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K-Pop Online: Korean Stars Go Global with Social Media

2NE1 pose on the red carpet at the MTV World Stage VMAJ 2010 in Tokyo (photo courtesy of Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)(WORLD SECTION) As a child, Dong Young-bae used to hide from his parents to dance to cassettes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. He says he was too shy to tell anyone he wanted to become a famous singer and dancer. Not anymore. Today the 22-year-old South Korean singer and dancer known as Taeyang is in the spotlight as an international pop star. Thanks in no small part to a long-standing trend in Asia that renders all things Korean cool, Taeyang is going global, riding the so-called Korean wave all the way out West.

Taeyang, who is better known in South Korea as the voice of the Korean boy band Big Bang, released his first solo album, Solar, online last month. It hit No. 2 on iTunes' R&B sales charts in the U.S. and No. 1 in Canada — a first for an Asian artist. "In the beginning, it was hard to believe I had fans buying my album so far away," says Taeyang, whose name means "sun" in Korean. He says he didn't do any promotion in North America for the album, which was recorded in Korean and targeted fans in South Korea and Japan. "The world is smaller now." (See TIME's special report "The Best of Asia 2010.")

For many artists in Korea's booming music industry, social media like YouTube and Twitter have become crucial tools to reach audiences in formerly hard-to-access markets like the U.S. and Europe. Korean artists are bypassing traditional outlets like radio and television, "aggressively steering their efforts to go international via the Internet," says Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a Seoul-based agency specializing in the international marketing of Korean pop acts. "Social-media-savvy K-pop stars are now tweeting, YouTubing and Facebooking their way up music charts across and beyond Asia." (Watch TIME's video "TIME 100 Poll: Moot vs. Rain.")

It's working: allkpop.com, an English-language, U.S.-based Korean pop blog that caters to international fans, generates more Web traffic than any Korean music portals in South Korea. "Korean artists are now out there," says Johnny Noh, who runs the site. "People like [Korean artists] and want to know more about them." The blog's monthly readers more than doubled in the past year, from 1 million in 2009 to 2.2 million today. (See 10 things to do in Seoul.)

DFSB Kollective was the first company to begin direct distribution of Korean music acts on iTunes, in 2009. It began with more than 50 Korean artists in the alternative, hip-hop and electronica genres; now there are hundreds of Korean artists available in the online music store. Within a few hours of the Aug. 25 iTunes release of Solar International, an extended version of Taeyang's album that includes English versions of his singles, the album reached No. 3 in Japan, No. 5 in Canada, No. 11 in the U.S. and No. 15 in Australia on the R&B/Soul album chart. It will hit on-the-ground music stores in the U.S. and Canada later, while no release date has been set for Asian markets. It's the first time a South Korean album has been promoted offshore and online exclusively through social-media groups, according to YG Entertainment, Taeyang's Korean R&B and hip-hop label. (Comment on this story.)

People in the Korean music industry are watching and learning. YG Entertainment plans to release the first album of girl group 2NE1 offshore and online. The group became famous after releasing the single "Lollipop," with Big Bang, which was featured in an LG cell-phone ad campaign last year. Since then, 2NE1's international exposure — particularly in the U.S. — has been growing. Black Eyed Peas producer will.i.am saw one of their videos and immediately wanted to work with them, says Choi Sung-jun, chief operations officer at YG Entertainment. They have been collaborating for the past couple of months in Los Angeles and London. (See TIME's 2006 profile on Korean pop star Rain.)

K-pop's online buzz has become a way for artists to make a name for themselves at home. Kim Yeo-hee, 22, became a YouTube star in March when she posted three videos under the name Apple Girl. In her first video, Kim played music with the applications of four Apple iPhones and sang Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable." Two days later, her name became the most searched word in all major Korean search engines. In May, Kim released her debut digital mini-album. She is now preparing a single for release in September. Kim, who went from making music on iPhones to selling her own music on iTunes in less than six months, says, "I wanted to become the Korean version of Justin Bieber. But I never imagined so many people could be interested in what I do.

