So, there’s a little roundup of the reasons this Seven Seasons/KQ Entertainment boycott is going on here: I’m linking because 1. it’s really long, and 2. the impulse to make fun of it is kind of overwhelming (you’re boycotting now because you think Seven Seasons mishandled Block B in 2013?). I’ll just note that a lot of what’s there is rumor, really dumb (it’s KQ’s fault that hackers didn’t target the Block B Japan YouTube account), self-contradictory (Jaehyo was both overworked and not worked hard enough), or really questionable (“Ordinary Love” was not well-marketed, which I guess is why it was such a hit).
KQ has responded to the brouhaha by announcing its new Web site, which is a very nice Web site…and most definitely the kind of Web site you can’t throw together overnight because some fans got whiny.
So, yeah–some meaningless placation there. I don’t expect the complaining Korean fans to get much more than these kinds of sops. They may get another fan meeting or two (you know, if they buy the “Blooming Period” DVD), and concerts that they were going to get anyway, but their main objective (Block B should stop performing in Japan!) is never going to happen.
And in my opinion, if you care about Block B’s financial well-being, that’s all to the good.
Others, of course disagree. Their argument is that Block B’s Korean fan base is super important to the group’s financial well-being, so KQ had better capitulate and give them everything they want!
I’m not going to make fun here (well, not anymore than I already have). Instead, I want to delve into the question, Why do I see things so differently than some other fans?
The answer is: Because I have a business background. I’ve covered business, and I’ve run my own businesses.
So, in the interest of increasing financial literacy and business aptitude, I’m going to focus a bit here on this blog on business concepts and how they apply to K-Pop. These posts will be similar to the ones I did earlier on things like good marketing or assets or distribution–using real-life examples to hopefully illuminate abstract concepts. (Also, just for general background, I’d suggest you go here and read Kpopalypse’s bit on YG Entertainment–another company that is actually much better-run than many fans seem to realize. In business, the bottom line is the bottom line–a company that is making money, especially over time, is by definition well run.)
So, why is KQ unlikely to kowtow to Block B’s Korean fan base?
Because their business model has moved past that.
I’ve done a post on business models before, which I’d suggest you read if you don’t already know what a business model is. A quick refresher: A business model is the basic approach a company takes to making money.
In the Korean popular music market, you get two main approaches to making money. The first is to market to a general audience. The second is to market to the fan base.
In Block B’s very early days, they mostly sold to their fan base–they sold albums, not singles. But pretty quickly they got a popular hit, and then a bunch more, and at this point I’d say they’re not very interested in selling to the fan base.
Why do I say that?
With boy groups (girl groups are a little different, I think because their fans are older), if they’re selling albums, they’re selling to their fan base. (The general public buys digital.)
In fact, fans buy albums because they want to meet the group, which means that if a group is reasonably popular album sales are very much under their control.
You get this:
because these group have lots of fan events.
In fact, boy groups who cater to the fan base will sacrifice sales to the general public in order to appeal to fans. They will create a song with lots of blank spaces (for fan chants) or songs that sound like five different songs stuck together (so everyone gets to see their bias shine).
And then people will scratch their heads and wonder: Why don’t boy groups sell digitally? Are they cursed?
NO. These boy groups are just hewing to their business model! It doesn’t matter if these kinds of groups sell digitally as long as they have a lock on that fan base.
So, what is Block B doing these days? They’re selling digitally.
Not only are they selling digitally, but they are actually selling fewer CDs now than they used to!
In 2014 The Greater Block B Musical Complex sold: 111,964 CDs
In 2015 The Greater Block B Musical Complex sold: 59,358 CDs
In the first six months of 2016 The Greater Block B Musical Complex sold: 64,056 CDs
Why aren’t they selling more CDs in Korea? Because they don’t have to. They’re doing just dandy selling to the general market in Korea–a phenomenon that really took off, you guessed it, in 2015.
Plus, they are selling more CDs–in Japan.
In 2014 The Greater Block B Musical Complex sold: 0 CDs
In 2015 The Greater Block B Musical Complex sold: 68,129 CDs
In the first six months of 2016 The Greater Block B Musical Complex sold: 73,930 CDs
Yeah–without having to write any new music, either!
Now, maybe you’re looking at those numbers and thinking, Gee, if Block B worked harder in Korea, they probably could sell as many CDs as they now do in Korea and Japan. And that’s true–if they wanted to, they could sell many more CDs in Korea.
Why don’t they want to?
Focusing on the fan base can be a workable business model, but it is necessarily quite limiting–you can extract a good deal of money, but only from a set number of people. If you sell CDs in Korea, you’re not expanding that audience. If you sell CDs in Japan as well, you’re developing an entirely new source of digital sales, concert revenues, endorsements, acting gigs…whatever! Plus you’re diversifying, which is always a good idea.
So, in short (ha!), Block B’s business model is no longer particularly dependent on keeping KBBCs happy. That’s not likely to change, because diversifying to the general public and Japan is working for them.
And this is why comments like, “Why don’t you go stan EXO?” actually contain a grain of valuable advice–if you want a group that is going to spend all its time providing fan service, Block B is not the group for you. You need to find a group with a business model that is more focused on maximizing revenue from the fan base.
Here’s the thing: Block B’s Korean fans know all this. Whether they want to admit it or not, they know on some level that they are not actually that important to Block B, and that they will likely become even less important in the future. That is why they are freaking out.
I think they are freaking out right now because of two recent triggers: Zico is dating, and the seventh episode of Hit the Stage aired. What happened there? Well, the MCs had a conversation with Nicole (formerly of Kara), in which they discussed how Nicole is popular in Japan, so she’s never, ever in Korea, ever, and gee, you know who else is popular in Japan?
The phenomenon where K-Pop groups get popular in Japan and then you never see them again is not an unfamiliar one to Korean fans. It happens quite a bit, because the Japanese music market so large and so close. Hence the freaking-out.
But the boycotting Korean Block B fans are not thinking things through: The entire reason Block B hasn’t gallivanted off to Japan for good is that they’re doing very well in Korea. Boycotting a DVD is only going to make the Korean fan base less important to Block B’s finances, and make Korea an even smaller and less appetizing market.