Category Archives: I used to be a business reporter

“The essence of a press conference” is a combination of unflattering lights, boredom, and unfortunate smells, by the bye

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Zico gave a press conference where he didn’t answer reporters’ questions!!!

Wow, yeah. I think “This article wasn’t written in an attempt to brandish unfair power. It’s an attempt to find the essence of a press conference” is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time, especially coming right after Eric & Na Hyemi’s “controversy.”

Reporters get pissed off about shit just like anyone else does. Of course, you usually keep it to yourself so that you don’t come across as an entitled, unprofessional, biased pussy. But I guess when you’re not accustomed to actually leaving the office for any reason, it makes it soooo hurtful when you do attempt the most basic level of reporting, and that canned event doesn’t work out exactly like you expected!

Since I am a former reporter, I of course have sneaky, back-door access to all other reporters’ questions, including the ones they weren’t allowed to ask Zico! Here they are!

  1. Why don’t you take responsibility for Block B?
  2. Is the line, “Why did she date such an unrefined delinquent?” about Seolhyun?
  3. How did she feel about it?
  4. So you’re still in touch/no longer in touch with her?
  5. Why don’t you take responsibility for Seolhyun?
  6. Why don’t you take responsibility for AOA?
  7. Why don’t you take responsibility for your antis?
  8. What is your ideal type?

Aren’t you all torn up inside that Zico and his mean, horrible label didn’t respect “the essence of a press conference”?

(Of course this “controversy” is having the same kind of impact they always do.)

ETA: And this too–I’m speechless as well, but probably for very different reasons than the original poster. I mean, this so-called journalist is carrying a grudge from 2013, and he can’t seem to understand why Seven Seasons would have been very careful about Block B’s media exposure after the Thailand scandal. Not like that’s their job or anything. Unprofessional and entitled as fuck–he’s openly carrying the hatchet for Seven Seasons because of something that happened four years ago.

EATA: Oh, God, I’m finding myself COMPLETELY agreeing with the people on Netizen Buzz! This is always so disconcerting when it happens….

The first six months of 2017

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Gaon has its first six months of 2017 chart out now–the Greater Block B Musical Complex hasn’t actually put out all that much music during this period, so it’s fewer songs than last year, but still not bad:

Singles
#19 “Yesterday”
#54 “She’s a Baby”
#83 “Flower Road”
#99 “Bermuda Triangle”

Albums
#88 Notebook

“Flower Road” and “Bermuda Triangle” actually came out in November 2016, so they rank lower because their sales were split between two years. On the six month download chart, “Flower Road” is listed as having 505,620 downloads, but if you add in the numbers for November and December 2016, it’s 976,110 downloads, so yeah–that one did really well. That was the song that was written live on television and released with almost no promotions.

Download-wise, “Yesterday” (with 911,984 downloads) at the six-month mark is just about even with “Toy” (913,927) for April-December 2016. So if you’re wondering why Block B doesn’t do full comebacks for every single release, there’s your answer. A handful of fun videos (with puppies!) vs. weeks of the music-show grind–what would you rather be doing? (And yes: “Yesterday” was written by Park Kyung. Happy Birthday, Kyungie!)

Since I’m blathering on about download numbers, I’ll note that “She’s a Baby” sold 563,467 in the first six months of 2017. Apparently that makes it a flop in some people’s minds? I suppose that’s the hazard of doing so well with so little apparent effort–the bar for what people are willing to consider success gets exceedingly high.

For some historical perspective: Remember “Very Good”? Remember how it was such a hit that it successfully relaunched the group following their lawsuit and move to Seven Seasons? 535,031 downloads.

ETA: Should we count “I Luv It”? I’m of two minds on that one, because Psy is such an established hit-maker. It’s #29 if you want it there.

Revenue splits & corporate structures

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There’s been a bit of a hoo-ha about the fact that KQ Entertainment (which clearly gets the vast majority of its revenue from Block B) spends money on KQ Produce (which does not benefit Block B).

While part of me is just like, Ugh, haven’t we been down this road before? Like, very recently? another, more-pedantic part of me is like, Yay! I get to do another business-y post!

So, I thought I’d explain how it is that KQ Entertainment can spend money on KQ Produce without ripping Block B off. In doing so, I get to talk about both corporate structure and how artists get paid, so obviously I’m as happy as a clam right now.

A very dweeby clam.

Anyway, to understand what’s likely going on here, you need to first understand the concept of a revenue split.

What is a revenue split? It is the way money made from an artistic product is split between the artist and the label/publisher/studio/whatever.

Must there be a revenue split? No. You could be hired on a per-job basis for a flat fee, or you could be a salaried worker.

But if you are doing creative work, you often get paid via a revenue split.

A revenue split can be very simple: When I sell books on Amazon, for example, Amazon gets 30% of revenues and I get 70%. Easy-peasy.

