The Boyz, MXM & DIA Shine at a More Mainstream-Focused MU:CON 2018
The 2018 Seoul conference marked the first appearances for some major-label K-pop companies.
While it's been one of Asia's biggest music-industry conventions throughout this decade, a particularly exciting year for K-pop seemed to have led to the most mainstream-leaning MU:CON yet, topped off with performances from some of the scene's promising newcomers.
The three-day, Seoul-based festival took place in Korean television network MBC headquarters with its usual schedule of panels, instructional classes and networking opportunities. What wasn't usual was the clientele available this year with the seventh iteration of MU:CON marking the first time executives from all three of South Korea's "Big Three" K-pop agencies -- the nickname given to SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment -- in attendance. Representatives from other Korean and Asian labels, and companies both corporate and independent, were also present including FNC Entertainment, Brand New Music, Starship Entertainment, H1ghr Music Records, Happy Face Entertainment, FeelGhood Music, APA Agency, The Orchard, Paradigm Agency, CJ ENM, Universal Music Japan, Chile's NoiX Entertainment, Hong Kong's Wowstar Entertainment and more.
MU:CON's three nights of showcases brought together the industry and South Korea's intense fan culture, most clearly seen at the K-pop-focused Asian Music Network (A.M.N) stage that took over MBC's Open Hall theater for two days.
The first day of the A.M.N stage opened with K-pop/rock bands like W24 (who surprised the international crowd by greeting them in Spanish), TheEastLight (who intrigued audiences with their three-singer, three-instrumentalist setup) and N.Flying. Despite just making their debut earlier this month, seven-member girl group GWSN earned large hollers from the audience, but no act of the night seemed to be more anticipated than The Boyz. The 12-member outfit delivered precise and intricate choreography to cuts like "Right Here," earning cheers from an audience that seemed to mostly be attending for them. Somewhat sadly, the venue mostly cleared out after The Boyz's performance leaving energetic sets from Japan-based girl group BANANALEMON and Korean band South Club with far fewer audience members.
The excitement was more spread out for the second showcase where rising newcomers like Dreamcatcher and A.C.E enchanted fans before standouts like girl group DIA, male duo MXM and standout Produce 101 contestant Kim Dong Han scored some of the biggest support of the night (and saw the most fans leave after their sets). Former INFINITE member and K-pop veteran Hoya delivered a somewhat un-K-pop performance by going over his allotted time limit and chatting with the fans there to see him, hilariously sharing what he ate for the day and that the teleprompters were continuously telling him to wrap it up before a performance from Vietnam's Da Lab.
With the world's eyes on Asia and the K-pop scene more than ever now, an event like MU:CON further proves how the continent and its markets are becoming increasingly more sought out as its companies look for greater and bigger opportunities.