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Notebook on Cities and Culture’s Korea Tour : Sonic Bibimbap with Bernie Cho

In Seoul’s Garosu-gil, Colin Marshall talks with Korean music industry expert Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a creative agency that provides digital media, marketing, and distribution services to Korean pop music artists. They discuss why the world now knows what K-pop is; how Korean youth culture, pop culture, and digital culture have become one in the same; Psy as outlier and representative of K-pop, “the bad boy who became the golden boy,” who put a dent in the industry’s pursuit of perfection; how “made in Korea” can work, internationally, as a label; whether the concept of “crazy Korea,” like “weird Japan,” has any traction; the big technological differences between the time of the 1990s J-pop boom and the modern K-pop boom; the musician’s perceived need to break out of Korea for success; how, growing up in the United States, he became aware of Korean popular culture; his disenchantment with the “boo-hoo session” of Asian American studies; the accidental meeting that got him into music television; what he discovered in Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood; the Korean government’s investment in internet technology, and the digital and cultural revolution that followed; why Korean pop artists have, in the recent past, made so little money; the use of music not as a business, but as a business card; Korea’s other DMZ: the closed-garden “digital media zone” of Korea-only technology; how he first saw the seemingly wholly under-construction Seoul almost twenty years ago; how the vibe of the 2002 World Cup has carried over into the present; what Los Angeles and Seoul have to learn from each other; how his advantage in coming from America has gone away; how K-pop has become “sonic bibimbap,” uniquely Korean in its mixture of various ingredients; what Koreanness internationally-marketed Korean music retains; his “What am I even doing?” moment on a flight from Los Angeles to Seoul; why the origin of the word “piracy” reveals it as a good thing, and how it sparked the British Invasion; what he makes of the return of the 1960s and 70s “golden age” of Korean pop and R&B; and why he tells artists they shouldn’t do everything in English (and why he plays them Sigur Rós).

Download the interview on Soundcloud above, here as an MP3, or on iTunes.

This was written by Colin Marshall. Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2014, at 2:20 am. Filed under Korea, Notebook on Cities and Culture, Seoul. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

Notebook on Cities and Culture‘s Korea Tour is brought to you by Daniel Murphy, David Hayes, and The Polar Intertia Journal, an outlet for artists and researchers documenting the urban condition.



AU Review : Music Matters Conference Day 2 Wrap Up (Part Two) @ The Ritz Carlton Millenia : Singapore (22.05.14)


After lunch on day two and the HP live sessions that included a performance by Australia's Lyon Apprentice, Daniel Glass, the Founder and President of the influential Glassnote Entertainment Group was interviewed by Ralph Simon in the afternoon's first session.

Glass reflected on his origins as a young DJ, which got him interested in the international music that he's ended up working with through his life. Saddest day of my career was when Chrysalis Records was sold, "I didn't want to work for a major."

He was asked why being "indie" was so important to him, "I prefer to spend 80% of my day without human resource people. I want to spend it with music and creative people. We all wanted to be A&M and recreate Chrysalis Records," and this is what led to the formation of the Glassnote Entertainment Group, whose first office "was the mezzanine of Waldorf Astoria in New York where we were using their free wi-fi. We got thrown out because they thought we were running a prostitution ring. So we moved to Barneys."

He called Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, by influential French group, and early success story of the company, Phoenix, "one of the most perfect records ever produced" and the night they headlined Madison Square Garden "one of the greatest moments of my life!" He also commented on the "unsual" success the company had with Mumford & Sons, "they are one of the few bands who sell albums AND tickets... Canada is their biggest market in the world."

As for advice for other independent labels, Glass said, "NO is one of the most powerful words an independent label has. It can help keep bands and fans on your side. No to deals and no to bidding wars... when things get aggressive or sour. You don't want a marriage like that."

And there was one sentiment that Daniel Glass delivered which may have received the biggest applause of the entire conference: "Artists need to be paid fairly."