In that case. More often than not, revenue splits are really complicated and there are many factors to consider. You might get a different split depending on where you’ve sold or what you’ve sold (CDs vs. digital downloads vs. endorsements vs. concert tickets). Your split may increase if your sales exceed a particular target. What gets split may vary–is it before expenses or after?–and you have to be careful about that one.

If your split sucks, then you get no money. If your split is awesome, then you are Dok2!

However the split is calculated, once the split is made, unless it was calculated fraudulently, the money belongs to whoever receives it.

That person or entity can spend the money as they see fit, because the money belongs to them. Zico can buy designer clothing, U-Kwon can buy Bearbricks, and Kim Kyu Wook can put money into KQ Produce.

To say that Kim should stop funding KQ Produce and put more of his money into promoting Block B is really no different than saying that Zico should stop paying for fancy cars and nice apartments and put more of his money into promoting Block B. If the whole narrative where Zico is a greedy bastard who doesn’t support his fellow Block B members really annoys you (and it certainly annoys me), then you should feel the same way about the whole narrative where Kim is a greedy bastard who doesn’t support Block B.

Kim can spend his money however he wants: fast cars, loose women, or–as the case may be–KQ Produce!

But hey! you say, Wasn’t it a problem when Stardom took money for Block B and spent it on other groups?

Yes, it most certainly was a problem! But Stardom took money that had been loaned to them specifically for Block B and spent it on a different group. There was a legally-binding loan agreement, and Stardumb dumbly breached it, because they were dumb.

But what about the issue of a label spending too much on Group A rather than on Group B?

For starters, I have point out that this is most often an issue only to fansoften it makes perfect business sense for a label to ignore Group B in favor of Group A.

But of course, sometimes it doesn’t: It didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense for Stardumb to violate the terms of its loan agreement, nor did it make much sense for Stardumb to so starve the members of Block B of funds that they left the company and refused to work for it ever again.

I think that, given their experience with Stardumb, the members of Block B were aware that there could be a problem with having all the revenues they made (plus money stolen from their parents, let’s not forget that) siphoned off and spent on God knows what. Furthermore, I think that, since they were armed with this hard-won knowledge, they took steps to protect themselves against this kind of abuse when they signed with Seven Seasons. I think they not only wanted to protect themselves from not being paid, but they also wanted to protect themselves from being neglected if their label added other groups.

Why do I say that? What am I looking at that makes me think this?

I am looking at KQ Entertainment’s corporate structure!

Notice how it’s kind of complicated. Why make Seven Seasons a subsidiary? Why create KQ Produce as its own subsidiary, and KQ Entertainment as an umbrella company? Why didn’t they just expand Seven Seasons to include other groups? Wouldn’t that be simpler?

Because this structure likely guarantees that a certain percentage of resources go to managing and promoting Block B.

I would not be AT ALL shocked to discover that Seven Seasons get its own slice of the revenues that Block B makes, separate from what Kim gets. Those revenues would be reserved for promoting the group and its members alone–not for any other act.

This way, every time money comes in, the members get their cut, their dedicated management gets its cut, and Kim gets his cut–which he can spend on KQ Produce if he wants, because it is, after all, his money.

I realize that Block B might be your “idols” or “gods” or whatever, but they don’t actually have legal rights to every last dime floating around, and their support staff are not their slaves. Some performers do have that attitude–Prince was fairly notorious that way–but the rather predictable result is that not a lot of people will work with them twice!

The members of Block B are, in my estimation, pretty damned savvy. They learned the hard way that the whole notion that K-Pop labels are big friendly families that will always take care of you is a big, fat lie. Instead, it’s the contract, the contract, and always the contract….

And just because it IS in English….

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Asian Junkie did a good piece that basically contrasts significant news about BTS (selling 200,000+ CDs in Japan) vs. what fans are getting their panties in a twist about (a Billboard award that fans vote for).

I’d like to extend that point by noting that BTS’ much-heralded popularity in the U.S. market resulted in them selling: 24,000 copies of Wings.

I’m not knocking that accomplishment–at the moment, BTS is doing far better than any other K-Pop group in the United States. (I also think it’s fine to hype this kind of thing up–nothing succeeds like success!)

But the important words there are “better than any other K-Pop group in the United States.”

K-Pop groups don’t do well here–that’s simply the fact of the matter. Twenty-odd thousand copies not only means that United States is not a big market for BTS, it also means that BTS is not a big group in the United States. They do fine, and compared to most other K-Pop groups, who sell only a few thousand copies at best, they’re doing really well. But nothing BTS has done has a been a bona-fide hit here the way, say, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was.

Or even a minor hit. Let’s put it this way–just to get a gold record in the United States, you have to sell 500,000 copies. Not 24,000 copies; 500,000 copies.

