Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why certain things are not worth paying attention to

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K-Pop, K-Fans did a piece on the “competition” between Block B and other idol groups that put out new songs.

Now, Block B “won” this nonexistent “competition”–if all the quotation marks aren’t cluing you in, it really annoys me that there’s this whole focus in K-Pop on one group “winning” while other groups “lose,” as though more than one group can’t possibly be doing well at the same time. The only reason these “competitions” exist is to rile up various fan bases–that’s it, it’s just marketing. (Honestly, the only meaningful loss this week was Team Homophobia‘s humiliating defeat, which I do take great pleasure in.)

Anyway, one quote caught my eye because I feel like it sums up what not just K-Pop fans but also the K-Pop press tends to focus on, which are these not-especially meaningful things that are supposed to somehow prove exactly how popular a group is.

[+9, -10] When BTOB’s song was released yesterday, it was #1 on Naver search. Block B was #5 and then they disappeared. So I thought Block B’s song got buried but they’re #1 on digital chart ㅋㅋㅋㅋ Why are BTOB fans only searching the song instead of streaming?

“Why are BTOB fans only searching the song instead of streaming?” is the kind non-productive “Why?” question teens and tweens tend to ask a lot. I would suggest a more productive “Why?” question: Why are you relying on Naver search trends to tell you what’s popular when it’s clearly an unreliable indicator? (I mean . . . you expected BTOB to do well in the Korean digital market? Why? Japanese albums sales, hell yeah!–but Korean digital?)

Here’s another “Why?” question: Why are Naver search trends such unreliable indicator of popularity? I’m going to guess it’s precisely because fans have decided that they need to trend groups when they have releases (because . . . it’s their patriotic duty or something), so you have this extremely committed group of people driving the trend up.

At the same time, you have a much larger group of people who have better things to do than trend K-Pop groups–but they do make the time to buy and stream new music that interests them. These people are called “the general public,” and they make up a large portion of Block B’s audience in Korea.

The thing is, it’s not like it’s totally useless to look at things like search-engine trends–but only when they’re not getting fucked up by fans! It’s like when I post information on YouTube views or the traffic stats for BlockB.com–I’m hoping those numbers indicate a genuine surge of interest in the group, not some organized effort by hard-core fans to hit some random measure.

(Speaking of traffic stats. . . .

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From today.)

Unless there’s a music-show award in the offing, I also don’t understand fan campaigns to drive up YouTube views. Views make virtually no money for the group–10,000 views (which is probably more than any one person can deliver) is worth somewhere between $5 and $10. Groups would be better off if fans used their time to work jobs so that they could afford to buy more merchandise and tickets.

And while winning music-show awards can result in this:

While losing can result in this:

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This still makes me laugh.

It’s important to keep in mind that the main worth of these wins is publicity–and there are many, many ways to get publicity. Bastarz won squat, and “Conduct Zero” still sold well.

Of course it’s not like the K-Pop media is any better about this than the fans. (What, you think they have responsibilities as professionals or something?) The K-Pop media in Korea puts a huge emphasis on stuff like which idol group has the most fans in its fan cafe–which means they put a huge emphasis on such cutting-edge groups as TVXQ. Honestly, it’s such a backwards-looking measure (the majority of top groups are always losing fans, it’s like Dinosaurs on Parade) that the only reasons I can think of why the news outlets do it is, 1. it’s easy, 2. it features pretty graphics, and 3. the bat-shit crazy fans who obsess over this stuff give them views.

THAT was worth doing

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Just got back from the Dynamic Duo concert–yeah, that was awesome. I got the General Admission tickets, and there was a seated area, and I’ve been walking Vancouver like a fiend, plus last night wasn’t the best for sleep, so I figured I’d sit. And I made do with vigorous chair dancing during the opening set by the excellent DJ Friz, but when Gaeko and Choiza came out, it was all over for me–I popped up and ran down to standing. I think the people next to me thought I was having some kind of emergency, which in a way, I suppose I was. (During the show I avoided any actual jumping to preserve my sore feet. Luckily San-E was not there to crack the whip.)

Anyway: The crowd was like the Show Me the Money crowd, only more so. There may have been a majority of men in the crowd (!)–it was close to 50/50, anyway. And it was even more Asian, which is saying something. The vast majority were Korean speakers (the people in front of me in line were having an involved conversation about Block B, P.O, Park Kyung and Zico, but I don’t know enough Korean to engage in any quality eavesdropping).

That turned out to be a good thing, because Choiza’s English is not great and Gaeko pretty much tries to avoid it. He did eventually read out a piece of paper where he said he just LOVED Vancouver and then preceded to rattle off a bunch of tourist destinations he clearly had never visited (they flew in from Toronto that morning). Still, his English is better than 5 out of 7 Block B members (and his pronunciation trounces them all), so not too shabby Gaeko!

The show was great, of course–they said they were tired, and they should have been tired given their schedule, but they are old pros and just burned the place down.