The anticipated interview with Apl.de.ap (pictured) from the Black Eyed Peas followed, conducted by TV & Radio Presenter (and MC for Music Matters) Dominic Lau.

The pair talked about the origins of the Black Eyed Peas, going all the way back to when the Philippines born hip-hop star moved to the USA in 1989 when he was adopted, meeting the man who would become Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas soon thereafter. The formed a dance crew, which eventually became a hip-hop group and the rest is history...

Following his recent stint on The Voice Philippines as a coach, Apl.de.ap has set up his label Boombox, which invests in Asian artists and endeavors to provide a western production, not so much to take it to the US but to give it movement. He's proud of his heritage and it was a pleasure to have Apl.de.ap at Music Matters to share with us his love of music and of the region.

Next up was Christophe Muller, director of global music partnerships for YouTube, whose message was a simple one: "it's not all about views, it's about engagement." He was followed by Haji Taniguchi, President of Avex Music Publishing, and the Chairman of MPAJ, who provided insights into the Japanese region, which experienced reduced record sales in 2013.

He pointed, however, to the continued strength of the market. US consumers only spend 42% of Japanese consumers per capita, with the UK one of the closest markets, at 85%. He looked at how increased broadcast and performance revenue has helped offset physical sales decreasing in the last year. And looking to those wanted to infiltrate the market, "I strongly suggest analyzing the J-pop market before you try and tackle it. You should talk to a publisher first."

To get a taste of the Japanese music scene, Naoto Inti Raymi (pictured) gave us an acoustic performance of a song which translates to "I wish you could come back once more." He also talked about how he's looking beyond Japan for his future career, "my dream is to do a world tour one day!"

We went in conversation with Charles Caldas, CEO of the global independent rights agency Merlin, next - with Bernie Cho, President of DFSB Kollective in the interview chair. He looked at the growth of streaming and the new digital economy, and how independent music now has the biggest market share when compared to the big three labels in the USA (Warner, Sony, Universal). Furthermore, "there's more value coming into the market as digital numbers double every year." So for all the challenges facing the current market, the future is looking bright.

The final interview for today was with Marc Geiger, Worldwide Head of WME Music (William Morris Entertainment). His talk delivered some incredible insights into the digital and live music industries, both in Asia and around the world.

He signaled some of the problems facing Asia on the global touring stage, pointing to a lack of strategic planning and available analytics. He also looked at the problem faced when artists, managers and touring companies are trying to set prices that match what they may achieve in other markets: "People can't be so tight on deals in this region until there's scale and room to move. Wait until they've built the buildings before you focus on the money, otherwise nothing will happen."

Then there are the geo-political issues, "We got a direct terrorist threat before Lady Gaga's sold out show of Indonesia which led it to be cancelled." And in China, he commented that she hasn't been allowed to perform there, "it's not that they're worried about Gaga might say, it's more her influence on alternative culture. Will everyone dye their hair purple? If there's any suppression of their art then it's not a healthy culture."

His comment on digital was also an interesting one, if not controversial. The culture of the illegal download, he said, has led to more people listening to music than ever before, "the industry's bad handling of digital has made music go everywhere." And while record sales might be down, the industry is healthier than ever thanks to more artists, doing more tours and more business than ever before. He called the current state of recorded music a "train wreck", but said that as it remains a $200 billion business, "people need to move on it" to get that money flowing again.

At the end of a fascinating day of insight into the music industry, Music Matters wrapped up with a cocktail party kindly sponsored by KOCCA. Korean rock act Asian Chairshot played an acoustic set.

