So, yeah, I come back from the Illionaire concert to stories of more illegal contract terms in K-Pop!
What’s kind of annoying to me is that, LIKE ALWAYS, this information is being used by K-Pop fans for no better purpose than to bash other fans. So the take-away from that story is apparently, “Nya-nya-nya! This label is better than that label!”
OK, the problem with that mentality is not just that it’s juvenile and obnoxious. It’s not even that people are stanning labels (which arguably makes sense in K-Pop, because the labels usually generate the music and develop the performance styles).
The problem is that good companies can go bad.
I’ve seen this a lot in book publishing. Once upon a time–we’re talking, less than ten years ago–there were certain things that a reputable player in the publishing industry would simply never do. A reputable reviewer, for example, would never, ever charge a fee to review a book. Only scammers did that.
But then digitization hit the industry in a big way. Reputable firms of all stripes–you name it, agencies, review publications, publishers–came under strange new pressures.
Just like that, all the old rules fell away. Do “reputable” book reviewers charge authors for reviews nowadays? You betcha! (Do I still think that’s sleazy as fuck? You betcha!)
And that is what’s really wrong with all the side-taking: K-Pop labels are businesses. The people running them can change, their business models can change, everything about them can change (and arguably should change if the labels want to survive in the long term).
You can’t count on a company to not screw you over. You always have to protect yourself. How do artists do that? Through contracts and legal agreements. That’s why I didn’t care when KQ Entertainment appeared–Block B’s contracts hadn’t changed, so why did the rest matter?
It’s not like there was this person named Seven Seasons, and another person named KQ Entertainment murdered them to take their place. Some people clearly think that’s pretty much what happened, though–they see a name change, and they think that’s HUGELY important. But what matters is the contract.
And since I just was at an Illionaire concert, I’ll point out that their artists’ contracts are extremely different, no doubt because of their experiences elsewhere:
On the road to those riches, Illionaire has cut out all of the middlemen. Unlike K-pop groups on mainstream labels with multiple members (sometimes as many as 12), Illionaire has only three self-sustaining artists. Road managers don’t chauffeur them, they don’t maintain a lavish office, and the majority of their music is created from home. Aside from one employee who coordinates schedules, oversees contracts, and assists in production, there are no salaries to pay.
And all of this with no paperwork: Neither partners Dok2 and the Quiett nor Beenzino are bound by [traditional record label] contracts. Which means, nobody has to pay back label advances and everybody controls his own masters. Each rapper is only required to set aside 10-to-20-percent of the profit they make on gigs or album sales to Illionaire’s savings account, which then later gets put back into album production and marketing. The remaining money from shows, album sales, appearances, and ads becomes net profit for each individual.
So, thanks to Illionaire’s generous profit split, Dok2 makes in excess of $880,000 a year on profits that are presumably around the $1 million mark.
Do you know how big a profit Exo would have to turn from music sales in the Korean market for a member to see that kind of money under their contracts? About $80 million.