Gone are the days when you had to stay up late listening to the radio to hear your favorite bands, or when you played your favorite cassette tape so much that it warped and broke. Gone, too, for most people are trips to record shops to discover and buy the latest hits. Now, all the music in the world is available digitally, in just a few clicks.
To discuss those fundamental changes to the music industry and what it means for the Korean music scene, top producers and executives from the world’s record business have come to Seoul for Mu:Con, a two-day music fair and exhibition.
Among the speakers are Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records, the label that signed such pioneering artists as Madonna and the Pretenders, and Steve Lillywhite, the five-time Grammy Award-winning producer of U2 and the Rolling Stones.
Mu:Con kicked off yesterday with speeches and conferences at the GS XI Gallery in Seogyo-dong, western Seoul.
“Great music surpasses borders, religion and race,” said Hong Sang-pyo, president of the Korea Creative Contents Agency, the group that organized the event, as he kicked off the event. “It thrills everyone throughout the world and, in turn, is appreciated for its values. That is why, the theme for this year’s Seoul International Music Fair is ‘Beyond Borders, Beyond Genre, Beyond Music.’
“During the fair, we are going to have in-depth discussions on subjects such as the digital music services that have allowed borderless music distribution and the new platform YouTube. Moreover, we’ll listen to what’s happening in other countries, including Japan, China, Australia and Russia, from representatives from each of those countries.”
A conference yesterday about online music streaming presented different aspects of how those services are evolving. Speakers included Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a Seoul-based creative agency that specializes in digital media, Clement Gosse, APAC sales director of Deezer, a music streaming service provider, from France, and SK Choi, global head of Content Operations of Spotify, another music streaming service provider established in Sweden.
While many artists have criticized services like Deezer and Spotify, both Choi and Gosse said that people need to realize that we are in a “transformation period.”
“We are changing from one business model to another,” said Gosse. “Every change creates noise. It’s just a matter of time.”
Choi also added that streaming music services do cannibalize other music services, but mostly they are “cannibalizing piracy.”
“We’ve done all the research,” said Choi. “Streaming services don’t cannibalize downloads. What we did was bring those who download songs illegally through P2P sites back to legal environment. They are now paying, legal users. I would definitely say we are cannibalizing. But we are cannibalizing piracy.”
Kim Young-min, CEO of SM Entertainment, one of Korea’s largest music companies, delivered a speech about the transformation of today’s music culture.
“The existing music industry has been divided,” he said. “First, there were those who make music and then those who have the master rights, for instance, entertainment agencies like us in Korea or globally, the record labels. Also, there’s media that promotes and delivers music, such as radio and television. After listening to music from either one of those mediums, people went to record shops to purchase CDs or LPs. There were distinctive divisions in the music market. Now, existing media crosses over with the new media and lets people of all generations be exposed to music. When this crossover of existing media and the new media mixes together well, that’s when we have a massive explosion of great content.”
For Korea musicians, the showcase gave them an opportunity to impress the international experts, as well as get an invitation to one of the major international music fairs, such as MIDEM in France or South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
For the showcases held yesterday at Mecenatpolis Mall and Sangsang Madang Live Hall in Hongdae, western Seoul, some of the teams that were chosen included electronic band Idiotape, rock group No Brain and Jambinai, a group that plays a fusion of post-rock and traditional music.
In addition, Korean hip-hop pioneer Drunken Tiger had a performance, together with his wife Yoon Mi-rae and longtime collaborate Bizzy, and boy group Exo also performed.
Tonight’s showcases will be held at Ellui and Beyond Museum in Gangnam, southern Seoul, starting at 7 p.m. They will feature artists Lim Kim, Rainbow, Verbal Jint and Chang Kiha and the Faces.
Korean modern rock band 3rd Line Butterfly will also play on stage at Ellui with Sieon, a singer-songwriter from Belgium.
Like yesterday, their performances will be aired live through YouTube worldwide. For more information about Mu:Con, visit www.mucon.kr.