Interviewer: Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)


The Hankyoreh : Lady Gaga Surprise Visit at SXSW K-Pop Night Out Showcase

케이팝 공연장에 느닷없이 나타난 ‘레이디 가가’ : 미 음악축제 SXSW서 ‘케이팝 나이트 아웃’ 공연

미국 텍사스 오스틴에서 열리고 있는 음악축제 사우스바이사우스웨스트(SXSW) 행사의 하나로 11일(현지시각) 밤 클럽 엘리시움에서 열린 ‘케이팝 나이트 아웃’ 공연에서 크라잉넛이 연주하고 있다.(위 큰 사진) 공연장엔 시작 전부터 사람들이 길게 줄을 섰고(아래 가운데 사진), 세계적 팝스타 레이디 가가(아래 오른쪽 사진)가 깜짝 방문해 사람들을 놀라게 했다. 오스틴/서정민 기자, 한국콘텐츠진흥원 제공
박재범 공연때 가가 들어와 클럽 안 순식간에 달아올라

크라잉넛과 이디오테잎 등장 노래 따라하며 열광의 도가니

입구에 공연 보러 오는 사람 북적 14개팀 참가 케이팝 위상 높여

미국 텍사스 오스틴에서 열리고 있는 음악축제 사우스바이사우스웨스트(SXSW) 행사의 하나로 11일(이하 현지시각) 밤 클럽 엘리시움에서 열린 ‘케이팝 나이트 아웃’ 공연. 클럽 안이 순간 술렁였다. 세계적인 팝스타 레이디 가가가 깜짝 방문한 것이다.

새벽 0시20분께 모자와 선글라스를 쓰고 나타난 가가는 경호원들에게 둘러싸인 채 마침 공연 중이던 박재범의 무대를 봤다. 가가는 깜짝 놀란 관객들에게 손을 흔들어 인사하고 사진 촬영에도 응하는 등 여유 있는 모습을 보였다. 스마트폰으로 공연장을 찍은 뒤 자신의 트위터에 올리기도 했다.

공연을 주최한 한국콘텐츠진흥원 관계자는 “가가가 원래 케이팝에 관심이 많은 것으로 안다. 공연장에 올 수도 있다는 얘기는 전해들었는데, 놀랍게도 정말로 오고 말았다”고 말했다. 가가의 깜짝 방문은 세계 음악시장에서 한껏 높아진 케이팝의 위상을 상징한다는 해석도 나온다.

가수 레이디 가가사우스바이사우스웨스트는 매년 2000여팀이 100여곳에서 공연하고 30만명의 관객이 몰리는 북미 최대 규모의 음악축제·쇼케이스다. 1987년 음악행사로 시작해 지금은 영화, 인터랙티브 미디어, 아이티(IT), 게임 등을 아우르는 국제박람회로 발전했다.

한국콘텐츠진흥원은 지난해부터 ‘케이팝 나이트 아웃’이라는 이름의 케이팝 쇼케이스 공연을 열어왔다. 올해 무대에는 포미닛의 현아, 박재범, 이디오테잎, 크라잉넛, 할로우잰, 넬, 잠비나이 등이 출연진에 이름을 올렸다. 독창적이고 개성 넘치는 음악을 선보이는 인디 밴드부터 대중적 인기를 얻고 있는 아이돌 가수까지 두루 포함됐다.

공연장 앞엔 이날 공연 시작 전부터 많은 사람들이 줄을 길게 늘어섰다. 친구와 기다리던 첼시 데버(21)는 “박재범을 보려고 왔다. 유튜브를 통해 그의 음악을 접하고 좋아하게 됐다. 다른 케이팝 공연도 기대된다”고 말했다. 대기자들의 줄은 자정 넘어서까지 좀처럼 줄어들 줄 몰랐다. 공연장에서 사람들이 나오면 그만큼 들여보내는 식이었다.

첫 순서로 나온 잠비나이부터 관객들을 사로잡았다. 거문고, 해금, 기타로 이뤄진 독특한 편성으로 거칠고 강렬한 록을 연주하자 여기저기서 감탄이 흘러나왔다. 정교한 사운드의 록을 들려준 넬과 원초적인 록을 연주한 할로우잰에 이어 크라잉넛이 등장하자 공연장이 더욱 뜨겁게 달아올랐다. ‘영원한 악동’들이 “에브리바디 스크림”(모두 소리 질러)이라고 외치자 미국 관객들마저 날뛰며 ‘떼창’을 했다.