Of course, once your face becomes known overseas, you still have to control your image. On a recent day this month, Taeyang was working nonstop at the YG studio in Seoul to get ready for his upcoming concert that might be streamed live on YouTube. The young celebrity massaged his shoulder, yawned and, with bags under his eyes, looked through the photos that will appear on his new album. He frowned at an image of himself in which his well-groomed goatee had been Photoshopped out. "Call the printer and tell them to change the picture," he told the designer. He gestured to the photo of his digitally clean-shaven face. "I want to look a bit tough," he said. "In the U.S., like this, they'll think I'm too nice."

Featured Artists : Taeyang, Kim Yeo-Hee
Featured Commentator : DFSB Kollective (Bernie Cho)



(SEOUL KR) : In Britain – the native country of this correspondent – it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’. For better or worse, this is no truer anywhere than in the realm of popular music. Raucous (yet melodic) bands such as Arctic Monkeys vie for the number one chart position with the likes of Girls Aloud, a reality TV-created pop group who despite their manufactured origin, occasionally flirt with ‘underground’ sensibilities as a means of staying fresh.

내 고향 영국에서는 때때로 ‘메인스트림’과 ‘얼터너티브’를 구분하기가 어렵다. 좋든 싫든 이런 현상은 대중음악 분야에서 가장 두드러진다. 귀에 거슬리지만 멜로딕한 음악을 하는 악틱 몽키즈 같은 밴드들이 걸스 얼라우드 같은 그룹과 음악 차트 1위 자리를 놓고 경합을 벌인다. 걸스 얼라우드는 리얼리티 프로그램에서 탄생한 팝 그룹으로 ‘조립품’이라는 태생적 한계에도 불구하고 가끔씩 ‘언더그라운드’의 감수성을 보여주며 참신함을 유지한다. 이런 현상은 역사상 가장 명성을 떨치며 상업적으로 성공한 그룹 비틀스의 등장 이후 지속돼 왔다.

It has been thus ever since The Beatles, the most respected and commercially successful group ever, replaced their mop-tops and suits with hippie beards and kaftans, under the influence of Transcendental Meditation, Bob Dylan and prodigious quantities of LSD.

더 정확히 말해 그들이 초월명상, 밥 딜런, 그리고 상당한 분량의 LSD(환각제)의 영향을 받아 더벅머리 헤어스타일과 정장을 버리고 히피 턱수염과 카프탄(터키풍의 소매와 기장이 긴 옷)을 받아들인 뒤부터다.

Korea though, has a more distinct delineation. The charts are generally dominated by ballad singers or bouncy pop acts (except when Seotaiji makes a comeback), whilst the more serious or ‘arty’ types are usually perceived as belonging to Hongdae alone. For those in the latter group, this can present a great challenge: how can one make good independent music, and survive financially?

하지만 한국 음악계의 실상은 더 독특하다. 음악차트는 대체로 발라드 가수나 댄스 가수가 독차지한다(서태지가 컴백할 때는 제외). 반면 더 진지하거나 ‘음악성이 강한’ 부류는 흔히 홍대 지역을 무대로 활동한다고 인식된다. 후자 그룹에는 이런 현실이 큰 어려움을 던져줄지도 모른다. 좋은 인디 음악을 만들면서 어떻게 생계를 꾸려나갈까?

In this era of illegal – or extremely cheap – downloading, the state of independent music is even more precarious. Cho Hu-Il, whose band Black Skirts won the Korean Music Award for Best Modern Rock Album in 2009, states that ‘people just don’t buy CDs anymore’, and that ‘as an indie band, if your target audience is about 3,000 (which is the entire indie scene in Korea), you’re obviously not going to make a good living off it’. As a general rule, even established artists with record contracts must have ‘day jobs’ to get by.

요 즘 같은 저가의 불법 다운로드 시대에 인디 음악의 실상은 훨씬 더 불안정하다. 조휴일이 이끄는 밴드 검정치마는 2010년 한국대중음악상 최우수 모던록 음반상을 수상했다. 그는 “사람들이 더는 CD를 구입하지 않는다”고 말한다. “인디 밴드로 활동하는데 표적 고객이 3000명 안팎이라면 분명 그걸로 먹고 살기는 힘들다.”

Several have started businesses completely unrelated to their musical activities – like bars and cafes, such as that owned by the band My Sister's Barbershop in Ssamzie-gil along Insa-dong. Better though, according to Cho Hu-Il is ‘some punk rockers (I heard of) running a fried chicken place in Hongdae. They’re smart - not everybody drinks coffee, but we all love fried chicken.’

