What is K-pop like? – The dark side of K-pop

What is the typical process of a Korean entertainment company to operate a group, and how do the staff work…

At any given time, K-Pop can be called the cultural idol industry.

A place where entertainment companies make money from idols. Where the companies select trainees to debut as idols.

The typical process of an entertainment company to operate a group is: 1) Pick members, 2) The company itself makes songs or buy them, 3) The company itself makes choreography or buy them, 4) make music videos with those members + songs + choreography, 5) make an album, and 6) promote it and then sell it to consumers.

Here’s the overall picture.

To complete each step, there must be a human resource system, which includes the staff (the Board, PR specialists, managers, etc.) in charge of the work in the company and in addition to them, the important workforce is all hired, or else the company will outsource and then assign work to outsiders. There is no way they would solve everything on their own.

(In fact, South Korea may be called a country of outsourcing)

That’s K-Pop, an industry where a group is formed in that way, where the entertainment agencies generate profits by devoting themselves to broadcasters, selling albums, holding fan signing events and performances. This is how the K-Pop industry works.

I’ve longed for them since I was a child. To a child, Korea was full of dreams, those artists were enviable, and those entertainment companies looked so great with their high-quality products. I used to believe that Korean entertainment companies could make such a lot of money because of the outstanding talent of their artists. I kept thinking that just by doing that kind of ‘industrial art’, the money would come in on its own. Of course, what I said earlier wasn’t wrong but…

I don’t know if it’s because I have grown up these days or because the industry is being stagnant, but rather than calling it ‘industrial art’ I think I should say that the image of ‘products’ of those companies became so big now.

Let’s be more realistic about what I’ve said above.

1) Select members 

Kids, who were born into rich families, will surely live well even if they can’t debut as celebrities. So from a company standpoint, they will have to leave the company to earn a living once they fail to debut. The company often prefers children from such families and selects them. Usually, it’s the kids who have a big helping hand, or are already celebrities are chosen to debut. If it is not the two cases above, if you are a person who has both beauty, talent, and speaks Korean, you can also be selected. But in fact, it’s often people with great fortune. (Money follows money)

YG's female trainees 5

2) The company itself makes songs or buys them 

If there is a talented composer available internally, the company is indeed lucky, but if there’s none, the company has to buy it. But buying songs is not that easy. If there is an artist in the company who can compose songs, the company will be really grateful because that artist has saved a lot of money for them. But often artists can be famous because their company already has a composer or they can also compose their own song.

3) The company itself makes choreography or buys them 

If there are choreographers internally, the company is indeed lucky, but if there’s none, the company has to find overseas choreographers because the level of Korean choreographers still seems low. The possibility of a league with them is very high. This is the cycle of K-Pop.

4) Make music videos with those members + songs + choreography

This step costs a lot of money. Outsourcing companies that make music videos in Korea seem limited, and producers who only work for specific companies are even rarer, but money would solve anything. In choreography, the cycle of K-Pop is the same.

5) Make an album 

I don’t know much about this field, but I understand that they all outsource design companies. As in 2) and 3), if there’re internal designers doing it, the quality will be high. Maybe that’s why Big Hit wanted to take Min Hee-jin. They wanted to create their own identity. In fact, BTS’ color had been like a melting pot until ‘Spring Day’ in 2017, so I think that’s why Big Hit’s thirst was so intense.

6) Promote 

The company can mainly produce content for their idols to promote, or else it’s up to its taste, it will throw its idols into the entertainment programs and stations it finds suitable, let their idols promote outside. In the case of SM Entertainment, it seems to be promoting itself (they are already enthusiastic about it). The other companies are half self-promoting, and half going out to promote.

Looking at it like this, it’s all about money. Like all other industries, I understand why only big companies can survive. Corona actually seems to have widened the gap between rich and poor. Most of the current small to mid-sized idol album sales are on face-to-face fansigns. As many as 100 people at a time, 100,000 won per person * 100 people = 10 million won. It was events worth 10 million won for two hours, but they couldn’t get any more profit because of covid-19. On the other hand, big companies have online concerts as capital instead of events and performances, and as long as they hold an online concert, sales will skyrocket. 30-40 video calls can be more profitable than 100 people. After all, big companies make even more money from untact (non-face-to-face communication).

I’ve had this thought before: If only I were a staff of an idol company, if only I were called a manager, if only I were an idol… I must have been thinking non-stop “This is the reality” and “what am I doing”.

No matter how you think about it, it’s a life following a bizarre and weird circle (album release, promotions, performances, and breaks – but for idols, it’s a preparation period for the next album. Life is like a wheel) and it’s hard to imagine being hit by reality while enjoying a carnival.

In fact, the salary of the staff and managers is not more than 95% of an office worker’s salary, but the reality still hits them hard as they are working in the toxic and stupid entertainment world to earn a living.

Perhaps this bizarre and stimulating industry looks cool and magnificent so foreigners have come to consume it?

Right now, outside of the Big 4, I don’t know if the other companies are really making money. Of course, the CEOs (of small to mid-size entertainment companies) may be sitting on a mountain of money, but apart from them, do the employees and artists live comfortably? Big 4 has about 100 artists? Calculating their probability in the 20 million Koreans under the age of 40, they only make up about 0.0005%.

I’ve never thought about where all the money goes to while the K-Pop industry claims it makes a lot of money. But

Apart from EXO, BTS, Girls’ Generation, what happened to the other groups, the other insiders, the other staff and workers?

The K-Pop market can also be an exploitative industry.

7 Kpop artists that Korean non-fans are most willing to pay for concert tickets

I’m not working in the entertainment industry, but I’m sure this K-Pop market is a very bizarre place.

But I consume it and enjoy it. Why? Because it’s stimulating and fun. After all, a group member is still a human being, so you can’t predict what will happen next. It will be interesting to expect something new from those subtle expressions and tones.

Of course, it’s also interesting because it’s a combination of fancy pictures and videos as well as high-quality songs.

It’s toxic, but isn’t that what we look like, moths to a flame?

muya호의 blog

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