공연을 보러 온 사람들일렉트로닉 밴드 이디오테잎은 관객들을 미친 듯이 춤추게 만들었다. 사우스바이사우스웨스트의 제임스 마이너 총감독이 섭외 1순위로 꼽은 밴드답게 신나고 열정적인 무대로 관객들의 뜨거운 반응을 이끌어냈다. 특히 미국 밴드 비스티 보이스의 히트곡 ‘사보타주’를 변주하는 대목에선 관객들의 커다란 함성과 ‘떼창’으로 이어졌다. 이어 나온 박재범과 현아는 가가마저 반하게 만든 케이팝 특유의 발랄하고 흥겨운 음악과 춤으로 관객들을 사로잡았다.

2011년부터 ‘서울소닉’이라는 북미 투어 프로젝트로 한국의 인디 밴드 3팀씩을 매년 사우스바이사우스웨스트에 참가시켜온 온라인 음원 유통회사 디에프에스비(DFSB)의 버니 조 대표는 “처음에는 계란으로 바위 치는 기분으로 미국 시장을 무작정 두드렸는데, 이제는 한국 밴드 음악을 들으러 일부러 찾아올 정도로 관심이 높아졌다”고 말했다. 실제로 지난해 서울소닉을 통해 이곳을 찾은 노브레인이 미국의 거물 음반 제작자 시모어 스타인의 눈에 띄어 현재 계약을 마치고 미국 진출을 준비중이다.

12일에는 2007년 국내 밴드로선 처음으로 사우스바이사우스웨스트에 진출했던 와이비(YB)와 할로우잰이 공연을 하고, 13일에는 서울소닉 밴드들이 무대를 이어간다. 황보령=스맥소프트, 빅 포니, 글렌체크, 로큰롤라디오, 러브엑스스테레오, 노브레인 등이 무대를 달굴 예정이다. 이번 사우스바이사우스웨스트에는 사상 최다인 14팀의 한국 음악인들이 참가했다.

현장을 찾은 홍상표 한국콘텐츠진흥원 원장은 “지난 몇년간 이곳에 뿌린 씨앗이 슬슬 결실을 맺기 시작하는 것 같다”며 “앞으로 꾸준히 이곳에서 케이팝 공연을 열어 더 많은 한국의 실력파 음악인들이 세계 시장에 진출하는 쾌거로 이어졌으면 한다”고 말했다.

오스틴/서정민 기자 westmin@hani.co.kr

2014 KOCCA KPop Night Out Showcase (Planning/Production/Promotions) : DFSB Kollective x SK Planet/SL Communications
International Distribution : DFSB Kollective (Crying Nut / Jay Park)



E! News Asia Special : Jay Park

From hero to zero: ... and now back to being a hero, Jay Park has his own E! News Asia Special spot premiering today.Jay Park is back and better than ever with a new TV special that focuses on ... him. 

UNLIKE most Korean celebrities who require translators to more or less “speak” for them, Jay Park can hold his own.

The US-born singer and rapper was in Kuala Lumpur recently, answering questions from the press in fluent English, and seemed unfazed by the plethora of weird and zany enquiries into his not-so-personal life.

The “Fresh Prince of Seoul”, as he is often called, now has his own Jay Park E! News Asia Special TV programme, premiering tonight. For the first time ever, fans will get a lowdown on just how much more there is to the controversial K-Pop star.

Filmed over a period of four days, the TV special includes talking heads ranging from Park’s B-boy pals to his family members, with exclusive footage provided by his buddy Hep of dance crew AOM.

Arriving in KL from Seoul just after the second leg of his concert tour around South Korea, Park was exhaustion exemplified, and harboured less zeal than one would expect from a 26-year-old superstar.