Choiza live was a bit of a…revelation. I’ve only seen him on screen, of course, and he often wears a suit and sunglasses during TV performances, so I had no idea how goddam BIG he is! He’s quite tall, and they stripped down to T-shirts pretty quickly, and he is BUILT–he definitely spends some quality time in the weight room. He has a big chest and big arms, and he doesn’t shy away from that–he beat his chest and grunted and growled like he was thisclose to turning into Tarzan. Testosterone rolls off that man in visible waves–people joke about his penis, but it is just trying to keep up with the rest of him. Let’s just say that after tonight I really, really do NOT wonder what Sulli sees in him, holy shit.

The only thing I would have changed about the concert were the people going past when we were in line, who couldn’t even pretend to be civil. I had a group of hipsters ask me what Dynamic Duo was, and I said, “Korean hip-hop,” and they said, “Oh, K-Pop” and walked off (I was like, “It’s not pop, it’s hip-hop!”). Then some douchebag derelict was like, “Chinese movie? Chinese movie?” like fuck you very much, you racist asshole. Then some other dude ACROSS THE STREET was giving us the stink eye and filming the line–I don’t know what his fucking deal was, but I made eye contact and grinned like a maniac at him, and he got embarrassed and put his phone away. I don’t know if we were just unlucky or if that kind of thing is pretty much the norm in Vancouver, but I was pretty surprised by it.

Just wow

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I mean, I start out thinking, “OK, it’s going to be some paint-by-numbers ballad–I don’t love this kind of music, but it sells in Korea” and then it just goes in all kinds of unexpected directions! Uf, this is what keeps me hooked–the attention to detail, the vocal talent, and the willingness to go off the beaten path and freshen things up. SO good!

ETA: And we’re at 70K views in under an hour. Whoot!

Of course I’m on the road

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Yeah, when I was posting before about when Block B was likely to come back, I almost wrote that it was SURE to happen this weekend because I’d be in Vancouver for the Dynamic Duo concert. But then I didn’t, but then of course that’s exactly what happened. So, you know, the Video page of BlockB.com will be updated when it gets updated–sigh. It’s a bit of a bummer because of all the Korean SNL stuff, but there’s not much I can do about it.

Speaking of which–you guessed it–the Fan Service post, which is always this blog’s #1 post, has been getting a lot of attention lately. I want to point out that, while SNL just posted this clip:

there’s a lot more to the skit than that, and it is explicitly a spoof of fan fiction.

Some people seem honestly quite unaware of the context there….

ETA: Ugh, I made the mistake of reading the NB article and the comments on AKP. Jesus. There are some hateful, hateful people out there. Now I’m REALLY hoping that this song and album are massively, epically popular, just to prove those homophobic idiots wrong again, some more.

Interview with da Boss

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I think he borrowed that suit.

So, Naver’s “Money Week” did an interview with the Seven Seasons CEOof course I had to know what it said, even though my Korean is still not really up to the task.

In some ways this translation was really difficult. I think the original prose could get florid, and I should note that I’m not making up or exaggerating the praise (at least not purposefully)–the writer really did gush at times. But then I would run into terms like “paradigm,” “media ecosystem,” or “targeting a global market,” and I would feel right at home again.

The main bit of business jargon that perplexed me is “multi-label system.” From what I’ve looked up, it’s what they call it when there are small or medium labels that a large company has invested in, but the large company does not actually own or control the smaller labels–so KQ Entertainment presumably has in investment in Seven Seasons but doesn’t necessarily run it. [ETA: That’s not right–they’re using the term here to describe a parent company (KQ Entertainment) and its subsidiaries (Seven Seasons and KQ Produce).]

I am sure that the translation is quite imperfect, so feel free to suggest corrections in the comments. Here goes!

[This Person] Now “Content Idols” Are the Trend

The entertainment industry’s very first conversion to a multi-label system, Idol group introduced a unique and powerful sound, Sweeps to #1 on the major music charts….

The idol group ‘Block B,’ belonging to the notable Seven Seasons, recently blasted in an extraordinary change. In the short three-year history of this brand-new entertainment company, such change was led by one main character, the upright CEO Kim Kyu Wook. His music distribution strategy opened a new paradigm for Seven Seasons to make the big-picture leap into ‘global content business enterprises’. The media is always changing, so in his judgement, controlling content oneself is absolutely key in these circumstances.

[Picture caption: Photo = reporter, Lim Han Byul]

  • Securing content is the main battle… ‘Multi company’

CEO Kim was originally at a media company handling video and albums, and he eventually took on the duties of a media specialist. This foot in the door allowed him to see the ordinary workings of the industry. He did trend- and content-related work, always observing media and entertainment businesses from the sidelines.

“Social media was introduced into Korea, and a personal rather than mass media-centric media ecosystem formed, various content-centric businesses developed, and potential ideas were heard. The key idea was that in order for a business based on content to operate, the source that produced the content had to maintain ownership of it.”

