Monthly Archives: December 2016

Mall rats

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It’s almost Christmas, and I barely made it out of a mall alive today, so I thought I’d talk about something that appears to me rather different in the Asian music market than it is in the U.S. music market: Mall appearances.

P.O met Santa at the mall yesterday. He was the most excited kid there!

In the States, mall appearances are typically regarded as kind of a bottom-of-the-barrel kind of thing, basically busking. Once mall appearances actually launched someone into the big time–but I think the fact that Tiffany was viewed as 1. a teen singer and 2. a one-hit wonder kind of soured the industry on really embracing them.

In the United States, that is. In Hong Kong, in contrast, Bastarz’ mall appearance was covered by the news media, just as Block B’s mall appearance was a few years ago.

And the mall they appeared at–the fabulous apm, whose name is a portmanteau of a.m. and p.m. and whose motto is “Play More, Sleep Less”–is explicitly a cross between a mall and a nightclub, meaning that it attracts a lot of musicians.

Likewise mall appearances in Japan seem to be a much bigger deal than you would expect in the United States.

That’s described as a “release event,” and I think that’s a more accurate description–it’s basically a fan meeting, and if you watch the daily Oricon rankings (not that I recommend you embrace my obsessive lifestyle), you can see that these events sell a lot of CDs.

I’ve seen mall appearances in Asia regarded in a really disparaging way by American observers of K-Pop, but I think it’s a little wrongheaded to assume that mall appearances mean the same thing everywhere else that they mean here. Obviously mall appearances aren’t equivalent to a stadium show or anything, but they’re definitely a much bigger deal than someone belting away on a portable karaoke machine with a hat full of change in front of them.

An observation about year-end shows

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There’s been a lot of complaining because Block B isn’t doing many (or even any) of the Korean year-end music shows. This is being perceived as a slight directed at the group from these shows.

I feel like this is a bit like complaining because Block B isn’t attending every local Mud Festival in Korea, and insisting that this is happening because the local festival organizers are disrespecting the group.

The thing is, back in 2013, when they were performing every tiny local festival, Block B did appear on the year-end music shows.

Awesome!

In 2014, they somehow managed to appear on even more year-end music shows and events

Also awesome!

to the point where they were choking on fireworks,

Uh, considerably less awesome once you hit the 3:20 mark.

forgetting lines, and pretty much ready to drop from exhaustion.

Geez, guys, take a rest, will ya?

Yeah. Of course I love seeing them perform, too, but you have to remember that for them, this is work. And it can be very hard work.

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The good news is, all that work paid off! Here we are in the final days of 2016, and Block B is about as popular as it is possible for a boy group to get in Korea. But what that means is, at this point, doing year-end event after year-end event after year-end event doesn’t have much potential upside for them. Block B is not this up-and-coming group any more, where if they just pushed harder it could potentially have this huge impact on sales. Instead, they already have big sales in Korea, and it’s hard to imagine a situation where, if they just promoted a bit more, their sales would double or something.

Where you are seeing the activity instead is in the solo work. If you’re Taeil, and you’ve got two solo shows coming up in Japan, where would you prefer to put your energy? If you’re Jaehyo or U-Kwon, and you’ve been cast in a popular musical, how would you like to spend your rehearsal time–polishing your performance in that show, or running through “Toy” yet again?

It’s true that Zico is a bit maxed out on popularity as a solo artist as well, but that’s not the case for anyone else in the group. And if you’re interested in seeing the group stay together, the last thing you should want is for the members to feel like they have to choose between developing their own individual careers and being in Block B.

Luckily, there’s no real reason things have to be that way. But part of that balancing act is that sometimes Block B is going to opt out of doing things that are fun for the fans, because those things are also very tiring and time-consuming for the members.

I found this both funny and stressful; plus, membership queries

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1. Less oil.

2. Lower heat.

Seriously, I was pretty much expecting a kitchen fire.

ETA: I just realized that I understand what he’s singing at the 3:05 mark, “The heat’s too high.” Yes, it is.

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Random housekeeping things: I haven’t put Taeil’s solo event in Japan up on BlockB.com because as near as I can figure (knowledge of Japanese: nonexistent) tickets are going by lottery to members of the Japanese fan club. All the more reason to join that if that’s where you live, but not much use to anyone who isn’t a member. (ETA: Now it is open to the public.)

Speaking of fan clubs: These guys have been offering to buy people into the Korean official fan club. The thing is, you need a Korean governmental identification number to gain access to the fan cafe, which to me at least would be the primary benefit of membership if you’re not in Korea. It seems to me like you’ll get the membership card and the joining goods, and then . . . that’ll be about it, right? You can’t actually do anything with this membership if you don’t live in Korea, because (just like with the Japanese fan club) most of the benefits are geared toward people who are physically there.

I mean, maybe this is something you really want, or maybe you’re going to Korea in a few months and think it would be nice to already be a member instead of having to wait until they open up membership again. It’s not like the USA Fangoods people are asking for some huge fee–plus they’re being very upfront about what this membership will and will not include, and there’s not a lot of “Beware! Scammer!” feedback on their social media. So I don’t see any huge red flags here (you have to act fast, though). But I also don’t really see a compelling reason for me to do this.