By Yim Seung-Hye [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Featured Panel Moderator : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)
Featured Artists : Drunken Tiger, 3rd Line Butterfly, Chang Kiha & The Faces, Idiotape, No Brain
THE AU REVIEW : Digital & Music Matters Conference Day 3 - The Ritz Carlton Millenia, Singapore (23.05.13)
It was our final day of the conference and it was a jam packed one so let's get this coverage rolling... Kicking things off early in the day, we spotted our friends from Eat Your Kimchi filming a segment for HP with K-Pop stars SPICA. Stay tuned for photos from SPICA's performance and our exclusive interview with Eat Your Kimchi! Moving on...
In one of the many panels of the day, pictured here is moderator Stephen White (CEO, Gracenote) with Simon Wheeler of Beggars Group, Prashant Bahadur of The Orchard, Bill Wilson of NARM, Bernie Cho of DFSB Kollective and Raoul Chatterjee of 7digital. This discussion was in regards to metadata, which ensures revenue streams work successfully for artists. It was certainly one of the day's drier panels, but a fascinating one. An earlier panel on Sync deals, alongside a talk by Eric Sheinkop of Music Dealers, regarding the process of sync deals; the pairing of brands and music, was an enlightening one. We sat down with Eric and you'll be able to read that interview soon to learn more!
Pictured above is UK artist Little Boots performing her latest single for the conference crowd, and LIVE onto the Music Matters website. We only got the one track out of her, and we would certainly have loved to see more. She had so many gadgets set up that we didn't even get to see her use! Here's hoping she's brought back to Australia soon for such an opportunity. Unfortunately she told us there's nothing on the cards at this stage...
Australia's music export office, Sounds Australia, has a fantastic director in Millie Millgate. She's pictured here being introduced by Jasper from Branded (the company who put on Music Matters), as she explains a bit of what Sounds Australia do for the Australian music market, and what brings them to Singapore - promoting Australian talent and exploring new export opportunities for the whole Asian market.
Pictured here is the full Australian panel with Millie Millgate on the far left as moderator, accompanied by Scot Morris of APRA/AMCOS, Nick O'Byrne of AIR and BIGSOUND, Brett Murrihy of Artist Voice and Vijay Nair of Only Much Louder, who worked with Sounds Australia on the Aussie BBQ tour of India last November, that I was proud to be a part of. It was a fascinating look into the great things Sounds Australia are doing for our market, and explored what we need to do for the region to continue growth in Asian export.
Vice President of ASCAP and author of the book Murphy's Law of Songwriting, Ralph Murphy dissected the last 12 months of pop and country number ones in the USA and analysed what was unique to this group of popular tracks. He talked about the importance of tempo, the word "you", the concept of love and repetition, all of which were features of the vast majority of the hits. He pointed out that Gotye's #1, however, was quite the anomaly in many ways, though left it to us to work out why.
The first ever MIDEM panel outside of Cannes featured the heads of some of digital music's most successful companies to discuss the future of Digital Music in Asia. For some regions, it's clear that digital music is the obvious way of the future, and for others it's a more difficult path. But with digital streaming and sales being the economic model for the industry moving forward, the clear message was that they're on the right path. Members included Jeff Hughes from Omnifone, Chris Lin from KKBOX, Gary Chen from Top10.cn, Darren Tsui from mSPOT and more.
Melbourne's own Dub FX performs in the foyer while we ate a snack, had a coffee and awaited for a couple of bands to soundcheck on the main stage...
...the first band of which were Canada's Faber Driver who performed their "energetic pop rock" predominantly acoustically and impressed the crowd.
We learnt about Asia's #1 Music Market, Japan, from Ken Ohtake, President of Sony Music Publishing (Japan) and Vice Chairman of the Music Publishers Association of Japan. We were treated to a lot of fun facts about their predominantly insular music economy, which features 87% in sales. But even at 13%, the international market still equates to almost $500 million in sales, so there are plenty of export opportunities there - though it's clear their priority now is trying to export their own acts.