음반계약을 한 기성 가수들도 대체로 다른 돈벌이가 있어야 생활이 가능하다. 술집이나 카페 등 음악활동과 전혀 무관한 사업을 시작한 사람도 많다. 예컨대 밴드 언니네 이발관이 인사동 쌈지길에 낸 카페가 대표적이다(지금은 문을 닫았다). 하지만 조휴일은 “몇몇 펑크 록가수처럼 홍대에서 치킨집을 운영하는 편이 더 좋다”고 말한다. “누구나 커피를 마시지는 않지만 후라이드 치킨은 우리 모두가 좋아하는 음식이다.”

Others are able to make a living in areas closer to their calling. Sung Kiwan, guitarist of 3rd Line Butterfly, teaches recording techniques in an art school, as he – like other indie musicians – ‘became a master of low-budget recording’. He also served as a radio DJ for several years, as well as being a recognised poet.

다 른 사람들은 직업과 관련된 분야에서 생계를 꾸려가기도 한다. 3호선 버터플라이의 기타리스트 성기완은 계원예대에서 사운드디자인 전공책임교수로 재직하고 있다. 여느 인디 뮤지션과 마찬가지로 “저예산 녹음의 대가가 됐기 때문”이다. 그는 여러 해 동안 라디오 DJ로 활동했을 뿐 아니라 알아주는 시인이기도 하다.

‘Soundtracks are also one of the most effective ways to maintain an indie career’, he notes, and indeed his band has gone down this route too, having provided music for a TV series.

“사운드트랙은 또한 인디 활동을 계속하는 가장 효과적인 방법 중의 하나”라고 그는 설명한다. 실제로 그의 밴드도 TV 시리즈에 음악을 제공하며 같은 길을 걸었다.

해외에서 더 인기 More Popular Overseas

Interestingly, online fan groups for 3rd Line Butterfly such as the one on Facebook show that quite a high proportion of the band’s fans are from overseas. Their sound – occasionally abrasive, yet always filled with a balance of imagination and emotional integrity - is one which can naturally appeal to devotees of successful Western bands such as Radiohead or Sonic Youth.

흥미로운 사실은 3호선 버터플라이의 온라인 팬그룹(예를 들어 페이스북 팬그룹)을 살펴보면 외국 팬의 비율이 상당히 높다는 점이다. 그들의 사운드는 종종 귀에 거슬리면서도 언제나 균형 잡힌 상상력과 감성으로 충만해 라디오헤드나 소닉 유스 같은 서구 인기 밴드의 팬들에게도 자연스럽게 어필한다.

Traditionally though, there has been no real route by which Korean musicians can sell their work abroad. Record companies have done little to promote them, and with the advent of downloading, pirates have stepped in to fill the vacuum. If one looks at the web traffic data for illegal download sites such as ihoneyjoo.com or jenpoo.com, the fact that stands out is that they have receive even more hits than the large, official Korean download sites such as Melon and Soribada.

하지만 전통적으로 한국 가수의 노래를 해외에 판매할 만한 실질적인 통로가 없었다. 음반사들은 그들의 음악을 해외에는 거의 홍보하지 않았으며 파일 내려받기 시대가 도래하면서 불법복제가 그 공백을 메웠다. ihoneyjoo.com이나 jenpoo.com 같은 불법 다운로드 사이트의 웹 트래픽 기록을 살펴보면 그들이 멜론이나 소리바다 같은 한국의 공식 대형 내려받기 사이트보다 방문자 수가 더 많다는 사실이 드러난다.

Bernie Cho though, former producer and presenter of MTV, is offering a potential solution. His company, DFSB Kollective, has signed up over 250 Korean artists – in all genres, including Epik High, Crying Nut, and 3rd Line Butterfly – and supplied their entire back catalogues to iTunes and other legal download shops, at royalty rates they would not have dreamed of in the past.

