What do K-pop fans and the state of Texas have in common? Answer: It's never a good idea to mess with either.
Early Sunday morning (March 24), it appeared videos by K-pop entertainment agency, Cube Entertainment, were being blocked for international fans. Cube Entertainment (home to popular artists like 4minute, B2ST, G.NA and HyunA) is one of the few Korean agencies who work with a major U.S.-based label distributor. Universal Music Korea helps distribute Cube Entertainment, a rare partnership in a market where most entertainment entities have the means to distribute themselves or use domestic options like the much-used major South Korean record label, LOEN Entertainment.
Yet, when international fans were being blocked from watching music videos of their favorite artists there was online pandemonium.
A major reason as to why K-pop has been able to become such a force in non-Korean markets is due to the online fan base (known as "netizens") who are ferociously protective of their artists. Reports from these fanbases said that Universal wanted to keep K-pop in Korea and was subsequently blocking videos in the U.S. and U.K. with other countries soon to follow.
Netizens began retaliating at lightning speed with two phrases becoming trending worldwide topics on Twitter with "#giveuskpop" and "UMG" both making their way up the list. Recent Facebook posts on Universal Music Group's page had comments on non-related news stories from fans using their battle cry hashtag. A "One Does Not Simply Block K-pop Internationally" meme even made the rounds on Tumblr.
Soon enough though, the videos were put back online with seemingly no effect on their view counts (HyunA’s 50 million views to “Bubble Pop!” still remain [see below]) with fans calling off the hunt saying it was a misunderstanding and then ferociously spreading the news UMG had fixed the mistake.
Upon further review, Billboard has found Vevo accounts for 4minute, G.NA, B2ST (named Beast) and HyunA (as Hyuna Kim). These accounts do have certain videos blocked for certain countries (4minuteVEVO’s "Volume Up" is blocked in the U.S. though "Hot Issue" is not), but the original YouTube accounts still have the videos available (see the account 4minuteofficial’s "Volume Up"). This may be a transitioning move to actually make K-pop more visible in the U.S. market as Vevo is the largest U.S. website for music videos due to their connection with YouTube.
The zealous response was to be expected for a genre that is tough to be a fan for internationally. K-pop artists give very select overseas performances and the music is tough to find in physical form (and sometimes not even digitally available). Music videos are a major part of sharing in K-pop culture -- see the millions of views -- and should those be taken away, there will be hell to pay from netizens.
Stay tuned to Billboard for this developing story.
K-pop fans leave comments on UMG's latest Facebook post, about the country singer Kacey Musgraves: