Monthly Archives: September 2014

Tomorrow is the last day to win a Feggy Min T-shirt!

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Tomorrow is the last day to enter the giveaway to win a very-close-to-brand-new Zico Candyland T-shirt by Feggy Min! To enter, post a comment there, not here, and good luck!

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What does indie mean, anyway?

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One of the things that makes Block B unusual (but certainly not unique) in the world of K-Pop is that they are independent–they are not with a label.

So what does it mean to be an independent artist? Does it matter, and more important, how does it matter?

I myself am an indie novelist, and I encourage anyone living in the United States who is looking to write novels to strongly consider going indie–I am very much of the Hugh Howey school of thought that Self-Publishing Is the Future (and the Present).

But I also think it’s very, very important for people to understand what going indie is, and what it is not. Then you can better understand who is likely to benefit from going indie, and why.

To start, I’ll go into what indie is not:

Indie has nothing to do with genre or quality of work. This is one of the biggest misperceptions about the term “indie,” especially as it applies to film and music. Using a handheld camera, playing acoustic guitar, gearing a work toward intelligent adults, etc., etc., etc., does not make something indie.

Indeed, indie-ness tends to thrive in situations where the consumer cannot tell if the work is indie. Crappy sound quality, shoddy materials and poor craftsmanship, nonexistent distribution–these are all things that prevent indie works from selling. Yes, there’s a niche audience that just loves all that–but while these people are very vocal, there aren’t really that many of them.

When indie actually works as a large-scale business, the product is typically indistinguishable from a corporate product. For example, the rise of e-books has allowed large numbers of indie authors to find audiences. Why? Because indie authors can produce e-books that are just as nice as the ones made by publishing house, and they can sell them in the same stores. To the reader, the experience is the same, so there’s no reason to not buy indie.

That said: Just because a belief is inaccurate doesn’t mean it’s not useful. When I contact media outlets about Block B, you bet your boots I tell them that Block B is indie. Why? Because there’s still this perception out there that indie = good and different. When I have my marketing hat on, I don’t give a damn that “indie” is the “artisanal” of the music world.

Indie is not anti-corporate. There are individuals who go indie as a sort of anti-corporate statement, but for the most part, artists are able to go indie because large corporations have figured out how to make money off independent artists.

Apple made iTunes. Amazon made the Kindle. Both came up with sales platforms that are easy for both consumers and providers to use, and both have favorable terms for indie artists. In Korea, independent groups like Block B and JYJ rely on corporate distributors to get their CDs to stores. In all cases, indies would be screwed if corporations did not work with them.

In addition, many artists follow a hybrid path, going indie for some things but not for others. For example, traditional publishers still have an advantage when it comes to distributing paper books, so writers will produce e-books as indie authors but contract with a publisher for a paper edition. And there are many, many different options for U.S. musicians: If you are interested in a detailed explanation, I recommend picking up a copy of David Byrne’s How Music Works, which has an entire chapter on the subject.

It’s also important to remember that, even in K-Pop:

Not all labels are abusive or incompetent. Obviously, some are (Hi, Lee Hoo!), and I feel that K-Pop as an industry has gotten into some pretty bad habits (when the courts have to repeatedly explain to you that your country’s labor laws also apply to your employees, something is awry). But the simple fact that someone has signed with a label doesn’t mean they’re getting screwed–that depends on things like the length of the contract, how the money is being divided, whether the contract prohibits you from working elsewhere, and of course whether your boss thinks that slapping people is an acceptable method of discourse. (Having a lawyer review contracts is really important–in the United States at least, it’s assumed that you know what you’re doing when you sign a contract, so you’d better be sure that you actually do. And pay attention to reputation!)

So, why would someone go indie?

Because they don’t need a corporate partner. Does Block B need a label? After all, in K-Pop, labels bring a lot to the table–they write the songs, they choose a look for the group, and they bring loyal fans of the label itself (not something you see in the States, but it makes sense in K-Pop because the label is the one actually making the music) to help you sell CDs and win music shows.

But Block B was producing their own music even when they were with a label, and they seem to enjoy coming up with their own album concepts. They already had a committed fan base and a #1 album when they went indie–they weren’t starting from zero.

Block B doesn’t do absolutely everything themselves, but they do enough that they can hire people to do the rest. What would a label bring to the party?

Because they want greater control. Someone doesn’t want to be the fucking Smile Representative any more. Or they want to do something different creatively. Or they feel like their marketing is being neglected. Or they feel like they’re on a schedule that is too demanding or too lax.

There are seriously a million things like this–and they can sometimes seem really trivial. But often it’s the principle of the thing–creative types don’t always cope too well with being told what to do. Some people just enjoy being their own boss.

Because they want a bigger piece of the pie. This is HUGE. Your corporate partner may be able to get enormous revenues from your work, but if you’re not getting much of it, it doesn’t matter to you. After all, 70% of $10,000 is more money than 10% of $50,000, which is why indie writers are able to do great on sales that are of no interest to commercial publishing houses.

What happened to Block B is the best: They’re getting a bigger cut (presumably, since it would be difficult–but not impossible!–to go lower than zero), and they’re selling better than ever. Yeah, baby!