“I went to Hong Kong, I went to Thailand ... then I went to Europe, then I went to Thailand, then Europe, then China. I’ve just been on a plane so much. I’ve been doing so much work that I think I’m just starting to get burned out right about now,” he revealed during a one-on-one interview.

With a pierced nose and tattoos running up the length of his left arm, Park gave a hip-hop artiste swagger, accentuated further by his beanie-and-oversized-T-shirt look.

Judging from a media preview of the E! Special spot, it seems likely that the 30-minute show will touch on Park’s dark past, which has much to do with being ousted from top South Korean boy band 2PM.

The programme will likely touch on the K-Pop superstar’s dark past, which has much to do with being ousted from top South Korean boy band 2PM in 2009.

“In the show, you’ll get to see what I’m like on a day-to-day basis – times when I’m not on TV, when I’m in the waiting room, or in my house, or at the office. It’ll also get into what I think about certain situations, certain things that happened in the past. So yeah, you’ll probably find out a few new things about me,” he offered.

Initially the leader of the pack, the charismatic entertainer had a hard time pacifying anti-fans when unfavourable comments he wrote about Korea in 2005 were leaked by a netizen and later taken out of context and misinterpreted by the Korean media.

Famed for his B-boy dance moves, Park returned to the US in late 2009, just as the rest of the 2PM group members revelled in the launch of their first official album – while Park’s vocals could still be heard on some of the tracks, visuals of him were completely removed from the final image compilation.

Conquering all odds, the fallen star rose to fame once again when his bathroom rendition of B.o.B.’s Nothin’ On You, enhanced with his own rap and lyrics, went viral on YouTube and reached over two million views in under 24 hours.

By July 2010, Park was back and bigger than ever, debuting as a solo singer and actor. After winning multiple awards, and topping charts with his first full-length album, the multi-talented performer became a permanent cast member of Saturday Night Live! Korea earlier this year, adding the role of “comedian” to his already crowded portfolio.

Having previously been under record label JYP Entertainment for four years as a tightly-reigned trainee prior to the debut of 2PM, Park is currently enjoying the creative freedom of managing his own R&B independent label, AOMG, which stands for Above Ordinary Music Group.

“Right now I’m making my own music, my own decisions. I get to create my own career path. Back then, as a member of a group, it was the company who had everything planned. I think I’m much more of a free spirit now,” he shared.

Of course, aside from worrying about his own future, Park also has to oversee the musical journey of artistes Jun Goon, Gray, Cha Cha Malone and LO, who are all a part of AOMG.

Aside from working on everyone’s individual album, the company is opening up to take just a few more artistes on board.

No longer the boy who confessed to crying every day for two weeks (due to the culture shock he experienced when he first came to South Korea as a JYP trainee), Park seems to have taken things in his stride – he may have his hands full right now, but he’s not stopping anytime soon.

With the support of his family, who has since returned to South Korea to accompany his burgeoning stardom, Park expressed interest in producing more English titles and to have his songs be known “not just in the world of K-Pop, but internationally.”

“Things can get overwhelming but I take it day by day. I actually didn’t think I’d come back this big. I didn’t think anybody would be interested in me or what I did. I am very fortunate, I guess.”

As for attributing social media with the making and breaking of careers, Park has a smattering of advice for hopeful ingénues: “If you want to be an entertainer, just do it for the right reasons. Social media won’t exactly help you achieve your goals. You’ve got to put in the hard work first, then can you use social media as an outlet to market yourself.”

> Jay Park’s E! News Asia Special premieres on E! (Astro Ch 712) today at 9.30pm.

