Would it make sense for Zico to leave Block B?

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U-Kwon made a joking comment in an interview (the original headline actually contains the phrase,”하하,” which is “Ha-ha” in Hangeul) about how Zico wasn’t writing songs these days because he was (cue laugher) “really busy.”

“Really busy” not writing music. Sorry, Soompi, I believe the correct English translation there should be “getting busy.”

Anyway of course I thought that was hilarious, and even more hilarious that it wound up on Block B Official, because honestly, what is the point of them working with Zico if they can’t give him shit?

Then of course the Korean haters demonstrated that they are utterly devoid of humor and alarmingly unclear on the meaning of the phrase “Ha-ha.” Get this: At least 125 people claim that they saw Block B on Yoo Heeyeol’s Sketchbook and thought the other members were being serious when they complained about Zico’s solos.

He’s the only one whose pants don’t have holes in them!

And then P.O cried into his tie–but everybody laughed at him!! Has ever a maknae suffered so?

Not surprisingly, they are also completely ignorant–as in, it’s obvious that many of those commenters didn’t even read the article, in which U-Kwon explained who produces most of Block B’s songs, and why.

Still, amongst all the risible horseshit, there was one question that was raised that I thought would actually be interesting to explore: Would Zico be better off if he left Block B?

Some people are very confident that Zico would be better off leaving (and that it’s inevitable that he will leave, just as it was inevitable three years ago that Block B would disband). Obviously I have an equally irrational attachment to the group and would like for them to stay together. But I’m going to put that (and any notions of friendship or loyalty within the group) to the side for a moment and try to look at this from a business perspective: Would it make better financial sense for Zico to leave Block B?

Note that I’m not asking: Could Zico have a successful career as a soloist? The answer to that question is most certainly yes–his music does very well. And for things like endorsements, it does not matter a whit whether Zico is in Block B or not–Black Yak is still going to hire him.

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I know I make fun of his looks, but I actually think he’s a really good fashion model!

The question is, would Zico be better off only doing solo work, or would he be better off doing solo work and doing Block B, as he does today?

The reason why people look at that question and think that Zico is making a financial sacrifice by being in Block B is that they’re looking at one data set: music sales in Korea.

If you compare Zico’s downloads or streaming in Korea to Block B’s for 2016, it seems like a no-brainer that Zico is taking a big financial hit from doing Block B. His solo songs sold more, and he got to keep more of the money–no splitting stuff seven ways!

Of course, presumably they’re not splitting the Block B stuff seven ways evenly–if Zico owns the copyright to a Block B song (and he does to many), he should be getting a bigger share. But let’s agree that Zico in all likelihood makes less from each sale of a Block B song than a Zico song, as well as less from each sale of a Block B CD/DVD/whatever than a Zico CD/DVD/whatever.

So is he just such a generous guy?

Ehhh…. The thing is, you don’t just make money from selling music–concerts are a usually a significant source of revenue for musicians.

And while Zico performs a lot in Korea, he doesn’t do concerts. Zico does appearances. If you look at my little poster collection here, that’s pretty typical–Zico plus a dozen or so other guys. He also doesn’t perform in stadiums (unless it’s a festival, but then the number of acts skyrockets). The large hip-hop venues like AX Hall sit maybe 2,500 people, while the Lotte Hotel Crystal Ballroom maxes out at 600, and the clubs might hold less than half that.

You’re just not going to get the same kind of money doing 20 minutes on a docket of 15 performers in a venue that seats less than 1,000 people as you are doing two hours as the only performer in a 14,700-seat venue. At this point, I would bet that Block B handily cleans Zico’s clock when it comes to concert revenues, and that even just a seventh of those revenues is a pretty nice chunk of change.

Now I do see Zico trying to beef up his own live performances–in fact, that’s what I think the Fanxychild crew is all about. Zico, Crush, Dean, Penomeco and Millic can perform together, and that not only boosts interest, but it eases the pressure on any one of them to deliver a perfect 2-hour solo performance. But I would guess that it’s going to be a while before Fanxychild can perform in stadiums like Block B does.

The other place where Zico doesn’t perform much–or really do that much of anything–is Japan. Indeed, with the exception of the ill-fated The CollaborationZico doesn’t do much solo work outside Korea at all.

That’s starting to change–he had some solo activities in Japan this summer–but Zico has yet to release any solo music there. And he’s never done a full-length solo concert anywhere.

Is that significant? Well, time was when Block B appeared to get more than half its album sales from outside Korea, and I’m going to guess that they still get a not-insignificant hunk of money from overseas.

If Zico left Block B to work strictly as a soloist, he would have to either 1. resign himself to the likelihood that he will lose a hunk of that money, or 2. decide he’s really going to focus on overseas promotions.

That’s a big tradeoff in terms of risk and/or work, all so that Zico can go strictly solo and extract more money from the frankly rather limited Korean music market. I mean, the Japanese music market is ten times the size of the Korean. And lo and behold, the various members of Block B are fluffing the Japanese market like crazy: Television appearances, soundtrack songs, birthday celebrations, wacky vacations, and of course concerts, concerts, concerts!

And it appears to be working–the size of Block B’s Japanese concert venues still trail their Korean ones, but they’re increasing with every round, and really the sky’s the limit with that market.

If Block B can hit it big in Japan–or just hit it bigger, in a market that size you don’t have to be a household name to make good money–Zico most certainly will stand to benefit from it. And it will have happened without his constant attention: Time the other members spend goosing Japan is time he can spend writing music.

Or, you know, time he can spend being “really busy.”

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4 responses »

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