하지만 음악케이블 MTV의 프로듀서 겸 진행자로 활동했던 버니 조(한국명 조수광)가 잠재적인 해결책을 마련했다. 그의 회사 DFSB 콜렉티브는 에픽 하이, 크라닝 넛, 3호선 버터플라이 등 온갖 장르의 한국인 가수 250여명과 계약을 맺고 지금까지 그들이 낸 전체 음반 카탈로그를 아이튠스(애플의 온라인 음악파일 스토어) 등의 합법 내려받기 매장에 공급하면서 과거에는 꿈도 꾸기 어려웠던 높은 로열티를 받아낸다.

This enables them to sell their music legally to a worldwide audience, at a rate that ‘guarantees them many times more’ in royalty payments, according to Cho, than what they receive from the large Korean download sites. Digital music files are tagged in both English and Korean, so that the many fans of Korean music who do not understand the language are still able to find the songs they want.

덕분에 한국의 가수들은 자신들의 음악을 전세계의 팬들에게 합법적으로 판매하게 됐다. 조씨에 따르면 로열티는 한국의 대형 다운로드 사이트에서 받는 액수의 “몇 배가 보장된다.” 디지털 음악 파일은 영어와 한국어로 표시되어 한국어를 모르는 외국의 많은 한국음악 팬도 원하는 곡을 찾기 쉽도록 했다.

DFSB aims to be more than a simple provider of downloads though. The philosophy is that ‘the band has to become a brand’, and thus they operate an ‘integrated social media toolbox’ for promotion via Facebook, Twitter, and so on, and book concerts for acts overseas, such as Galaxy Express, who recently played a showcase in Hong Kong.

하지만 DFSB의 목표는 단순한 내려받기 제공자에 머물지 않는다. 그들은 “밴드가 하나의 브랜드가 돼야 한다”는 철학으로 페이스북, 트위터 등을 통한 홍보용의 ‘통합 인적 교류 매체 툴박스’를 운영하며 갤럭시 익스프레스 같은 밴드의 해외 콘서트도 주선한다. 갤럭시 익스프레스는 최근 홍콩에서 공연했다.

It is surprising that the music industry has not awoken to the potential of overseas markets before. Given the relative success of Korean drama and cinema abroad, there is no reason to suppose Korean music could not achieve something similar. But as Will Ennett, a media executive and video-on-demand expert from Ireland, notes, ‘when I am at the main TV conference in Cannes, the Korean guys always have big stands and posters. But I never heard anything about Korean music, anywhere’.

한국 음반업계가 왜 진작에 해외시장의 잠재력에 눈을 뜨지 않았는지 궁금해진다. 해외에서 한류 드라마와 영화가 상대적으로 성공한 점을 감안할 때 한국음악이 그와 비슷한 성공을 거두지 못하리라고 단정할 만한 이유는 없다. 그러나 미디어 업계 중역이자 주문형 비디오 전문가인 아일랜드 출신의 윌 에넷의 말로는 “칸느의 주요 TV 컨퍼런스에 가보면 한국인들은 항상 대형 스탠드와 포스터를 준비하지만 어디서도 한국음악 이야기는 들은 적이 없다.”

법적 조치 Legal Actions

The next step in the strategy of DFSB is the upcoming legal action against Jenpoo.com and around 40 other overseas websites that have encouraged the piracy of Korean music. Overseas fans, who previously had no legal way to buy Korean music, will not be targeted; however, in this ‘Operation Top 40’, owners of sites will be ordered to shut down, and also face copyright infringement lawsuits.

DFSB 전략의 다음 단계는 한국음악의 불법복제를 조장한 Jenpoo.com 등 40여개 해외 웹사이트를 대상으로 한 법적조치다. 과거 한국음악을 구매할 합법적 통로가 없었던 외국 팬들은 그 대상에서 제외되지만 해당 사이트의 폐쇄명령을 받아냄과 동시에 저작권 침해 소송을 제기할 예정이다.

Back home, legal trouble is also brewing. As has been reported recently, the Fair Trade Commission is investigating the main six legal download sites in Korea for allegedly operating a cartel, and fixing the price of downloads. The problem for artists has been that rather than keeping prices high enough to pay them a reasonable royalty, the strategy has been to reduce prices (frequently in lockstep), in order to compete with pirates.