Live Nation Korea tells the incredible success story of K-Pop megastars BIGBANG, through their 2012 world tour, which lasted 10 months and saw they perform in front of hundreds of thousands of fans in massive stadium and dome concerts over four continents. They left us with the question - who would they be touring next? And we wanted to know: when will BIGBANG tour Australia!!
Closing out the conference were YouTube sensations Boyce Avenue who performed a few of their most popular songs, alongside a cover of "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry. With their easy listening tunes and brotherly charm, it's no wonder these guys have made it so popular with their YouTube audience. Though as they approach ONE BILLION YouTube views, you have to give them a lot of credit for making it all work so well for them. You can learn more about the three brothers in our interview with them coming up on the AU soon.
With the final day of the conference behind us, tonight it's the last night of the Music Matters LIVE event at Clarke Quay, with the K-Pop showcase being the highlight of the main stage performances. Given today is a public holiday, and the main stage being open to the general public, we're expecting nothing short of mania! Stay tuned to our Twitter feed for live coverage from the event. Or watch it yourself HERE.
Featured Panelist : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)
Having correct and clean metadata is increasingly vital for artists, publishers, producers, and labels to receive their correct royalties. In the digital age, the money trail dies when your metadata is incorrect. How do content owners take full advantage of their various revenue streams?
Simon Wheeler, Director of Digital, Beggars Group
Prashant Bahadur, Vice President, Strategy, The Orchard
Bill Wilson, Vice President, Digital Strategy & Business Development, NARM
Bernie Cho, President, DFSB Kollective
Raoul Chatterjee, Senior Vice President Music, 7digital
Moderator: Stephen White, CEO, Gracenote
MUSIC MATTERS (May 21-24, 2013) : SINGAPORE
Established in 2006 and dubbed as "TED meets SXSW" by Jason Mraz, Music Matters has hosted some of the biggest names in the entertainment business. The event is the pioneer music industry event in the Asia Pacific region and it is the yearly gathering of the most influential figures in the global music business.
In the last eight years, Music Matters has hosted some of the biggest names in the entertainment business including Justin Timberlake’s Manager, Johnny Wright; Lady Gaga's Manager, Troy Carter; Legendary Music and Entertainment Producer, Bob Ezrin; leading rock band U2's Manager, Paul McGuinness; Producer, Steve Lillywhite; President of Sony Network Entertainment's Tim Schaff; Spotify CEO and visionary Daniel Ek and music A-listers and Grammy Award winning artists such as Jason Mraz, Imogen Heap and Jamie Cullum.
Music Matters is part of our week long flagship event in May that has housed an extraordinary showcase of Branded produced events covering all that matters in music, social media and online video including Music Matters Live festival and Music Matters Academy, Digital Matters and the YouTube FanFest.
Driven by Branded’s cornerstone event Music Matters over the last eight years, the week has become Asia's entertainment industry’s yearly gathering for showcasing innovation, sharing success stories and collaborating with partners for new business models. This year, after much demand, the week that matters is expanding to include Social Media Matters , one of the most renowned advertising events in Asia which is a JV between Branded and global leading advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.
Featured Panelist : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)
PSY's "Gangnam Style" put K-Pop on the world's radar in 2012, but a panel on the musical style revealed an infrastructure in place that wholly covers recording, marketing and touring. Licensing around the globe is the next frontier.
Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, which assists some 350 K-pop acts find international audiences, was among the speakers on the panel "Beyond K-pop: The Global Impact of Music and Visuals" Thursday at Billboard's 11th Annual Film & TV Music Conference at the W Hotel in Hollywood. He said the genre's breakthrough came in 2008, when South Korea connected with YouTube, and continued in 2009 when it joined forces with iTunes.
"Artists using YouTube created commercial opportunities to promote themselves worldwide, and iTunes created revenue worldwide," he explained. YouTube views of K-pop videos in America more than doubled from 2010 to 2011. "Gangnam Style," with half a billion views worldwide on YouTube and counting, has exposed the appeal of the catchy, video-friendly South Korean dance genre.
