Category Archives: KQ for you

A cranky observation about the media & the management

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The latest “controversy” about Seven Seasons/KQ’s handling of the media just emphasizes something that bugs the hell out of me: The assumption that Seven Seasons is never helpful and always wrong.

Let’s look at that account of what happened in 2013.  (The people who think that reporter was Block B’s very best friend were sure to look up his and his outlet’s coverage of the Thailand scandal beforehand, right? I mean, no fan would ever blindly side with media outlets that have quite the history of trying to fist-fuck the group or anything, right?)

Enough questions! Presumably everyone remembers how careful Block B was with their “Very Good” promotions. If you don’t, they were super-duper careful, and it worked! For once Block B didn’t have a comeback ruined by scandal or lawsuits!

Yes, they! were! careful! They were such good boys, trying so hard to be proper idols, and always being careful about what they said and who they said it to, carefully, in order to avoid scandal.

Boy, did the fans sing praises about how careful Block B was. Such careful people.

And I’m sure they were careful, but–whaddaya know: They had help being careful. They (like most entertainers, who are typically people-pleasers and have a very hard time saying no) had a big mean scary high-ranking executive (sometimes it’s a manager, sometimes it’s a lawyer, sometimes it’s a family member–but it’s always someone) who ran around being the bad guy and saying “No way! Get the fuck out!” to people and situations they thought were probably trouble. (Added bonus: Whenever some reporter was disappointed, it wasn’t Block B’s fault. It was the fault of mean old Seven Seasons!)

It’s almost like–stay with me–things are set up this way on purpose in order to protect celebrities’ images!

Oh, but we didn’t see the sausage factory, so it must not exist–such is always the case with management. Instead, the boys–seven completely perfect humans–naturally handled everything with aplomb, and because God invariably rewards the virtuous with material success, they pulled off that vital return to the industry without a hitch!!

Like the divine beings they are.

“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….

Many random things

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There’s a lot going on, isn’t there? Like, Zico’s guesting on a song by Millic, and I’m probably not going to even be able to put it on BlockB.com because it’s coming out at almost the same time as Zico’s solo album (which has some interesting teasers, too).

Of course, the best Zico video out right now is this one here:

Zico bet his watch on that speed-reading contest, and then lost it. His expression is priceless!

And his watches ain’t cheap, either.

KHipHopSubs is translating Show Me the Money again, so yay! And Jaehyo & B-Bomb’s travel show is being translated here, so double-yay!

And Seven Seasons put out a fairly vague schedule that seems to be exciting everyone else much more than it does me. I mean, it’s gotten press coverage, so that in itself makes it worthwhile, but…I do hope people know that the plan pretty much every year has been to do two full-group comebacks–a small one in the spring and a big one in the fall–and the only year that has actually happened was 2014. (And even then, “Jackpot” promotions were cancelled because of the Sewol ferry tragedy.)

When a song doesn’t work out, or somebody blows a knee, or somebody’s mother dies–or maybe the news is great and somebody gets a really wonderful opportunity–it affects the schedule. That’s good, in my book–the group is more likely to stay together if consideration is shown to the members’ needs.

People are also saying that this proposed schedule will calm the crazy fans. OK, I’m just going to say it: Nothing will calm the crazy fans. When everything is fine, they just make shit up to get upset about. I’m already seeing “translations” that seriously up the number of “promised” activities, and of course should one of them fail to happen, the crazy fans will scream BETRAYAL!!!! Honestly, there is no point in tying yourself in knots trying to cater to people who will never be happy.

Speaking of people tying themselves in knots for no good reason, folks actually give a fuck about this?

Yes, five or six random Koreans could not identify Block B from a photograph! Wow.

I’ll tell you a true story: I’ve been hearing a lot about this group called the Chainsmokers. I’d never heard of them before, but they kept coming up–Chainsmokers over here, Chainsmokers over there, Chainsmokers everywhere!

Fuck! I said to myself. I’d better figure out who these guys are!

I went on YouTube, picked a random Chainsmokers song–and recognized it instantly.

I still couldn’t identify them from a photo, I didn’t even know who the Chainsmokers were–but I knew their music.

I’m guessing that’s the way it is for a lot of people in Korea when it comes to Block B. Maybe if they’d used a recent photo, people might have recognized Zico as “that Cass beer guy,” but maybe not. Play two seconds of “H.E.R,” however….

This, in contrast, I do feel is a cause for concern: U-Kwon has discovered fidget spinners.

Well, there goes all his time. And watch out for Sabellianism!

Since this seems to happen every single time

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Whenever Zico does a solo, you get this whole crowd coming out of the woodwork yammering on about how he doesn’t support Block B and how he’s going to leave and then the other members will all starve and die and yadda yadda yadda.

Which wouldn’t matter to me if I didn’t then get a bunch of traffic to this post as well as a gaggle of queries like “Is Zico leaving Block B?” or “Zico doesn’t like Block B?” There’s definitely a significant population out there who sees this Zico-leaving-Block-B bullshit and assumes that there’s actually something to it–indeed, that mentality is so prevalent that someone’s dumb prank got taken really seriously by people who then left a bunch of abuse on Zico’s social media.