한국 내에서도 법적 공방이 뜨거워지기 시작했다. 최근 보도된 바대로 공정거래위원회(FTC)는 내려받기 가격의 담합 혐의로 한국의 6대 합법 내려받기 사이트를 조사 중이다. 가수들의 입장에선 합당한 로열티를 지불할 만큼 가격을 높게 유지하기는커녕 불법복제와 경쟁하려고 (거기에 보조를 맞춰) 가격을 내리는 전략이 문제였다.

The plummeting price of a legal download, which was around 500 won, but can also be obtained for as little as 120 won with special offers, is the result of this policy. But as Mr. Cho says, ‘you can’t compete with free’. If the alternative to paying 120 won legally is paying zero illegally, then too many people will still choose the illegal route. A better alternative would be to compete on service – with better quality downloads, or specially-created content, for instance, for a higher-quality user experience.

합법 내려받기 가격은 곡당 500원 선이었지만 특별 할인을 받으면 120원에도 구입이 가능하다. 내려받기 사이트의 가격인하 전략의 결과다. 그러나 조씨의 말마따나 “공짜와는 경쟁이 안 된다.” 합법적으로는 120원인데 불법 파일은 공짜라면 상당히 많은 사람이 불법 파일을 선택하게 마련이다. 더 나은 대안은 서비스로 경쟁하는 방법이다. 예컨대 더 질 높은 내려받기 또는 특수 제작된 콘텐트로 이용자 체험의 질을 높이는 전략이다.

If the FTC ends up breaking this system, it may give upstarts like DFSB the opportunity to gain a foothold in the market. Their model is not, of course, the answer to all the prayers of Korean musicians, but, as Sung Kiwan says, such internet-based methods that cut out traditional labels have ‘big potential’ and allow musicians ‘to approach the public directly’, instead of having to go through traditional channels which are ‘dominated by TV and related commercial companies, which are generally so conservative in introducing alternative culture to the public’.

FTC 가 이런 구도를 타파한다면 DFSB 같은 신생업체가 시장에서 입지를 구축할 기회를 얻을지 모른다. 물론 그런 모델이 한국 가수들의 모든 고민을 해결해주지는 않는다. 그러나 성기완의 말마따나 전통 음반사를 배제하는 그런 인터넷 기반 방식은 “커다란 잠재력이 있으며 가수들이 대중에게 직접 접근하도록 한다.” 따라서 TV 관련 영리기업이 좌지우지하는 전통 채널을 거칠 필요가 없게 된다. 그런 영리기업은 일반적으로 대안 문화를 대중에게 소개하기를 몹시 꺼리는 편이다.

만병통치약은 아니다 Not A Cure All Solution

Nobody is claiming that the internet will enable legions of independent musicians to suddenly become financially successful. With a general lack of media exposure, it is difficult even for artists to make people aware of their existence. Choi So-Hui, a Brazilian-influenced solo singer who plays on the Hongdae scene, worries about ‘preconceived notions... that indie music is noisy, or just for young people’ that stop people from giving them a chance.

인 터넷 덕분에 수많은 인디 가수가 갑자기 큰돈을 벌게 되리라고 보는 사람은 아무도 없다. 전반적으로 언론 노출 기회가 거의 없는 탓에 가수의 존재를 사람들에게 알리기조차 어렵다. 홍대 지역에서 브라질 풍 음악을 하는 솔로 가수 최소희는 “인디 음악은 시끄럽다거나 단순히 젊은이들의 음악이라는 선입관 탓에 기회조차 얻지 못하게 되지 않을까” 우려한다.

Today, only a handful of independent bands have the level of exposure necessary to build a financially viable career for themselves. The rest must struggle; as Kang Jung-Im (a solo performer, recording under the name ‘Hulen’) says, ‘the only one I know for sure is Crying Nut. As for me, I need a job!’ The main hope is that likes of DFSB may be able to improve things at the margins, perhaps allowing a few more groups to join this elite club, or at least to receive a reasonable royalty for their work.

오늘날 경제적으로 독자 생존이 가능한 경력을 구축할 만큼 대중 노출이 많은 독립 밴드는 극소수다. 나머지는 살아남으려고 발버둥치는 처지다. ‘흐른’이라는 예명으로 녹음작업을 하는 솔로 가수 강정임의 말마따나 “내가 알기론 그런 가수는 크라잉 넛뿐이다. 나도 일자리가 필요하다.”

