From left: Kye Kyoungbon Koo, Director, KOCCA USA; Bernie Cho, president, DFSB Kollective; Ted Kim, president/CEO, MNET America/EVP & head strategic planning and busienss dev., CJ Entertainment & Media; Alina Moffat, GM, US, YG Entertainment; Kevin Morrow, SVP, N. American touring, Live Nation, John Shim, Sr. producer, MTV World; Billboard's Phil Gallo at the Billboard THR Film TV Music Conference's
"Beyond K-pop: The Global Impact of Music and Visuals" panel. (Photo: Arnold Turner)
PSY's "Gangnam Style" put K-Pop on the world's radar in 2012, but a panel on the musical style revealed an infrastructure in place that wholly covers recording, marketing and touring. Licensing around the globe is the next frontier.
Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, which assists some 350 K-pop acts find international audiences, was among the speakers on the panel "Beyond K-pop: The Global Impact of Music and Visuals" Thursday at Billboard's 11th Annual Film & TV Music Conference at the W Hotel in Hollywood. He said the genre's breakthrough came in 2008, when South Korea connected with YouTube, and continued in 2009 when it joined forces with iTunes.
"Artists using YouTube created commercial opportunities to promote themselves worldwide, and iTunes created revenue worldwide," he explained. YouTube views of K-pop videos in America more than doubled from 2010 to 2011. "Gangnam Style," with half a billion views worldwide on YouTube and counting, has exposed the appeal of the catchy, video-friendly South Korean dance genre.
PSY records for YG Entertainment, which is similar to many K-pop companies in that it is a combination talent agency and label run by a former Korean artist. Unlike dance music in many other cultures, K-pop artists often wrote their own material, making it more self-sufficient than many other pop styles.
From left: Aki Kaneko, Billboard; Kyoungbon Koo, Director, KOCCA USA; Billboard publisher, Tommy Page (Photo: Arnold Turner)
Alina Moffat is the general manager of the American counterpart of a Korean talent agency and record label, YG Entertainment U.S., said that PSY's success is, they hopes, the start of something bigger.
"This has allowed the world to see what they've been doing all along," she said. "The spotlight is shining and saying, there's creativity there, there's money there. It's a chance to say, this is what we do - get on board."
Moffat, on board at YG for less than a year, said the industry is new to the idea of licensing tracks for use in television and film. Part of the reasoning for having U.S. divisions of K-pop companies is to simplify and speed up licensing and publishing processes that are foreign to the Korean business.
One area that has been successful is touring where acts are packaged and play large theaters and arenas. Kevin Morrow, a former Live Nation concert promoter who first booked a K-pop concert in the U.S. seven years ago, said the "value-added stuff they give consumers" go far beyond anything other acts provide. Concert-goers receive gift bags and can go onstage after the show to have their photo taken -- sometimes with the acts and sometimes just on the set.
"That's great marketing," he says. "It creates fan loyalty."
With a population of 50 million, the K-pop industry has been aware of the need to export its pop stars for some time. The performers learn local languages, including English and Japanese, to expand their audiences and tour; with hundreds of television competition shows on the air there is no shortage of potential hitmakers.
"In Asia, 'I want to be a pop star' is not something you could say a decade ago," said Ted Kim, president and CEO of MNET America, which brings Asian pop culture to American audiences. "Now, it's considered acceptable, even desirable."
Panel Action Shot (from left): Kevin Morrow; Alina Moffat; Ted Kim; Bernie Cho; John Shim; Phil Gallo (Photo: Arnold Turner)