Obviously I’m not psychic, and hey, one day Zico might indeed leave Block B! I don’t think it’s very likely for a lot of reasons, but I can’t say it’s absolutely outside the realm of possibility–he’s not a slave, for fuck’s sake.

I can, however, say that Zico has been putting out solo material since November 2014, those solos have been awfully successful, he also does very well with endorsements–and he has yet to leave the group. Nonetheless, every time he does a solo release, agitation begins anew over the possibility that he might leave Block B. In fact, even if Zico hasn’t done a solo release, what can best be described as scares crop up periodically–some other K-Pop group loses a member for whatever reason, so of course that means that Zico is about to leave Block B.

It’s especially interesting because at this point, other Block B members have also done solo work–Park Kyung most notably, but Taeil and U-Kwon have both put out commercial solo releases. A lot of the music Bastarz has put out has been written by P.O, with B-Bomb contributing the delightfully obscene “Tightly”; when the sub-unit’s members aren’t busy doing live theater, Bastarz gets booked on a regular basis, has performed abroad quite a bit, and even holds its own fan meetings. P.O founded a theater group, and so far he’s helped write two plays that have done quite well.

And yet I have never seen a scare over the possibility that, say, Park Kyung will leave the group to go solo, or Taeil will leave the group to sing angelic love songs to fish, or P.O will leave to focus on theater, or U-Kwon will leave to do musicals, or Bastarz will spin off forever and ever, amen.

Never.

So, what’s going on here? With the people who like the group but don’t know it well, and who are just kind of nervous that Zico might leave, I think they think of Block B as being like a more-conventional K-Pop group. The business model with those often is just to see which member the public will latch on to, and then to ditch everyone else ASAP. Likewise if the business model is to trot out a new group (and retire the old one) every few years, the label’s not going to care about keeping the members happy, which understandably makes them more likely to leave. Those aren’t KQ/Seven Seasons’ business model (KQ’s too small, for one thing), but I can see why someone who is used to mainstream K-Pop would worry about a group leaking members–or just disbanding for no particular reason, like Sistar did (surprise!).

The other, not-minor contributing factor, though, is that Zico has a lot of haters who just love to start this shit. Most of the people who express such concern over what Zico’s oh-so-imminent departure is going to do to the rest of the group don’t actually give a fuck about the other members of Block B. After all, if they cared enough to know what the other members were actually up to these days, they’d know not to worry–the group is far less reliant on Zico than it used to be, and I don’t see that trend reversing.

But that doesn’t matter to them, because what they really want is to tear Zico down, and convincing others that Zico is about to leave the rest of the group in a basket on the steps of a church (or maybe in a cardboard box in the middle of the interstate) is simply part of the selfish bastard! narrative that they’re trying to sell.

I’ve seen Zico stans flip anti, and it’s about what you’d expect–he won’t marry them disappoints them in some way, and all of a sudden he’s the most horrible baby-eater on the whole entire planet, and the rest of Block B are his pitiful victims (just like the former stan was, OMG). The mentality seems to be that if you put some effort into a celebrity, and then you decide that you don’t want to stan any more–well, that can’t be because stanning is simply not really that gratifying an activity to begin with, or because maybe your tastes changed, it has to be because the person you were stanning is worthless scum. (Splitting!)

You throw in the people who hate Zico because he dated their imaginary wife, and the people who are just trolling or want to upset anyone who likes Block B, and lo and behold you have this bottomless well of Zico is going to leave Block B! If that worries you, just keep in mind that it’s completely disconnected from any kind of objective reality–the people who are out there planting those seeds don’t know what’s actually going on with the group, nor do they particularly care.

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.

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….

FYI: If you’re thinking about buying physical CDs

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I link to retailers over on BlockB.com, and while I’ll occasionally go through and check the links, I don’t do that all the time.

Which means that I was quite surprised the other day when I was poking through YouTube and thought, “Oh, this looks interesting! I wonder what she has to say!”

Aaaannnd discovered that a bunch of the CDs are now out of print!

So, yeah, I had to do some editing over there. This has happened before–when Block B was resurrected back in October 2013, Seven Seasons drastically underestimated demand for Very Good, so there was a short period right after its release where you couldn’t find that CD to save your life. Then Stardumb let months go by before getting more copies of Block B’s older albums made. But unlike before, this is affecting CDs from both labels in pretty much the same way, which makes me wonder if there’s not something going on with the CD manufacturers.

Anyway, like she said, the regular edition of H.E.R, Very Good, and the Repackage version of Welcome to the Block (which has more songs than the regular version) are now in short supply. You can still find them on places like Amazon (and the special edition of H.E.R is still everywhere), but you may have to get them used or pay quite a bit for them (which is kind of a gamble, since these aren’t limited editions and the labels can always get another batch made).