가장 큰 희망이라면 DFSB 같은 기업이 그 엘리트 클럽에 좀 더 많은 그룹을 받아들이거나 또는 적어도 그들의 음악이 합당한 로열티를 받도록 해서 다소나마 숨통을 틔워줬으면 하는 바람이다.

For Kang Jung-Im and others like her though, music is a labour of love. Now working on her second album on the Tunetable Movement label, she still recalls her final year of high school, when ‘music was the only hope that could make me endure all the pressure from the super-competitive madness of the university entrance exam’. After coming through it and entering Yonsei University, she fell into the local indie scene and has been a part of it ever since.

하지만 강씨 같은 가수들에게 음악은 천직이다. 현재 인디 레이블 튠테이블 무브먼트에서 둘째 앨범을 제작 중인 그녀는 아직도 고등학교 졸업반 시절을 잊지 못한다. “음악은 대학입시의 지옥 같은 경쟁에서 오는 온갖 압력을 견뎌내도록 해주는 유일한 희망이었다.” 그런 과정을 이겨내고 연세대에 입학한 뒤 인디 음악계에 빠져들어 지금껏 그 일원으로 활동해 왔다.

Musicians like these see value in what they do beyond financial considerations. As Sung Kiwan says, ‘we don’t have to count things by numbers. Only indie music shows a sincere attitude in the popular music scene. So we keep on going not for the money, but for the truth’. It would, though, be very helpful for them if the likes of DFSB can successfully take advantage of the current chaos in the Korean music industry and offer them a better deal.

그녀같은 가수들은 경제적 고려를 뛰어넘어 자신의 일에 최고의 가치를 둔다. 성기완의 말을 들어보자. “우리는 셈을 할 필요가 없다. 대중음악계에서 오직 인디 음악만이 진지한 태도를 보여준다. 그래서 우리는 돈이 아니라 진실을 향해 계속 나아간다.” 하지만 DFSB 같은 기업이 한국음악업계에서 일어나는 현재의 혼란을 적절히 이용해 그들에게 더 나은 조건을 부여하면 큰 도움이 될 듯하다. (끝)

DANIEL TUDOR 뉴스위크 한국판 순회 특파원 / 번역·차진우 기자


2010 Music Matters Hong Kong | Exporting Asia "When Not If?" 

(HONG KONG) : Music Matters 2010 will take place over a jam-packed three day programme including face2face sessions, high-powered discussions, keynote presentations and in-depth analysis along with our fantastic and, often late night, networking events including Asian music showcases, parties, lunches and sector-themed breakfasts.

In 2010 Music Matters culminates in the inaugural "Music Matters Live" - Hong Kong's newest music festival - featuring some of the very best independent bands from around the world.

Music Matters 2009 surpassed all expectations and, going by our testimonials, clearly delivered a tremendous story for Asia's music industry. But we're not without our challenges and Music Matters 2010 will set out to unearth new business opportunities presented as the world's economies continue to move into positive territory and we invite our attendees to, once again, Plug into Asia.


Including sessions with some of Asia's and the world's most innovative and successful companies and individuals, the Music Matters programme examines the full music entertainment ecosystem in Asia. With focused panels and hard-hitting keynotes, Music Matters addresses the most important issues, challenges and opportunities that face the industry today, and promises to deliver the controversy and dynamism we do every year.


Most predict that economies of the East will continue to boom and dominate in the years to come.  As China and other Asian markets continue to increase their global influence, we will discuss the reality of Asian artists following the same path to success in Western markets.  It's not IF Asian artists will ever become popular in the West, it's WHEN. 
Steve McClure : Executive Editor, McClure's Asia Music News  
Terry McBride : CEO, Nettwerk Music Group
Atul Churamani : Vice President, Seregama India Limited
Bernie Cho : President, DFSB Kollective
Gary Mackenzie : Co-Founder & Business Development and Strategy Director, Valleyarm  
Daniel DiCicco : President, Sony Music Entertainment Asia
Gao Xiaosong : Songwriter & Producer
Seymour Stein : CEO & Co-Founder, Sire Records / VP, Warner Bros Records

Korea Representative/Featured Conference Panelist : DFSB Kollective (Bernie Cho)


MTV Iggy : The 25 Best New Bands In The World 

(NEW YORK CITY USA) : For every amazing new band there's at least a drillion terrible ones. So to save you time, here is our totally subjective list of the 25 Best New Bands In The World. From Chinese no wave to New Zealand dance-punk to home-growned Brooklyn indie rock we've got it all. Take a look at what we came up with -- and see who, you, the viewers voted for as the Best of the Best. The band who got the most votes will get an MTV Iggy weekend homepage takeover and a studio taping next time they roll through New York City!