For Seven Seasons, the major changes appeared when the company was founded about two years ago. It took CEO Kim a year to successfully convert the company to a ‘multi-label system.’ The business structures of existing multi-label entertainment businesses were not easy to see.

[This part was really tricky. I’m assuming that a “KQ” entertainment company is a company listed on the KOSDAQ public stock exchange–i.e. one of Korea’s “Big Three” labels.] [ETA: That was dead wrong–KQ Entertainment is an actual company. I’ll revise this when I can.] [EATA: It’s done!] The simple explanation [of a multi-label system] is that Block B’s label Seven Seasons, the hip-hop label Next Level headed by the producer Shimo, and the singer-songwriters’ and producers’ label KQ Produce are three labels managed by KQ Entertainment. KQ Ent handles general management, and each label handles its own A&R and music production.

“Taking into consideration the character and strength of our company’s producers, artists, staff, and members, the multi-label organization works the best for our business. The idol group, the singer-songwriters, and the producers all go together in one picture. All the different strengths and weaknesses can complement each other in a virtuous cycle if given the proper organization.”

Change quickly led to results. He can of course boast of unique hit singles sweeping to the top of the music charts. Seven Seasons artists have put six more songs on the TOP100 chart of Melon, currently Korea’s largest music service site. And last year, Block B’s Bastarz sub-unit’s unprecedented hit single preceded solos by two Block B members–Zico and Park Kyung–that made an awesome side-by-side rise to #1 on the music charts. These results were accomplished thanks to collaboration between artists and producers, and expert know-how in different areas blending together harmoniously, CEO Kim explained.

“Zico and Park Kyung belong to the group Block B, but there’s the ‘separate and reunite’ tactic where we show the different charms, appeal, and talents of an individual, and then we’ve begun his career. Traditionally, everything is planned and prepared in advance because the idol music market is so trend-oriented, but lately it seems like things have changed and musicians are central. Eventually consumers’ needs will be understood and reflected on the spot in a system that appeals to fans.”

[Picture caption: Photo = Newsis reporter, Park Moon Ho]

  • Diversification “At the same time targeting a global market”

CEO Kim expects to expand these entertainment business models by adding on various additional services. Fashion, or on the other hand, celebrity fashion brands and collaborations, Seven Seasons’ content combined with partnering IT platforms, and domestic and foreign concerts and events are expected to be a part of these new business models and initiatives.

“In the entertainment market, you can’t survive doing just one thing. The market center is secured content, then you have to diversify into different directions. Fan demand is anticipated through new platforms, both foreign and domestic; databases are built that make it possible to anticipate the future. As early as next year we’ll be able to see new results.”

Rapid change is an entertainment company’s lot; producing differentiated content and integrated derived businesses, together with firmness, should result in growth, reckons CEO Kim. From this foundation he is getting ready to capture the global market.

“The artists’ personality and musicianship help produce content that appeals beyond the domestic market to Japan and greater China, plus we are thinking about developing networks in the Southeast Asian market. Furthermore, in order to advance our global content business into markets in the Americas and Europe, we’re expecting to make new appearances.”

Throughout the interview, over and over again, he referred to content–in other words, popular culture. Teenagers can take pride in this culture, because the Republic of Korea brand can be imparted to other countries through this culture. Under the command of CEO Kim, Seven Seasons’s new model of entertainment suggests that the company can be reborn as a valuable cultural enterprise.

Gosh, you mean rules actually apply to the Internet?

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If you haven’t been paying attention, Gawker is finding out the hard way that the BRAVE NEW WORLD!!!! of on-line media looks pretty much like the cruddy old world of print, at least when it comes to media law. And that all your claims that you don’t have to follow the same rules as those lame-ass fuddy-duddies will be what the plaintiff’s lawyer quotes in court in order to really land that nine-figure ruling against you.

Legal observers are noting that the ruling itself, or the award, or the requirement that Gawker post a massive bond may well get thrown out on appeal. And indeed it may–that’s usually what happens with these things, the jury rules against the media outlet, but eventually the courts reverse the ruling.

Note that I said eventually. Taking a case to the U.S. Supreme Court is an extremely expensive undertaking, and the history of media law is littered with the corpses of news outlets that eventually won their case but went under anyway.

Which is why this category of posts is labeled “Don’t get sued.” Be smart, kids. Remember that the more popular K-Pop gets in the United States, the more legal standing and the more motivation those entertainers will have to not let totally actionable shit slide.

This is really adorable

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Park Kyung met Chloe Grace Moretz on Problematic Men, and he’s just so star-struck and cute. (They’re speaking in English for her benefit, so that’s handy.)

Kyung meets her at the 8:54 mark, and then at the 15:50 mark she asks him to rap, and he’s too embarrassed, but he finally does it, and then the other cast members make fun of him because he’s usually so confident.

A bit different from his Tweets, isn’t it?