PSY records for YG Entertainment, which is similar to many K-pop companies in that it is a combination talent agency and label run by a former Korean artist. Unlike dance music in many other cultures, K-pop artists often wrote their own material, making it more self-sufficient than many other pop styles.
Alina Moffat is the general manager of the American counterpart of a Korean talent agency and record label, YG Entertainment U.S., said that PSY's success is, they hopes, the start of something bigger.
"This has allowed the world to see what they've been doing all along," she said. "The spotlight is shining and saying, there's creativity there, there's money there. It's a chance to say, this is what we do - get on board."
Moffat, on board at YG for less than a year, said the industry is new to the idea of licensing tracks for use in television and film. Part of the reasoning for having U.S. divisions of K-pop companies is to simplify and speed up licensing and publishing processes that are foreign to the Korean business.
One area that has been successful is touring where acts are packaged and play large theaters and arenas. Kevin Morrow, a former Live Nation concert promoter who first booked a K-pop concert in the U.S. seven years ago, said the "value-added stuff they give consumers" go far beyond anything other acts provide. Concert-goers receive gift bags and can go onstage after the show to have their photo taken -- sometimes with the acts and sometimes just on the set.
"That's great marketing," he says. "It creates fan loyalty."
With a population of 50 million, the K-pop industry has been aware of the need to export its pop stars for some time. The performers learn local languages, including English and Japanese, to expand their audiences and tour; with hundreds of television competition shows on the air there is no shortage of potential hitmakers.
"In Asia, 'I want to be a pop star' is not something you could say a decade ago," said Ted Kim, president and CEO of MNET America, which brings Asian pop culture to American audiences. "Now, it's considered acceptable, even desirable."
Featured Panelist : Bernie Cho (DFSB Kollective)
Ask random Koreans on the streets of Seoul if they’ve heard of punk band Crying Nut and chances are they’ll be able to name at least a few songs from its long list of hits. But during their North American tour this spring, the country’s best-selling indie rock act performed as if they were nameless newcomers in front of millions of people who had no idea who they were.
The members, however, say they’d do it again in a heartbeat.
“It was so much fun - like a busy Friday night in Hongdae [an area in Seoul known for its underground rock scene] times 100. The streets were brimming with energy,” says Lee Sang-myun, Crying Nut’s guitarist, on playing at South by Southwest, the largest indie music festival in the United States.
The influential five-member band, along with 3rd Line Butterfly, another first-generation indie act here, and rock band Yellow Monsters, toured the U.S. and Canada in March to early April. They performed at some of the biggest music events on the continent, including at the official showcases at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and Canadian Music Week (CMW) in Toronto, as well as famous clubs like the Viper Room in Los Angeles and Cafe du Nord in San Francisco.
The bands went not as individual acts but as a group, called Seoulsonic, a project started by Seoul-based music agency DFSB Kollective to introduce Korean indie music to the West.
“If you talk about Hyundai Motor, it is going to be at every major motor show in the world. If you talk about Korean film, they are going to Cannes, Berlin or Toronto. But when it comes to music, Korean music was never represented at any of the music festivals or conferences in the world,” said Bernie Cho, president and strategic planning director of DFSB Kollective.
“And that, to me, was shocking. That’s why we decided that if we are going to promote Korean music, we need to do what other countries are doing.”
Investing money that DFSB Kollective earned through its core business - selling Korean records overseas through iTunes - Seoulsonic started last year by bringing local indie acts Idiotape, Galaxy Express and Vidulgi Ooyoo to the North American stage, concentrating on their official showcases at SXSW and CMW. The company plans to continue the success of previous tours and do another Seoulsonic North American tour next spring, with a new lineup including Goonamguayeo Riding Stella and Lowdown 30, among others.
