Breaking an Artist in the Digital Age Pt. 6: K-Pop (A Case Study)

Over the years I have become a big fan of Korean Pop Music (K-Pop). The business of K-Pop is as lucrative as the music is catchy, and makes for an interesting case study for record labels and artists worldwide.

The Korean Wave (Hallyu) refers to the increase in the popularity of South Korean culture since the late 1990s. In terms of K-Pop, Hallyu equates to a high profit margin.

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What makes K-Pop so profitable? K-Pop stars have become all encompassing entertainers: singers, dancers, actors, presenters; which takes years of training and artist development.

Sean Saw, S.M. Entertainment’s strategy and planning rep, notes that “each of S.M.’s 20 to 30 trainees costs $100,000 a year, for anywhere between three and seven years. As is the case with the majority of these systems, once artists have been selected to ‘debut’ as part of a boy group or girl group, they’re offered a contract, or, as Saw phrases it, ‘partnership,’ that can last as long as 15 years.”

Read more: Seoul Trained: Inside Korea’s Pop Factory

What’s the pay off? For S.M. Entertainment, the pay off is massive. S.M. Entreatment’s revenue increased by 82% jump in 2012, taking in $225 million, making it the biggest label in K-Pop.

Landing a spot in a K-Pop group, however, is not easy. Over 300,000 applicants from over nine countries apply for spots in music groups each year. For the few who make the cut, and survive the years of training, their hard work and efforts can lead to a prosperous career.

Read more: Korea’s S.M. Entertainment: The Company That Created K-Pop

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