It's the 21st century. Regular old bands that just play music are so old-fashioned. We prefer our bands to follow the model of Mad Soul Child: One part dance-floor ready electro, one part sexy diva singer, and one part visual feast. Because yes, the trio that makes up Korea's most revolutionary pop-electro is made up of a DJ, a Diva, and a Music Video Director -- who at each show plays visuals to correspond to the tunes. Both impossible not to dance to and impossible not to watch; Mad Soul Child is the perfect mind-boggling smorgasbord of awesome in our over-stimulated culture.

Mad Soul Child was formed in 2001 by savvy electro genius DJ Chanwoo as way to get out from behind the tables and into the lime-light. Recruiting statuesque vocalist Jansil was step one. Convincing his old friend VJ Kwon to direct the visuals was step two. They've since collaborated with K-Pop royalty such as Lee Hyori and Jo Sungmo and gained a reputation as the go-to soundtrack for tons of TV ads. But that was all groundwork for their 2009 debut, La La La, a catchy, hook-filled album of jewel-toned electro, topped with Jansil's sly, sultry vocals.

On their big hit, "V.I.P. Girl" Jansil acts like the Korean Madonna, singing her own version of "Like a Virgin." "Kiss and touch," she sings breathily. "We gotta go on that runway." Yes, they do. Appearing at America's CMJ Music Festival last year they kicked off an international reputation that is still growing. We think they're set to get bigger than ever in 2010.

EXCLUSIVE MAD SOUL CHILD INTERVIEW : "The visuals are essential."

MTV IggyExclusive Mad Soul Child interview: "The visuals are essential."
Mad Soul Child

Mad Soul Child, AKA DJ Chanwoo, Jinsil and VJ Kwon sit down tell us about how they formed and what to expect from their live show.


MTV IggyMad Soul Child - "VIP Girl"
Mad Soul Child

Hailing straight from Korea, Mad Soul Child consists of DJ Chanwoo, VJ Kwon, and Jinsil on vocals. Formed in 2001, and active in the Korean music scene ever since, Mad Soul Child spin together electronic beats and Jinsil's alluring voice that flows freely from Korean to English and back. Their catchy tunes never seem to want to leave your head. "VIP Girl" is a single from the band's debut album “La La La" released in 2009.

Featured Artist : Mad Soul Child
Artist Management : Mad Soul Child

International Digital Music Distribution : DFSB Kollective


10 Magazine (03/2010) : Life in Korea - 10 Questions

Bernie Cho: President of DFSB Kollective

By David Carruth

1. As a Korean-American who grew up in the States, what was it like making the transition to Korea? When I grew up in the US, I always lived in sleepy countryside towns. Moving to Seoul was like stepping onto the set of Blade Runner—way too many bright lights in this big city. The noise, the crowds, and the speed of Seoul were a bit overwhelming at first. But daily reminders such as taking off my shoes at the front door, having kimchi served with almost every meal, and getting yelled at in Korean all the time made me feel at home.

2. How did you get involved with the music industry? I originally came here in 1993 to attend graduate school. When I crashed a movie launch party one night, I happened to meet an executive who asked me to apply for a job at his new music TV channel. On a whim, I went in for an interview and somehow ended up getting hired. So a week before classes started, I dropped out and never looked back. Over the next dozen years, I worked both in front of and behind the cameras as a presenter and producer for Korean music TV channels such as MNET, MTV, and Channel [V]. Thanks to such opportunities, I’ve had amazing front row views and backstage stage access to the rapid rise of the K-Pop music scene.