Groups look abroad
While K-pop idol bands have been basking in the limelight overseas as the second wave of the Korean Wave spreads rapidly, their indie counterparts have been struggling with a flawed music distribution system and subsequent financial difficulties. It was less than two years ago that news of the death of indie musician Lee Jin-won (who went by the stage name Moonlight Nymph) and his financial strife alerted the nation to the structural problems of Korea’s music industry.
According to Cho, Hallyu was fueled by artists not because they want to go overseas, but because “they needed to go overseas.”
“Korea is a very fast-forward market and outsiders were looking into Korea and saying that it may be the future of the digital music industry,” says Cho.
“But although the perception was very rosy, the reality was very thorny because inside Korea, even though it was the fourth largest digital market for music in the world by 2007, everyone was making money except the artists.”
Industry critics have long pointed out the need to restructure the profit distribution system of the local music industry, which is acutely skewed toward major content providers while the creators of the content, the artists, get little in comparison.
Many Korean indie acts have started to look toward foreign markets, specifically Japan and the United States, to release records and get noticed. One of the most popular indie acts locally, Chang Kiha and the Faces, for instance, has released both of their full-length albums in Korea and Japan. Local acts also have begun to venture to major music festivals overseas. This summer, Korean indie band Jaurim will be a headliner at Summer Sonic Festival, one of the most important rock festivals in Japan, alongside Fuji Rock Festival, and a handful of other Korean bands, including Chang Kiha and the Faces and the KOXX, will perform there.
Jung Woo-min, a local indie musician with two full-length albums under her belt, released her first album in Korea while launching her second album in Japan, through Italy-based record label IRMA records, which has offices in Italy and Japan. Along with artists from Italy, Japan, the United States and Sweden, the record label also signed with three Korean artists, including Jung.
“The Korean indie scene can’t compare to the Japanese indie rock scene in either scale or variety,” says Jung.
“Although the industry in Korea has come a long way and there is now a wide array of musicians doing different genres, there is a sense that the scene as a whole hasn’t yet stabilized and is a bit too vulnerable for artists to fully commit to it.”
Rocking North America
Although the tours weren’t without a few missteps, the bands that participated say the experience gave them a fuller, global perspective of the music industry that they otherwise would never have known.
“We went on the Seoulsonic tour with a kind of romanticized vision of performing in the U.S. in front of millions of people like we had seen in movies,” says Dguru, a member of electronic rock band Idiotape.
“But after a month of touring, we were quite humbled and realized that it takes much more than a few successful gigs at festivals to make a real impact in North America.
“To [Americans], bands like ours are just an unknown Asian group of guys that are not from Japan or China.”
Lee Sang-myun of Crying Nut says that there isn’t an indie act in Korea that doesn’t have ambitions to go abroad.
“In the past, we’ve even made English demos of our songs so that it would be easier for us to play at festivals abroad,” he says.
“We’ve performed at festivals in Japan and the U.S., but the more we go to these venues, the more we realize that it is really difficult to break through outside of Korea, whether it’s the language barrier or just getting across our music and our identity to people.”
Crying Nut members say this anonymity in North America fueled them to give 100 percent in every performance, something they admit is sometimes hard to do in Korea after 14 years of being active in the scene.
“We performed at this 100-year-old building for our official showcase at SXSW. We really gave our all and during the performance, because the audience was jumping so much, the top floor cracked and the building almost collapsed,” said Lee.
Regardless, the bands both agree that the music and performance level of Korean bands are up to those from the U.S., if not higher.
“It was shocking for me this time in the U.S., to see how the Korean bands playing at SXSW and CMW were so advanced. The bands were really strong live and compared to them, the American and Canadian bands were lagging behind in my opinion,” says Dguru.
“Watching all these bands in North America, I thought if Korean bands can do so well under the financially poor, weak structure of the Korean indie scene, who knows what we can do when the scene is as stable as the American indie scene is now?” says DR, drummer for Idiotape.
By Cho Jae-eun [email@example.com]
2012 SXSW Seoulsonic Showcase (Planning/Production/Promotion) : DFSB Kollective
International Agent/Distribution : DFSB Kollective