Boycotts and the impossibility of financial separation

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So apparently the boycott thing has come up again, le sigh–although thankfully it doesn’t seem to be having much impact.

If you ask why it’s happening, you’ll be told many rather nonsensical reason why some K-fans are boycotting–“bad” marketing that somehow sells tons of music and the like.

So, here are the actual reasons why this sorta-boycott is semi-happening.

1. This took place in Japan at the end of May:

2. This is going to take place in Japan in July:

Yup, J-BBCs got a new song and some concerts. That’s the entirety of the issue this time around–last time, it was this kind of thing plus Zico dating.

There aren’t deep minds or great moral thinkers behind these boycotts. These campaigns are coming from the kinds of K-fans who go: WHAT ABOUT MEEEEEEEEE?

* * *

Anyway, I thought I’d back up for a minute and talk about boycotts. Obviously I think they’re a really bad idea with regard to Block B and their current situation, but this actually isn’t due to some blanket dislike for all boycotts.

Let’s start out with the question: What is a boycott? It’s when people refuse to buy something they would normally buy. Why engage in a boycott? Let’s ask Wikipedia:

The purpose of a boycott is to inflict some economic loss on the target, or to indicate a moral outrage, to try to compel the target to alter an objectionable behavior.

So a boycott is essentially punitive: You go after a company’s ability to make money because you think they’ve done something wrong.

But what do we mean by “a company”?

Remember that in K-Pop, the talent is typically paid via some kind of revenue split. So, if something pulls in $100,000, that money is split between the group members and the company.

In theory.

What you get, of course, for many K-Pop groups (even if there is no dodgy accounting) is really craptacular revenue splits. For example, it came out in court that the members of Exo received a lousy 3-5% of profits for promotions in Korea.

Let’s say you’re an Exo fan in Korea, and you are upset about something SM Entertainment is doing to the group, which you are pretty sure is harmful to the members. But you would like to damage SM’s take without hurting the finances of the group members themselves.

Given what you know about Exo’s profit distribution, boycotting promotions in Korea would be a pretty solid idea. For every dollar you don’t spend, SM loses 97-95 cents, while the members only lose 3-5 cents. The members take only 3-5% of the damage because they were only ever getting 3-5% of the profits.

Block B was in a similar position back when they were with Stardom, and Stardom wasn’t paying them anything. Back then, there was no real point in paying for anything that came out of Stardom, because none of that money would end up in Block B’s pocket!

Then the lawsuit happened.

Whatever people’s complaints about Seven Seasons/KQ, nobody denies that the boys are living pretty high off the hog these days. Expensive clothing, foreign travel, fancy cars, costly watches, nice apartments, enormous rooms dedicated to fish–to all appearances, they’re doing quite well for themselves.

What does that tell you? It tells you that the members are getting a decent hunk of the revenues.

How much? Is it perfectly fair? Who gets exactly what? I have no way of knowing.

But I do know that, if the boys are getting a healthy revenue split, it effectively makes it impossible to punish Seven Seasons through a boycott without also punishing the members of Block B.

Why? Because a boycott makes the pie smaller. So instead of splitting $100,000, they’re splitting $70,000. Instead of splitting $50,000, they’re splitting $20,000. Everybody–including your bias!–gets less money.

If you cut Seven Seasons’ revenue by 30% with your boycott, you are probably also cutting the members’ revenues by 30%–and that likely makes a significant difference to their take-home pay, because they weren’t getting nothing to begin with.

The difficulty of targeting punishment–of inflicting damage on a label alone–is why I even argue against boycotting the Stardom albums these days. I think there’s a chance that when Block B settled with Stardom, part of that settlement involved having some third party handle the royalty accounting. (At least, that’s what I would have wanted had I been them.) So I say, you can’t punish the label without punishing the boys!

And that goes a million times more for Seven Seasons, because there’s really no question with them that the boys are getting paid. Their current label is not taking all the money, and that means that when you boycott the group, you hurt the group’s members.

Not just financially, either–I mean, Jaehyo kind of jokingly pointed out earlier that if you want to see him in more things, you need to watch the things he’s in now. That’s very true: If your concern is that all the focus goes on members that are already successful, like Zico, then the best way to help the other members is to support their projects, not to boycott them.

But if all this is true, why doesn’t it bother those K-fans who keep trying to organize boycotts?

Because they are angry at the members.

If you think Zico is your future husband, and he dates someone else, then you’re going to try to punish him. If you think B-Bomb is your future husband, and he premieres his song in front of a bunch of Japanese girls, then you’re going to try to punish him. If you think Taeil is your future husband, and he’s had three solo concerts in Japan but won’t do music shows in Korea, then you’re going to try to punish him.

These people are totally fine with punishing the members along with the label–that doesn’t bother them one bit.

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4 responses »

  1. But didn’t PO said sth about a comback in fall or winter recently? Also as you said they complain that the individual members should be in tv and stuff so that they can shine or whatever but when they do then fans complain that they want to see the group together again… you can’t win… either way is bad

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