This is why I’m always happy to see Block B get stories outside the K-Pop press. There’s a way bigger (like, waaaaaay bigger) Western market out there–and no K-Pop group has really plugged into it.

This is why you recycle

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I have many things to do today, but it’s been bothering me (I am not compulsive I am not compulsive I am not compulsive) that Block B’s performance in the Japanese market is becoming even more opaque.

But the penny dropped that, now that they’re releasing their Japanese versions internationally, I could actually look up non-Japanese markets on iTunes and see what was happening with the Japanese versions of Block B songs there.

Which turned out to be quite an eye-opener!

Excluding Japan, the largest music markets are the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France.

Looking at Block B’s album sales on iTunes in the United States:

Americans are never getting over Blockbuster! NEVER!!

The Japanese version of Yesterday (which includes “Yesterday” and “Walkin’ in the Rain”) outsells the Korean version (which is just “Yesterday”). You see that in the other large markets as well.

And if you look at the top U.S. singles–wow.

Yeah, 8-19 are Japanese releases.

And this isn’t just happening the United States, by any means. Here’s Germany:

The United Kingdom:

And France:

Dudes–“Movie’s Over” came out almost five years ago. This is–this is fucking brilliant, is what it is. Fucking brilliant.

Thoughts on the Taiwanese market (and others, too)

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As you may know, Block B had a concert in Taiwan a few days ago.

Notice that, despite the crap sound quality, that’s not a fan cam–that’s a Taiwanese MTV channel.

These aren’t fan cams, either:

Trust me, there is so much more media coverage out there. I mean, I knew Block B had had #1 songs in Taiwan, but these are, like, Korean levels of press coverage.

They came to the airport! OMFG!!

I was glad to hear that Block B was going to Taiwan, because they’ve been kind of neglecting that country considering how well their music has been doing there. I think that’s because they wanted to really get solid in Japan first, plus there was their thwarted push into China. Taiwan is simply a smaller market, so it’s been focused on less.

That said, given the response to their appearance, I think it’s a market that could be paying off for them more than it has been. I also wonder if Taiwan could be kind of a back door into the Chinese market….

* * *

Speaking more generally of the global market for K-Pop, there’s been some reality being served about how groups that are popular in the West aren’t necessarily popular in Korea and vice versa. I know I go on about this like a broken record, but: YES.

You can be popular in one place and not another. (Diversification is good!). You can do well selling music one way but not another, or you can make no money selling music at all and still do well with performances and endorsements. It’s all good.

It’s also why the horse-race comparisons are stupid. It’s insane watching people get into fights over measures that don’t actually matter. Another reason the horse-race comparisons are stupid is that they don’t just ignore business models, they ignore cost structures–and the expense side of the ledger matters a great deal.

But what really bothers me is that I don’t want anybody who is thinking about going into the arts to swallow this whole notion that there is only one way to do things and to be successful. If you believe that, you will be blind to your options and will very likely make bad decisions about your career.

And we appear to be shifting again

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So, it’s been pretty interesting watching the most-recent round of Block B promotions in Japan, because it looks to me like Block B is starting to do in Japan what it did a couple of years ago in Korea–namely, shifting from being more focused on selling to the fan base to being more focused on selling to the general public.

What makes me say this? Well, just as in the English-speaking world you have publications that focus on Korean entertainment, you’ve got that in Japan as well. So, Block B has always been kind of a big deal to, say, K-PLAZA for the same reason they’ve always been kind of a big deal to AllKpop.

This time around, though, I saw more coverage from Japanese outlets that do not focus exclusively on K-Pop. So, we had the Premium MelodiX appearance, we had the LoveBox concert, we had the showcase being covered not just by a mainstream television entertainment show but also by other non-K-Pop entertainment outlets, and we have them scheduled to appear in Popteen, which is yet another Japanese entertainment outlet that does not focus only on K-Pop.

While all this has been going on, what hasn’t been happening? A lot of events designed to sell CDs to fans! It’s not like Block B did nothing to push CDs, but they definitely did less than in the past–they have three editions of the Yesterday CD instead of eight, for example. And given the Oricon rankings this week, I’d be surprised if Yesterday sells nearly as well as Toy.

As a CD, that is.

The problem for us nosy types is that the Japanese digital market is more opaque than the CD market–there’s no equivalent to Oricon with digital the way there is in Korea. (And even if there was, it wouldn’t answer questions like, Has making the digital versions of Block B’s Japanese songs available internationally significantly affected sales?) As I’ve mentioned, it’s hard to chart when you’re splitting your song’s sales among multiple editions or even just between the Korean and Japanese versions.

All this makes it hard for outsiders to evaluate what’s going on. Luckily the problem only extends to us–if Block B is in fact doing better among the general public in Japan, then that’s all to the good for them.