I bit the bullet

Standard

With the upcoming release of My Zone in Japan, I realized that it certainly wasn’t going to get any easier to reorganize the Albums page on BlockB.com, so I did it today. I considered fancying up the layout as well, but of course whenever you do that you end up with something that looks great on your computer but is an unholy mess on anyone else’s, so I think it’s going to stay plain.

So, if you want to look it over and let me know if I’ve, I dunno, stuck the Very Good description under the album art for the Japanese version of Conduct Zero, please be my guest!

Aw, that sucks

Standard

Zico and Seolhyun broke up! I won’t be able to use sexy pictures of her as a punchline anymore, whatever shall I do…. (Yes, keep your focus on THE TRUE VICTIM HERE.)

P.S. Well, I hope people liked those melancholic Block B songs, because I think we’re gonna be getting a lot more of them….

tumblr_oe64ew6np21shfci1o1_1280

P.P.S. Aw, people are so mean! Well, at least his fans are…boycotting.

OPPA WE WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU…UNLESS YOU START DATING OR SPEND TOO MUCH TIME IN JAPAN.

A final (probably) observation

Standard

My Blooming Period DVD is on its way, and I feel like I should probably move on from this whole boycott issue (although I’ll likely keep doing business education posts, they’ll just be more general).

But there is a graphic that has, in one incarnation or another, been floating around for quite some time. It’s gotten a higher profile now of course, so I wanted to kind of break it down for you and give you an idea of why I’m so unsympathetic to this notion that Korea is being badly neglected by Block B.

I also want to make people aware of how biased and disingenuous these arguments are. (And I mean really biased, not K-Pop “bias.”) There’s been a lot rumor being touted about as fact, plus stuff like making the English hashtags way nicer than the Korean ones, and this sort of thing is something I really don’t like about this campaign (along with the fact that, you know, they’re asking people to boycott Block B, which is a nonstarter for me).

I’ve taken the liberty of translating the Korean on the graphic into English.

ctc0d8cukaawrcu

First off, I fundamentally object to the notion that Block B is under some kind of obligation to split their time evenly between the two countries as if they had children instead of fans, as if they were not some kind of business organization that needs to go where the money is, and as if the rest of the world simply did not exist. Block B is trying to grow an audience in Japan–they already have great sales in Korea–so it makes sense for them to focus their efforts there.

For another thing, Japan’s music market is (say it with me) ten times the size of Korea’s. If Block B was equally as popular in Japan as they are in Korea, it would make perfect sense–it would be good management, not incompetent management–for them to spend ten times as much time in Japan as in Korea, or only six weeks out of the year in Korea. Many K-Pop groups spend no more.

But let’s say we’re just trying to figure out, without inappropriate judgements, how much access to Block B each country had in 2016.

This graph would still be useless.

Why?

Let’s start with:

What’s on this graph?

Notice the dates for the Japanese fan meetings or events. Fully nine of them are in the future.

Yup. This graph is of scheduled events. Its event count is only valid if you assume that Block B will never hold another event in Korea in 2016.

Is that likely? I don’t think so. I think they’ll release something before year’s end; they’ve certainly been hinting about Bastarz long enough. But the main thing is, we don’t know!

Let’s count events another way: For each album release in Korea in 2016, Block B held 12 fan events. For each album release in Japan, they held an average of 4 fan events.

If Block B does one more album release in Korea this year, Korea will be more than caught up.

What’s not on this graph?

Well, of course the fan event for the Blooming Period DVD, which is scheduled to be held in Korea October 9, isn’t here. Of course not.

What else isn’t here? Solo or sub-unit performances aren’t here. Appearances at festivals aren’t here. Park Kyung handing out cucumbers isn’t here. Group members walking down the street, pointing a camera at themselves? Not here. Music shows? Not here. Television appearances? Not here. Store openings or events? Not here.

Guess which country those things usually take place in.

What’s on this graph but is misleading.

The concert count. OMFG, this has been driving me nuts for ages.

