011 competition. With the most high-profile judging panel of any music competition in the world, ISC offers songwriters and artists the unprecedented opportunity to have their music heard by iconic recording artists, as well as many major and indie record label Presidents, A&R executives, producers, music supervisors, and more.

Now accepting entries for the 2011 competition, ISC gives away more than $150,000 in cash and prizes (shared among the 68 winners) including an overall Grand Prize consisting of $25,000 (US) cash and $20,000 in prizes. Open to all levels of songwriters, ISC offers 22 categories that include all genres of popular music. Past winners have included artists from Grammy winners to hobbyist songwriters and everyone in between.

For information and enter, go to http://www.songwritingcompetition.com

Winning ISC can be a tremendous career booster. Over the years, many winners have achieved great career success, including getting signed to labels such as Epic, Universal, Motown, and more. Many more winners have secured publishing deals, smaller label deals, licensing deals, and distribution deals in addition to getting more gigs, fans, and recognition.

The complete list of ISC judges includes:

Recording Artists: Tom Waits; Tori Amos; Jeff Beck; Billy Currington; My Morning Jacket; Simon Le Bon & Roger Taylor (Duran Duran); Kelly Clarkson; Keane; McCoy Tyner; Wynonna; Francesca Battistelli; Tegan and Sara; Massive Attack; Michael W. Smith; Alejandro Sanz; Johnny Clegg; Jeremy Camp; Ray Wylie Hubbard; John Mayall; Craig Morgan; Basement Jaxx; James Cotton; Sandra Bernhard; Trombone Shorty; Robert Earl Keen; Black Francis (The Pixies); Mose Allison; Robert Smith (The Cure); Amadou & Mariam; Darryl McDaniels (Run D.M.C.); Toots Hibbert (Toots & The Maytals); Matt Thiessen (Relient K); Chayanne; and more…

Industry Executives: Monte Lipman (President, Universal Republic Records); David Massey (President, Mercury Records); Brian Malouf (VP A&R, Walt Disney Records); Bruce Iglauer (Founder/President, Alligator Records); Angel Carrasco (Sr. VP A&R, Latin America, Sony/BMG); Ric Arboit (President, Nettwerk Music Group); Anastasia Brown (Music Supervisor, FORMAT); Allison Jones (VP of A&R, Big Machine Label Group); Steve Lillywhite (Producer); Dan Storper (President, Putamayo World Music Records and Putumayo Kids); Kim Buie (VP A&R, Lost Highway); Douglas C. Cohn (Sr. VP, Music Marketing & Talent, Nickelodeon); Trevor Jerideau (VP of A&R, J Records); Antony Bland (A&R, American Recordings); Steve Smith (VP of A&R, Aware Records); Cory Robbins (Founder/President, Robbins Entertainment); Dr. Demento (Radio Host, The Dr. Demento Show); and more…

ISC Sponsors: Presonus, Lowden Guitars, Sennhaiser, ASCAP, Berklee College of Music, Posse, D’Addario, Thayers, SongU.com, Online Gigs, The Music Business Registry, Independent Mastering, Indie Venue Bible, George Stein, Esq. Sonicbids, Taxi, and music Submit.

Survival: I Am a Singer – Round 1 Over?

Park Jung Hyun with her winner goods! Photo Credit: Allkpop

The competition reality show Survival: I Am a Singer has had an extremely successful first round, despite its rocky start and initial controversy where the original PD (producer/director) was replaced. Recently, two constant favorites, Park Jung Hyun (a.k.a. Lena Park) and Kim Bum Soo, have been given awards indicating that they have “graduated” successfully from the show, while one other contestant, Yoon Do Hyun Band, was disqualified. And with that signals the last of the original seven contestants. It will be interesting to see how the show endeavors to evolve, and if it will be able to keep audience interest without the big names of its first go-around.

There have been articles and interviews, like whenYG spoke out, stating that the success of the show is due to the fresh musical alternative it offers from all the other idol-inundated programs. This view of the appeal in something different was iterated in a recent talk I had with someone from a Korean media company (interview to come up soon!).

The show’s overwhelming popularity and the public’s love for its music is perhaps most easily seen in this chart statistic on Gaon. The chart takes into account combined digital sales for the first half of this year, taking into account streaming, downloads, background use and mobile use, and Kim Bum Soo’s rendition of 체발 (Chebal, or Please) leads the way with a figure of 298,344,387.

At the very least, the show makes available to the public audience music that is “diverse” and innovative compared to most other mainstream offerings. I am all for the avenues this show can continue to foster, but I hope that it can not only continue developing a taste for diversity but actually integrate somehow with the mainstream Korean music industry as well. There needs to be that acceptance and interaction for there to be an impact on the scope of Korean music and for the show to continue its success, without the fickle public getting tired of it.

Article on results of the most recent episode: Soompi, Allkpop
Summary of the episode with video: Allkpop
Information on Gaon Charts: Korea Pop Wars

[WS] WOW! From Seoul to São Paulo … and then back to Seoul

Wow! First of all, there’s a Kpop Cover Dance Festival! In Brazil! And it’s big enough to get coverage and visits from the Korean entertainers! And then they somehow got a deal to bring the finalists back over to Seoul!!! I mean it’s great publicity and interaction for both sides, but I’m just wondering how contact and set up all worked out!