Featured Artist : Jay Park
Artist Management : Sidus iHQ

Featured Commentator : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)
International Digital Distribution : DFSB Kollective
Social Media Solution Integration (Facebook/YouTube) : DFSB Kollective


The Washington Post : A year after ‘Gangnam Style,’ K-pop continues to make its mark in America

First Psy, now six new K-pop bands come to America: Psy broke the mold for South Korean pop bands in America. Now Infinite is following in his footsteps with its upcoming show at the Fillmore Silver Spring. Here are a few other K-pop bands you should check out
In early May, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong posted a photo to his Instagram account of “Gangnam Style” sensation Psy. “This dude is the herpes of music,” the caption read, alongside the hash tags #flareup and #pleasegoaway. “Once you think it’s gone, it comes back.”

That post came nearly a month after the release of “Gentleman,” the 35-year-old Korean pop phenomenon’s follow-up to his first smash hit, a song whose video, with 1.8 billion total views, is — by almost a factor of two — the most watched visual in the history of YouTube.

For much of the past year “Gangnam Style” was inescapable on TV, at weddings, at sporting events, everywhere. That song vaulted Psy — a doughy, good humored outlier in his native country’s carefully moussed, vaguely militaristic music industry — to pop cultural heights no one in Seoul could have ever anticipated. After a decade spent touring almost exclusively for Korean audiences, he was teaching Britney Spears the “horse dance” on “Ellen,” counting down the New Year for us in Times Square, shilling pistachios during the Super Bowl, and, perhaps most impressively, performing for the Obamas at the annual “Christmas in Washington” special. He’d gained entrée to the largest music market in the world. He was a part of pop’s most inner circle. And all of it stemmed from the sometimes maddening appeal of one very viral music video. How could he possibly follow that?

As of this past week, “Gentleman” is the year’s most-viewed video on YouTube with 573 million hits and counting. But have you actually heard “Gentleman” recently? An unabashedly strategic copy of its predecessor, the song is armed with a similarly propulsive, high-wattage electro hook and an equally relentless barrage of outlandish visual punchlines. “Gentleman” has, if the numbers are to be trusted, been an overwhelming success — proof, the narrative would suggest, that Psy wasn’t just a one-hit wonder and that “Gangnam Style” wasn’t just the 2012 equivalent of the “Macarena.” But like the Latin pop surge of the mid-1990s, Psy’s unexpected breakthrough came at a pivotal moment for Korean pop, or K-pop as it’s also called.

Since the late 1990s, Korea has been producing some of the most exhilarating pop music in the world. It is an artform — closer to a science — that in recent years has made cultural inroads outside of Asia. As early as their teens, prospective performers are recruited and sent through a specially designed, deeply competitive training program meant to prepare them for careers as global pop exports. They live together in housing arrangements made by their record label, learn foreign languages, song composition, rapping and dance choreography before finally debuting.

This debut is usually a heavily considered concept, be it a 12-member, half-Chinese, half-South Korean boy band that can split up to tour separately but simultaneously; or a sprawling, nine-member girl group with members come from as far away as Southern California. (Both of those examples, EXO and Girls’ Generation, call Seoul’s first powerhouse agency, SM Entertainment, home.) The songs, like the groups themselves, are constructed for maximum reach: Choruses are built from catchphrase English, verses are in Korean or custom-tailored to target markets. Sounds, textures and visuals are often sourced from various Western hits. The result is a listening (and viewing) experience that is both bewildering and thrilling, one wherein recognizable pop moments from the past (or present) are copied, tweaked, and improved upon before being fused together, side-by-side, in the space of the same, aggressively polished product.

Which is why Psy is such an extraordinary case. He is not a conventionally pretty face and “Gangnam Style” is comprised of very specific cultural signifiers, written in largely untranslatable Korean. It not only transcended the language barrier but also upended thousands of hours and millions of dollars worth of market research in South Korea, where the word “invasion” had become used more and more frequently to describe and package the impending arrival of highly trained, highly disciplined pop brands who were already uniformly famous across the Asian continent.