In Korea, Block B held two concerts in 2016–in a 14,700-seat stadium that nearly sold out. (Fuck the people complaining because it didn’t–Block B has gone from 2,500-seat venues to 14,700-seat venues in two years.) Now, when you hold a concert in a stadium, you don’t sell all the seats because you don’t put people behind the group. So, let’s say, I dunno, 24,000 tickets were available.

In Japan, Block B held 12 concerts in 2016. But eight of those were in 3,000-seat halls, while four were in 5,000-seat halls.

That’s a total of 44,000 tickets available. So, even though there were SIX TIMES as many concerts in Japan (OMFG! SO UNFAIR), less than twice as many tickets were sold. Less than twice as many fans were able to see the group in concert.

Pretending, of course, that Koreans can’t go see concerts in Japan. Which they can and do.

By the logic of this graph, if Block B has four 1,000-seat concerts in–oh, just pick the country, it doesn’t really matter–and two 12,000-seat concerts in Korea, Korea is being shortchanged. Korean fans are not being given the opportunity to see Block B.

AND IT’S SO UNFAIR!!!

Sigh.

What is branding?

Standard

tumblr_n84wxelJGy1qjn9lqo1_500

No, B-Bomb, not that kind of branding!

On with the edjumacatin’!

We all know what a brand name is, right? Prada, M&Ms, Jeep…these are all brand names.

And they come with various associations. You don’t think, “I could use a snack! I’ll go pick up a Jeep!” or “I need a tough off-road vehicle–I wonder what Prada carries?” or “Gosh, I wish I could afford some M&Ms–they’re so fashionable and sophisticated!”

This process of creating an identity for a product–so that when people think, “I could use a [product you sell]” they immediately think of you–is called branding.

It actually takes quite a bit of work to create a brand, and as you might guess, creating a brand can be a big part of creating a business model: You’re not going to sell a 99-cent pack of M&Ms to people the same way you’re going to sell a $7,500 Prada handbag or a $45,000 Jeep.

People who don’t know much about branding often think that the goal is to sell to as many people as possible, but that’s not true at all. In fact, trying to be everything to everybody often causes what is known as brand dilution, which can be very damaging to a business.

Let’s say that Jeep decided that the off-road vehicle market was just too limited, so they came out with an utterly adorable line of Jeep-branded teensy-weensy roly-poly little cars that were just perfect for a quick jaunt to the mall–but useless off-road.

Even if those cars caught on, it would cause problems for Jeep, because people would no longer think: Jeep = tough off-road vehicles. Maybe if Jeep was trying to exit the market for off-road vehicles completely, they’d try to get people to think: Jeep = adorable little round cars. But that’s actually really hard to do, and they’d probably wind up with a public that doesn’t know what to think of Jeep, or worse yet, doesn’t think of Jeep at all.

That’s why different lines of cars from the same manufacturer have different brand names–they want to preserve that brand identity.

And that’s why luxury brands like Prada or (let’s make this K-Poppy) Blanc & Eclare aren’t cheap. In the luxury market, you have two kinds of buyers: People who are rich and want other people to know it, and people who aren’t rich but want other people to think that they are. Inexpensive goods alienate both markets–if everyone isn’t absolutely sure you paid an arm and a leg for that handbag, the bag is of no use to the average luxury buyer!

The need to maintain a brand identity is part of why K-Pop groups who cater to a fan base don’t worry about the general population, and vice versa. I might complain about how girl groups get marketed, but the fact is that the Sexy Baby branding works, and when you try to push out of it, everyone gets confused.

Branding is also why Block B is unlikely to change a lot of what they do, no matter how much fans whine. For example, one current complaint (which actually dates back a few years as a “helpful” suggestion) is that Block B relies too much on Zico for its music and should use outside producers. That way they can put out more music faster!

But Block B’s brand is The Talented Idols. I’m not making that up–that’s how they are usually introduced on Korean television shows: Talented Idols Block B! or maybe Idols With Talent, Block B! or even Talent-dols Block B!