MBLAQ Confirmed to Judge the KPOP Cover Dance Festival in Brazil

Photo Credit: Soompi

MBLAQ’s members will be the judges of the regional phase of Brazilian participants for the “KPOP Cover Dance Festival“, in Brazil. It will be an event carried out in São Paulo, on September 7th and in addition to judging the covers, they will also perform 3 or 4 songs.

The “KPOP Cover Dance Festival” is a world cover contest. The persons interested on participate just have to register and send their videos. The first stage consists on some voting online, then the groups are chosen by their videos and then they will go to the regional level. In this specific stage, the groups will be judged by famous choreographers, musicians, directors, etc. The ones who pass the regional stage will go to the final competition, in Korea.

Also, MBC and other korean broadcasters will be at the event and will interview the assistants. They are looking for people with interesting stories about Kpop, how they began to like K-Pop, with who do they enjoy it, or if K-Pop has played an important role in their lives.

Kpop Station will be the event organizer, they have contact with the Korean agencies and they confirmed by themselves that MBLAQ will be the main judges for the regional stage. Now we have to wait for MBLAQ’s official statement regarding the contest.

Increased International Appearances on Domestic Shows?

Photo Credit: Ningin.com

While it’s more than common enough to hear about Korean groups and singers going over to Japan, one does not hear so often about Japanese singers and entertainers (or those of other countries) making showings in Korea.

There are obvious reasons for both sides of that sentence: Japan ranks second in the world in terms of music industry size/sales (Recording Industry Association of Japan and Wiki), as it seems that people tend to follow set standards rather than try to subvert them. Things are priced higher, but people still pay for them, which is great for a global music industry that has otherwise been trying to deal with online piracy and unregulated downloading.

Meanwhile, Korea’s music market is very small, in revenue value and, especially in popular music, in scope. It is also quite self-protective/protected, and I would dare to venture that those two characteristics, size and nature, feed on each other.

Photo Credit: bumpthis.asia

So I’m kind of happily surprised that Kinki Kids’ Koichi Domoto, a Japanese male idol and duo member, is going to perform as a guest on Mnet’s weekly music show. It kind of brings to mind other guest performers like Jason Derulo and Lady Gaga (also through appearances on Mnet) appearing on Korea’s domestic media stage. Except it’s actually a more nearby neighbor, not a Western-originated entertainer but one from East Asia. And a neighbor that Korea has tried to protect itself from in the markets for a long time.

Maybe it’s not that big a deal, but it’s really interesting to me. Korean pop stars have ventured into the West but really have found the most “international” success in their pan-Asia fandoms. Perhaps they are also now willing to let others do a bit of the same in their own market, and I wonder if this will aggregate to Korea’s pop scene being stretched and stimulated a little more.

This Weekend – Pentaport Rock Festival!

Thanks to my amazing advisor, Hyunjoon Shin (for those who can read it, his Korean language music webzine, weiv, is worth checking out) I’ll be attending the Pentaport Rock Festival in Incheon this weekend! It set off yesterday on Friday with a big-name line up and “hip hop” focus, part of a promotional event for the 2011 World Championship Games, sponsored by  Toyota. It continues for two more days, so I’ll be catching the tail end of the second day tonight, and most of the final day, Sunday.

I’m really excited. It was one of my goals before coming here to attend one of Korea’s crazy summer music concerts, and it’s actually coming true! Aside from the relative expense of tickets, I got caught up in a deluge of research and deadlines which left me with little thought for social events. I’m really not the party type either, so I may regret the disrespectful crowds and noise and cancer smoke very soon, and a little worried about night transportation back and possibly missing church tomorrow… but for now I’ll just bring my bible and a change of clothes! I’m pumped up to go out and see it all!

Further information for those more interested in going, what Pentaport is, or the history of music festivals in Korea, read on.

Official site: Pentaport Rock (available in English & Japanese, but Mac users beware!)
Background info.: Hiexpat (great article on the history and what to expect)
Best link resource: Ripcity

[WS] United Asia What???

This is a little old, from back in April, but it still unsettles me. While goals of cooperation and sharing know-how sound nice enough, and can be great in and of themselves, this new organization seems like it will only augment the Korean market’s greatest weaknesses, the lack of competition and (perhaps therefore) diversity. The Korean music industry’s tendency for hyper control and monopolization doesn’t help either. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, read on:

Top Korean talent agencies form new comapany to push K-pop overseas

Photo Credit: Sports Seoul, MTVk

SEOUL: Korean superstar Bae Yong Joon’s talent agency KEYEAST Entertainment revealed Friday that it will form United Asia Management (UAM) in conjunction with five other top Korean talent agencies to push K-pop overseas, reported Korean media.

KEYEAST Entertainment’s partners are Korean talent agencies MEnt, Star J Entertainment, SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.

“We will be pooling each company’s business knowledge and network systems to form the foundation of our new agency.

“We are looking forward to this collaboration and the synergies it will bring for the advancement of not only Korea’s entertainment industry, but Asia’s as well,” KEYEAST Entertainment CEO Yang Geun Hwan was quoted as saying.

UAM will represent artistes currently managed by all the six companies involved, on the Asian stage.

This move will effectively bring K-pop luminaries like Rain, Big Bang, Kim Hyun Joong, Super Junior, Girl’s Generation and the Wonder Girls under one management agency when they are promoted outside Korea in Asia.

According to a press statement from KEYEAST Entertainment, UAM will also manage the international copyrights of its stars as well as implement a new media production system for dramas, films and other media projects.

Source: CNA
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Other sources: MTVkKBS Global; Korean Source: Nate

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