Monday, January 26, 2009

Real Pop Wars: Episodes 1 and 2 -- The Fans Strike Back

Two interesting music stories in the news that seem very different, but that both revolve around the issue of audience power fighting with the powers-that-be.

The first and more fun one is about the latest battle between rival fans clubs, as fans of Big Bang and the Wondergirls teamed up to screw over fans of Dong Bang Shin Gi (aka DBSG, aka Tohoshinki, aka Tong Vfang Xien Qi, aka TVXQ). It seems that fans of Big Bang and the Wondergirls got together and reserved nearly all the 1,700 tickets to a DBSG concert. Then, at the last minute, they released those tickets, so they went unsold, the seat unoccupied. Impressively bitchy maneuver.

The more serious story I came across was a talk by Ian Rogers (CEO of Topspin and former head of Yahoo music) about how the CD business is dying and that "I don't care." The key point of his argument is that CD sales are down, but that is hurting the record labels much more than it is hurting the artists. In fact, for many artists, the new business model that is emerging is better, with a much broader middle class of artists who can support themselves through Web sales, touring, merchandising, etc.

I suppose his thesis is not groundbreaking these days, but it was a happy thing to think about, as applies to the Korean music industry. Korean music moguls have for the most part recognized this change for some time. After all, the Internet destroyed Korea's CD sales quicker and more seriously than anywhere else on the globe (that I know of). Which is why almost all musicians in Korea have been signed to 360 deals for ages -- the money is in the celebrity, not the music itself.

One thing Rogers recommends, though, is instead of signing 360-deals with record labels, artists should create their own 360 deals with themselves. Labels can help artists, but they are no longer the be all and end all.

I wonder if (and hope that) we are going to see these effects in the Korean music industry? Korean young people have had so little choice for so long, most are sadly unaware of what music can and should be. Not that teen-pop and ballads are terrible, but there are a lot more options in the world.

When are Korean independent bands going to grow more assertive about challenging the status quo? When are Korean music fans going to assert themselves more, and take advantage of the limitless options the Internet age provides? I would like to think that one reason the live music scene has been improving so much over the past couple of years has been because of these very issues.


Anonymous said...

if it is all about the money, why aren't more kpop artists putting thier stuff up where people outside of Korea can get it? I would love to download DBSK, SHINee, and a host of others, and pay for thier bubblegum pop sounds, but don't seem to have any easy options for doing so.

And what about Kpop artists trying to break into the U.S. like Se7en or Bi Rain. If conquering outside of Korea is the only way to make it, why isn't there more marketing the product for sale to the audience willing to pay?

I know you may not have an answer but I'd sure like to hear what you might have to say.

Mark Russell said...

Hi Anonymous. Thanks for writing in, but I do not get your point. Nowhere in my post did I say "it is all about the money."

Anyhow, there are several companies that are working on bringing K-pop to the big, international digital music services like iTunes. Expect to see a lot more of that (very) soon.

But isn't Se7en already on iTunes? Along with Boa and Wonder Girls...