Because they are The Talented Idols, Block B is known for having quality music. In particular, they are known for having quality music created by Zico, and to a lesser degree, Park Kyung (who each have strong Talented Idol brands of their own).

The Talented Idols brand is why grown-ups and men can like Block B and not feel embarrassed about it–Block B has talent! They’re not for hormonal teenyboppers–they are The Idols With Talent! See, that television announcer just said so!

If Block B goes outside the group for producers, that would imply that maybe they aren’t quite so talented after all….

Of course, if you know the group, you know that Block B goes outside for producers all the time! But outside producers like Pop Time or all the non-group members involved with Bastarz stay in the background. They do not take center stage. It’s OK to have “Bingle Bingle” be by Dean as long as “Bingle Bingle” isn’t the lead single.

The lead singles are always Zico Zico Zico ZICO!!! Zico is always front and center because he is a Talented Idol who leads Block B, The Idols With Talent, and you’d better not confuse the brand by complicating that story.

Maybe one day Block B will get crazy and branch out to a Park Kyung lead single or a P.O lead single for Bastarz. But I don’t ever expect them to go outside the group. The moment Block B goes, “Our next lead single is by Brave Brothers!” they will be no different than any other idol group.

Talented Idols Block B. Don’t muddy the brand.

And let’s not even get into the notion of Block B giving serious fan service. JFC–just kiss the grown-ups and men good-bye, then.

* * *

What’s interesting if you work in the arts is that more often than not, your name is your brand. If I yell, “Matisse!” you get a different image in your head than if I yell, “Michelangelo!”

Because of this branding aspect, people in the arts often treat their name as a brand name. Stage names, are, of course, brand names, as are pen names. Authors who write in different genres will often use different pen names for the exact same reason car manufacturers use different names for different lines–to avoid brand confusion.

But even your regular name has to be treated like a brand name. This can be very strange at first, and it’s a big part of the reason artists are often perceived as egotistical–they are touchy and weird about their names. Performers especially tend to refer to themselves in the third person. That’s not necessarily because they’re so full of themselves (although they might be)–it’s often because they are referring to their brand, not themselves.

Even if you don’t refer to yourself in the third person, you have to think of your name as a brand. I learned this a few years into my career: For a while, I worked for a publication I will simply refer to as Dullness, which was very dull. 

After I worked there, I realized that all my clips were terribly dull–and my name was on them. I knew that people were not going to read these clips and think, “Mary Sisson did a good job matching Dullness‘ dull style.” Instead, they would think, “Mary Sisson is dull,” and then they wouldn’t hire me for the interesting kinds of writing jobs that I wanted.

How did I know this? Well, my first job was writing for children, and I got a lot of grief for that while at Dullness–people assumed that I wrote for children because I wasn’t quite bright enough to write for adults. (Yes, I graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. No, it didn’t matter–behold the power of a brand.)

So that was an important realization for me, and it changed my approach to my career. I had gone to work for Dullness basically because it was an easy job for me to get. But afterward, I realized that it was worth it to wait longer and work harder for the right job, because that would help my brand and make it possible for me to do the kind of work I wanted to do.

Likewise, I think it’s a mistake to write for, I dunno, some shoddy tabloid K-Pop Web site if you’re hoping one day to get hired doing actual journalism. You have to think of your clips, and you have to think of your brand.

Forcing myself to be positive here

Standard

If you’re curious what this whole stupid fan boycott looks like:

Yeah. Those are some angry fans there, right? Can’t enjoy themselves at all!

Just keep in mind that even as this nonsense gets reported in the English-language K-Pop press, it’s not been a story in Korea aside from a couple of items on the YouTube account going down. Once it became clear that Seven Seasons hadn’t taken down its YouTube channel on purpose, the 세븐시즌스_싫어요안사요 and 세븐시즌스_싫어요_안사요 hashtags stopped trending in Korea. (And those mean, “Seven Seasons_hate you[_]not buying.” The whole “KQ feedback please!” English hashtag is an example–and not the only one–of how this campaign has been tidied of its nastier elements for international consumption.)

