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The Korea Herald : Bringing Korean Sounds to SXSW -- Korean musicians of diverse genres attract fans abroad with ‘phenomenal’ live acts

Bernie Cho, DFSB Kollective president, poses at his office in Sinsa-dong, Seoul, on Monday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
K-pop is no longer limited to idol groups and their synchronized dance moves to upbeat music: The term has broadened to encompass all genres of music from Korea.

“You will be surprised to know that Korean rock is very popular in the U.S.,” said Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a pioneer in introducing Korean indie music to the United States, during an interview with The Korea Herald on April 6.

Having just returned from the U.S. where he had introduced a team of Korean musicians to SXSW in Austin, Texas, Cho described how the U.S. audiences respond to Korean artists. “Rock, EDM (electronic dance music), urban music, which includes R&B, and hip-hop did well, grabbing headlines,” he said.

Marking the fifth year at the biggest music festival and conference in the U.S., the SeoulSonic stage organized by Cho featured From the Airport, Solutions, Big Phony, Heo, Victim Mentality and YB.

“The SXSW festival director discovered Victim Mentality in Hongdae last year. They put on a phenomenal live show,” said Cho.

“Hongdae is a phenomenal indie incubator, accelerator and hub,” Cho elaborated, referring to an area near Hongik University known for its indie music and art scene. “The bands spend years grinding their acts.”

Cho particularly appreciated YB for their performance at the SeoulSonic stage. “We were surprised but flattered he was headlining our bill. They are an arena act and they came to play in a club,” he said, adding that YB is a fantastic mentor of indie bands.

Cho started introducing Korean indie acts at SXSW in 2011 after noting that even as K-pop was gaining popularity overseas, Korean music wasn’t present in the biggest music festival and conference in the No. 1 market in the world. “Influencers are at SXSW looking for the next big thing.”

Believing that there was safety in numbers, Cho brought a number of acts to the festival. “We put on our branded stage for Korean bands,” said Cho. That was the beginning of SeoulSonic, a stage that introduces Korean musicians from different genres. Following the performance at SXSW, the bands tour several U.S. cities.

It was not lost on Cho that Texas has the third-largest Korean-American population. “We assumed that it would be safe, that there would be Korean-Americans we could fall back on, but we found that people attending our shows are not Koreans,” he said.

How does he pick the bands? “I look for passion. But it is a business decision. As cool as flashy K-pop may be, the cold hard facts and figures tell us the American music market is marching to different beats. We are targeting what the U.S. market is listening to,” said Cho. Indie acts are the No. 1 best-selling artists in the U.S., followed by rock and R&B/hip-hop which share the No. 2 spot. Electronic dance music is the fastest-growing music market in the U.S.

“We have to be fans of their music and the acts must be critically acclaimed and nominated for music awards,” said Cho, adding, “Korean music critics have fantastic tastes.”

Another requirement is that they need to do “amazing live shows.” “An amazing, intense live show transcends translation and requires no interpretation,” he noted.

Cho sees definite progress by Korean acts. “It is getting easier over the years because Korean artists are more confident singing in English. They have an easier time crossing over, making music more accessible. They no longer perform exclusively for the Korean market.”

“The K-music mystique is that it is unique, innovative and new. And the diversity in genres is definitely the ace card for promoting Korean music overseas,” Cho said.

How do audiences appreciate music whose lyrics they do not understand? On top of being great live acts, Korean performers use a lot of visuals, according to Cho. “Visuals help Korean music translate well ― dance, instrumentation and the visual team. The audience may not understand the lyrics but they can understand through watching the videos on the screen.”

“Visual presentations are not really done outside of Korea, but it is a common practice here. It takes Korean live shows to a whole new level,” said Cho. “It gives a cool and cutting edge vibe.”

“The Korean music market is No. 10 in the world. It is the fourth-largest net export market in the world, following the U.S., U.K. and Sweden. It really belongs to an elite group of countries,” said Cho.

DFSB Kollective actually does very little work in Korea, focusing instead on distributing Korean music worldwide through digital platforms ― it is the official distributor of Korean digital tunes to iTunes, Google and Spotify ― and providing Korean artists access to major international music festivals. “We are not like S.M. or YG in that we don’t own or produce music.”

An aspiring filmmaker at Dartmouth College in the U.S. who switched majors to government and East Asian studies at the behest of his parents who considered filmmaking “too light,” Cho fell into the music industry by accident.

“It was the summer before I was to have started graduate studies in Seoul. I crashed a party where I met a music channel owner,” he said. Soon, he was working at Mnet from where he moved onto Channel [V] and later, MTV.

“Around 2007, I realized people were looking at music on devices. I felt digital media production had more potential and left the music TV industry after 10 years,” he said.

“I could sense how popular Korean music was going to be but saw no bridge between business and buzz. This is how I got the idea to start an artist-friendly agency,” Cho explained.

“I would love to see Korean musicians heading international festivals and not only be nominated, but win awards. My biggest fear is that K-pop will be considered a fad. I hope market conditions will improve locally, meaning more resources and opportunities to go overseas.” However, with music downloads from Korean sites costing only $0.05 per tune, things are difficult here, according to Cho.