The march continues, and much of the force behind K-pop’s aggressive outward expansion is that Korea’s own market is, at this point, too small to contain it. Though established Korean pop acts visited the United States as early as the 1980s, when the “godfather of Korean pop,” Cho Yong Pil, performed at Carnegie Hall, there has been a dissonance between attendance numbers and mainstream awareness. “The K-pop fan community keeps up to speed with the touring or promotion visits, so even before these groups become familiar to a wider audience, there have been in-market trips,” says Yvonne Yuen, senior vice president of international marketing at Universal Music Southeast Asia. “Some acts may not have Billboard hits but still manage to sell out Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center.”

More recently, high profile Korean pop groups have continued to test the waters in the United States before, during and after Psy’s rise. In 2005, the renowned solo artist Rain performed at the Garden. Girls’ Generation returned to New York early last year for appearances on “The Late Show With David Letterman” and “Live! with Kelly Ripa” months before Bigbang and 2NE1 — outwardly edgy, fashion-forward labelmates of Psy’s — embarked on brief sold-out tours of the United States. There also have been collaborations with popular American artists, but none have moved the needle in any visibly significant way outside of the distinctly fervent (and always online) K-pop fan network.

Still, Psy’s success has generated an interest that, more and more, expands beyond the Korean-American community. According to data provided by Google, the online viewership among K-pop artists in this country doubled in the year after “Gangnam Style” was unveiled in July 2012. And audiences are increasingly diverse, a development that has made touring more attractive for an increasing number of young groups.

“What’s interesting is that the pace with which K-pop acts are coming to the U.S. has grown faster,” says Bernie Cho, head of the DFSB Kollective, a creative agency in Seoul that specializes in distributing and marketing Korean music worldwide. “Back in the day, it used to take years for them to establish themselves as superstars in Korea and in the region. Going global was an afterthought. But now, because of social media and iTunes, instead of waiting for years, it takes these same acts a matter of weeks and months for them to realize the potential elsewhere. The awareness has accelerated.”

On Nov. 13, Infinite, a spritely, seven-member boy band, will perform at the Fillmore in Silver Spring as part of its “One Great Step” tour. This four-date jaunt also includes dates in Los Angeles, New York and San Jose. It’s an interesting development. While fellow upstarts VIXX and B.A.P. also have planned visits to the United States this year, all three groups have experimented with booking shows outside of the usual markets of the Bay Area, Big Apple and L.A.; the latter came to D.C.’s Warner Theater in May and VIXX plans to visit Dallas later this month. This is not an accident.

“Before they arrive, most young K-pop acts have already done their marketing research,” Cho says. “Whether they’re looking at their Facebook fan pages or their YouTube views, they have a better sense of who their fans are and, more importantly, where they are. When they arrive and they do tour in the U.S., it’s very calculated.”

Though Infinite debuted to tepid response in 2010, with an album titled (ahem) “First Invasion,” they would not perform in front of an audience at home in Korea until early 2012, when they walked out on stage in front of 8,000 screaming fans. In the two years between the album’s release and the live debut, the group work-shopped its repertoire extensively. It developed the “scorpion dance,” a move that spawned a rash of video tutorials and contests. This current tour will visit four continents and their fans, dubbed Inspirits, promise to be there in numbers.

“These virtual tribes connect and ultimately, want to connect with each other in real life,” says Ted Kim, of MNET, a Korean music television channel that now produces English language programming in this country. “Live events and concerts provide a great opportunity for like-minded people to come together and celebrate their mutual interest and passion.”

Cho believes there’s only more to come. “I think we’re going to be seeing more and more new, young Korean acts coming to the United States,” he adds. “Not only to tour, but also to record.”

“Psy has definitely opened the door to a new market, including America, for us and other K-pop artists,” Infinite said via e-mail. “We do appreciate him so much and hope this world tour will contribute to K-pop in some ways as Psy has done. Above all, we are enjoying every single moment of the tour which has given us many chances meeting lots of Inspirits and K-pop lovers out there. It makes us feel proud of ourselves. We are ready to give audience unforgettable moments.”

By David Bevan (Editor at SPIN Magazine)

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