3. So how has K-Pop developed over the past fifteen years?
The first K-Pop music clips I saw on TV felt like cheesy, kitschy karaoke—I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But then, surprisingly, the quality of K-Pop music improved dramatically. Imitation gave way to innovation. Thanks to the emergence of slick beats, sexy stars, and sophisticated videos, K-Pop became hip, hot, and happening. Within a decade, K-Pop dominated almost 70% of the Korean music market. By the time the 2002 World Cup kicked in, K-Pop artists were topping music charts all over Asia. Fast forward to 2010 and K-Pop is now starting to climb the charts in North America and Europe.

4. What does “DFSB Kollective” stand for? “DFSB” is a semi-meaningless, pseudo-heavy acronym of our favorite Fatboy Slim song chorus, “Da Funk Soul Bruthas.” Being that we were a bunch of guys from Seoul, it kinda sorta made sense. Over drinks, it sometimes gets misinterpreted as “Delta Force Seoul Base.” Over a lot of drinks, some people try to confuse it with the popular boy band Dong Bang Shin Ki (DBSK).

5. What led you to start this agency?
Over the years, my business partner Dalse and I developed not only professional but also personal relationships with many Korean artists and their management. What we kept hearing was a growing sense of frustration. Although no one would argue the quality of Korean music was getting better, the financial incentives to make great music seemed to be getting worse. They had to spend more time and money in marketing, only to make less profit, and split it with more people and places. Korean music TV channels were playing less videos in favor of reality TV shows and local online music stores were pricedumping digital tracks practically to free. This kind of business logic seemed dyslexic to us. As fans of music, we felt compelled to create a more sensible, sustainable, artist-friendly business model. Hence, we opened our creative agency.

6. So what exactly does DFSB Kollective do?
For Korean artists and management companies who want to go direct to their fans and go direct worldwide, we are a convenient, one-stop shop. We essentially provide label-like services without being a label. As the first official K-Pop aggregator for iTunes worldwide, we offer them the most direct distribution avenues into the most international digital music stores. We strike revenue-sharing deals with the world’s leading audio and video streaming sites on behalf of the 150 K-Pop acts that we represent, and we offer our clients overseas PR, concert productions, and a wide range of digital media solutions. And given that we not only offer 15% more but 15 times more in profit for every digital music sale overseas (compared to what they make in Korea), we provide non-rocket science reasons for them to work with us.

7. Just how important is the internet to artists these days?
In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, anybody anywhere at any time can become the next big thing. If the Korean Wave is to shift from fad to phenomenon among those surfing the net, we need to empower K-Pop artists with the right combination of digital tools to enable music fans all over the world to discover them in a simpler, better, faster manner.

8. How would you describe the Korean digital market? DMZ: Digital Media Zeitgeist. In 2006, Korea became the first country in the world where digital music sales surpassed physical music sales. By 2007, Korea emerged as the #4 digital music market in the world. But below these staggering sales numbers are some hidden landmines. Although Korea is admired as one of the most wired (and wireless) societies in the world, the Korean internet has spawned a virtual walled garden that hinders non-Koreans from finding out more about K-Pop. Local portal sites’ reliance on ActiveX plug-ins makes it tough to preview and purchase K-Pop music from overseas and their reluctance to let foreigners register makes it rough for them to access K-Pop fan clubs. As much as K-Pop has surged in popularity in Asia and beyond, I wonder how much bigger K-Pop would be if Korean websites were more open and in tune with global standards and practices.
9. What is your personal opinion on Hallyu, the so-called Korean Wave? I’m very optimistic. But try asking 10 non-Asians to pronounce ‘Hallyu’ and see how many can pronounce it correctly and how many even know what it is. Until a bad hair perm takes on the name, I think it’s a lot safer and easier to sell K-Pop as part of the “Korean Wave.”

10. What advice would you give to a newcomer to Korea who wants to explore the indie music scene? If you’re on the ground and want to go underground, the only answer is Hongdae. It’s the mecca for Korea’s best and brightest new music talents. If you’re looking for some action in outdoor mosh pits, you can’t go wrong checking out amazing events like the Pentaport Rock Festival, Jisan Valley Festival, and Green Mint Festival. If you’re online, I recommend the quirky site Indieful ROK (indiefulrok.blogspot.com), run by a woman in Sweden (no joke) and the US-based sites AllKPop (allkpop.com) and Soompi (soompi.com), both of which generate way higher web traffic than any and all Korean music sites in Korea (go figure).