But what determines the size of your slice? Your contract–in theory. If your label loses track of money a lot, you might get next to nothing, like Block B did. If your money goes directly to your agent, who then pays you your share, your slice may be just a wee bit thinner than it’s supposed to be.

Or let’s have a gander at that amazing creature known as Hollywood accounting. You get a percentage of the profits, but the company makes sure that your property never shows a profit. (“Oh, it’s profits after salaries and bonuses, and I just boosted my salary to $10 million annually, plus I gave a $5,000 bonus to every employee we have! Sorry!”)

Which brings me to my final reason why someone might go (and stay) indie:

Because they’ve been screwed before. It’s very, very hard to convince people who have been robbed by agents or publishers or labels or other corporate partners that using them is a good idea.

All this, I hope, helps you understand “Tough Cookie” a little better (translation by youngha @ blockbintl):

During the lawsuit I was contacted

Many times by big agencies

Honestly, I’m comfortable in a wild environment

To a company’s care, I say “No Thanks”

Special surprise (to me as well) T-shirt giveaway!

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So, the new winner got back to me, that package is in the mail, and you’d think I’d be done with this giveaway business, right? That’s certainly what I thought!

But then today I received in the mail a package from Feggy Min!

I had ordered some things from her, and there was a delay, so she threw in a Zico Candyland T-shirt. The thing is, I already have a Zico Candyland T-shirt–but this one fits better!

So, you guessed it, I am going to give away my old Zico Candyland T-shirt! It’s genuine Feggy Min! (And I see that the shirt is no longer in stock on her Web site! Oh-HO! This is one fancy-schmancy giveaway here!)

I tried this shirt on and washed it (since my skin doesn’t like sizing), but I haven’t actually worn it yet.

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The shirt itself! No pit stains!

The shirt is 100% polyester (machine washable), and it is very soft and comfortable with no neck tag. I’d say the size is a US woman’s large, about a 12/14. You can see from the picture that it’s a unisex cut, but the fabric isn’t too thick and has some stretch to it, so depending on your build the overall effect may not be all that unisex.

I guess I’ll stay lazy and just have people comment to enter: Leave a comment below, don’t comment anonymously, and after…um…September 30 I’ll run the entrants through the random number generator, contact the winner, and mail the shirt out to them. International entries are OK. If you want to comment but don’t want the shirt, please make that very clear in your comment. And if your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t freak out–new commenters have to be approved first.

Thank God they’re good musicians

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You know, the way people in regular, normal K-Pop music groups make money is not by selling music but by appearing in commercials.

And all I can say is, if the members of Block B had to earn their keep that way, they would starve to death.

Here are some of their efforts to advertise clothing and jewelry:

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It’s not like Zico and P.O can’t be cool models; they just choose not to be.

Let’s not forget Block B’s “advertisement” for milk:

Need I tell you that B-Bomb hates milk? Or could you tell that just by watching? And do you know what happens to Park Kyung AFTER he drinks milk?

The 7:25 mark:

Telling Block B’s members apart, advanced class: Jaehyo and B-Bomb

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Since they haven’t been surgically homogenized, it’s usually not too hard to tell the different members of Block B apart. P.O is the biggest, with the deepest voice. Taeil is the smallest, with the highest voice. Park Kyung is always schmoozing the camera, while Zico…is not.

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Your Dream Man, if you have a lot of problems with nightmares.

New fans, however, tend to get stumped on one of two fronts: Telling the two dancers, B-Bomb and U-Kwon, apart (there’s help for that here), or telling B-Bomb and Jaehyo apart.

Why the confusion with B-Bomb and Jaehyo? Well, they’re both tall, thin, and usually brunette. Toss in heavy makeup and Photoshopping, and telling them apart can definitely be a challenge.

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Are you two related?

And people will give you allegedly helpful advice, such as that one or the other has big, puppy-dog eyes and prominent lips.

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Are you two sure you’re not related?

But if you look at them in more-natural settings, they’re actually pretty easy to tell apart (and maybe you can start spotting the differences in the photos above: That’s Jaehyo on the left and B-Bomb on the right).

Yes, playing Twister and pointing guns at crotches constitute “more-natural settings.” This is Block B we’re talking about.

In general, assuming no one’s making one of them stand on a box or wear a buttload of make-up:

  • Jaehyo is taller than B-Bomb
  • B-Bomb is darker than Jaehyo
  • Jaehyo’s nose is narrower, with a higher bridge. B-Bomb has more of a snub nose.
  • Jaehyo has a bit of an overbite and a pronounced Cupid’s bow on his upper lip (the joke is that a lady can fit her pinky finger in there). B-Bomb has a prominent lower lip.
  • B-Bomb has higher, flatter cheekbones. Jaehyo’s are lower and more prominent.
  • B-Bomb’s face is wider and more heart-shaped. Jaehyo’s is narrower and more of an oval.
  • Jaehyo has a higher eyelid fold. B-Bomb has more of a hooded eye.

And if you see a dimple:

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That’s B-Bomb.