What the boycott campaign is at this point is a relatively small number of unfortunately well-placed individuals, including certain KBBCs (not all of them by any stretch!) who I personally think got burned out on keeping up with Block B some time ago. And I should note that I understand that–but the appropriate thing to do under such circumstances is to stop working so hard, not to organize a fucking boycott. It’s sad to watch people go from being drama-free reporters of Block B news to the stereotypical self-centered control-freak Queen Bee fans, but now there’s a little circle of entitled fans who encourage the absolute worst in each other, and we’re seeing the results of that.

It’s not the first time this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s dumb, but in the big picture, it’s not going to matter any more than any of the other dumb shit that has happened.

STELLAR work

Standard

Yeah, through hard work and determination, “fans” have managed to get the BOYCOTT BLOCK B!!!! message into AllKPop, home of the Block B Will Disband! and Let’s Invade Zico’s Private Life! stories. (Koreaboo has also picked it up, of course. Although they did surprise me by neglecting to translate something they knew to be false–baby steps, Koreaboo!) Fortunately the comments at AKP are all either incredulous or sympathetic to Block B, so…probably no harm done.

But remember this the next time you read their complaints: These people’s idea of good marketing is to plant stories telling everyone to BOYCOTT BLOCK B!!!!

BOYCOTT BLOCK B!!!!

BOYCOTT BLOCK B!!!!

BOYCOTT BLOCK B!!!!

I’m the best fan evah!!!!

This is fucking hilarious

Standard

OK, I mean:

If you’re going to keep making lists like this (and making them AND MAKING THEM):

-I do not neglect BlockB.com. I keep it up to date. Nonetheless Block B does NOWHERE NEAR as well in the English-speaking market at it does in the Korean market. That is because good marketing and management are complicated activities, and having an up-to-date Web site is really not that important.
-Yeah, that’s a pain. Obviously not that important in the grand scheme of things (see above), but it would be easier on fans if Seven Seasons was better at this.
-Hey, look! Kpopalypse just did a post linking to an article about why K-Pop artists don’t like being on music shows much! Kismet! (Wait–are we honestly supposed to boycott Seven Seasons because they don’t force the boys to do things they don’t want to do?)
-Gosh, you went through every activity every member has ever done to make this list, didn’t you? That’s not disturbing. And given that Block B has spent the last few ISACs sitting on the grass, I’m not really shocked that their company hasn’t been promoting it.
-Gee, how do you know this? I don’t recall hearing anything about this from any member.
-Gee, how do you know this? I don’t recall hearing anything about this from any member. (Plus, if Park Kyung did have visa problems that could ONLY happen from neglected paperwork, why didn’t any of the other members?)
-Seven Seasons did not “sell out,” because Seven Seasons was not purchased by another label. Instead, the CEO of Seven Seasons decided to expand his business. None of the members have complained about this (in fact, Zico is the one who brought on Babylon), and if they’re not upset, I’m not sure why I should be. It’s not like the members of Block B haven’t shown a willingness to take care of their own problems.
-Seven Seasons’ You Tube went down AND KBBCS IMMEDIATELY ORGANIZED A BOYCOTT complete with a Korean hash tag telling Seven Seasons they hated them. Seven Seasons communicated through the media, because that’s how people are going to communicate with you when you behave like unreasonable children.
-Block B is holding a fan meeting for filthy foreigners!!! They’ve done this before, and it hasn’t been a problem, but this time around it is unfair to Japanese fans, which is why Japanese fans aren’t complaining. Also, they’re having another fan meeting in Japan. I guess that is also unfair to Japanese fans, somehow.
-Zico doesn’t want to have a birthday party with fans, because he wants to celebrate with this woman.

seolhyun_1431663707_af_org

God damn it.