“This summer, we are expanding direct digital distribution to top 10 platforms in over 100 countries. It is exciting that we’re going to make Korean artists’ music more available worldwide,” he said.



Weber Shandwick : Soft Power Drives City Reputation and Success in Asia Pacific 

A new and far-reaching study conducted by Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations firms, uncovers the increasing significance of “soft power” as a key contributor to the reputation of cities in Asia Pacific. “Engaging Cities: the Growing Relevance of Soft Power to City Reputations in Asia Pacific” focuses on how cities in the region leverage soft power – that is, those attributes of city brand reputation beyond politics, economics and military might – and reveals Tokyo’s leading reputation as a city of influence in Asia Pacific with its reputation as a creative hub driving its top ranking across 10 of 16 soft power attributes examined.

The study examines eight cities – Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo – across 16 soft power attributes that, when combined, contribute to a differentiated positioning of a city’s brand reputation and perceived influence. They include social media and digital technology; tourism; food, culinary and dining experiences; architecture and design; sustainability and the environment; and standard of living. In partnership with KRC Research, Weber Shandwick interviewed 4,147 people online and spoke with 20 experts in sectors as diverse as media, design, architecture, retail, sports and trade.

Among the soft power attributes studied, the Weber Shandwick report reveals Singapore’s top ranking for its innovative approach to sustainability and the environment and for offering a particularly high standard of living to residents. Hong Kong was rated first for being seen as the financial centre of the region, and Sydney was rated first across sports and leisure infrastructure, contemporary architecture and design, and gender tolerance, but was rated as the least influential city in terms of food, culinary and dining experiences.

“The dramatic urbanisation of Asian countries and the increasingly challenging environment in which civic leaders compete for creative talent, inward investment and tourism dollars has made brand reputation a priority for cities,” said Ian Rumsby, chief strategy officer, Asia Pacific, Weber Shandwick. “The ability to articulate, connect and promote unique, soft power attributes is now at the centre of success for governments and cities.”

Insights on Overall Perceptions that Distinguish City Reputations Today

The report reveals five primary observations that inform public, private and social sector leaders about the drivers of reputation in Asian cities.


The strength of national brands can overwhelm the ability of a city to cultivate awareness of its core attributes. This presents challenges and opportunities in equal measure as cities strive to elevate their reputation as a destination of choice. As cities compete to attract and retain top-tier talent, leveraging national attributes whilst balancing and creating their own city brand identity is an essential first step in fostering better understanding of a city’s total value and offering.


Neighborhoods are culture-clusters that showcase the unique, diverse attributes of a city to residents and non-residents. These are the areas where a city’s personality can be revealed, giving people the chance to witness and engage with the distinctive attributes of a certain location that suit their areas of interest. Cities that elevate the interest and relevance of neighborhoods to people’s lives advance their reputations.

Citizen Advocacy

Residents of the eight cities in Weber Shandwick’s report consistently rate their own city higher against each of the selected soft power attributes than non-residents. Overall, residents rated their own city 18 percentage points higher against all attributes, combined, than non-residents.

Understanding and tapping into the groundswell of citizen pride in cities is becoming increasingly relevant. As cities grow and people become wealthier, their ability to travel and engage with people in different markets becomes easier. Finding ways to stimulate residents’ endorsement as ambassadors of their hometowns in other markets has enormous branding potential.

The Creative Classes

Creative people are a potent force behind city innovation. They invent idea-led economies that bolster innovation in everything from music and technology to sustainability and design. Civic leaders need to think deeply and strategically about how to foster a diverse and inclusive environment that attracts creative talent needed to future-proof cities.

“Creative and innovative talent has always played a fundamental role in the cultural and economic development of a city. In today’s highly-connected, highly-competitive world, being able to attract that talent requires a strong brand reputation,” said Tim Sutton, chairman, Asia Pacific, Weber Shandwick. “Civic leaders can utilize the powerful ideas and insights uncovered in this new research to identify, refine and capitalise on their city’s strongest soft power attributes to build a reputation that competes for the best.”

People Power

Big investments in city infrastructure can be undermined by a failure to deliver an engaging experience. Whether it is an airport or sporting venue, the experience of a place is dependent on the people who define it. Cities that invest in a people-based service culture can enhance experiences and ensure that a reputation as ‘warm and welcoming’ is advanced.

* * *

The “Engaging Cities” report includes an analysis of each city’s performance against 16 soft power attributes with commentary by respondents on the rationale for their ratings. The report also explores City Self-Esteem—an initiative designed to understand the perspective of residents of a particular city against those who visit or do not live there.

“There is a huge amount of mobility between the cities of Asia Pacific,” said Jennifer Sosin, chief research strategist at KRC Research. “The proportion of respondents who said they have visited at least one other city or actually lived in one of the other cities is high. This means that city brand and influence, more than ever, are created through the personal experiences of people who are not residents.”

Please view “Engaging Cities: The Growing Relevance of Soft Power to City Reputations in Asia Pacific” and infographics for the cities reviewed here.

Featured Commentator : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)


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)


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