October 27th, 2010: Forever SM Miracle Day

Hey guys, I’m alive. I’ll get posting considering my exams have slowed down. Today, we discuss issues of major impact.

Jjong is taken
Jonghyun of SHINee, and Shin Se Kyung of Highkick Through the Roof fame are officially off the market. They are dating. It has been confirmed by SM and SSK’s acting agency, and fangirls and fanboys (yes, SSK has A LOT of fanboys, so don’t think she’s purely on the defensive) are in chaos.

To say the least, this was entirely unexpected: this involves the hottest rising young actress in Korea, a member of one of the most popular idol groups (with some of the increasingly most crazy fans) from the most oppressive entertainment company in Korea. And it’s SHINee – SHINEE – who has become the group to take the first step toward open relationships. SHINee, the group debuted as the “noona-killers,” the sweet, innocent, young boy band of the industry – not Big Bang, not DBSK, not 2pm, not even H.O.T., g.o.d., or Shinhwa – they are the first band to reveal an open relationship while they are still active within their company. Se7en has a friend now!


Cr: Shineelucifer200

Oh Se Kyung, you are so obvious 😛

What do I think about the timing of the whole thing? To take it lightly, I’d just say SM is stalling to delay SNSD’s Hoot MV (11PM KST now, folks). I’m not really sure what the point of this revelation was as I was spamming Omona.

Which logically transitions us to this next piece of news revealed half-an-hour later.

SM Entertainment has withdrawn their injunction against the members of JYJ (Jaejoong, Yoochun, Junsu), which had prohibited the sale of their album, “The Beginning.”

JYJ’s public relations agency, Prain, stated on October 27th, “SM Entertainment dropped the injunction they filed against JYJ on October 21st through the Seoul Central District Court.”

SM Entertainment had previously attempted to prohibit the sale of “The Beginning” on October 12th, as distributed by Warner Music Korea.

Ok, at this point I just about lost it. People started (sarcastically) saying that Amber, Kibum, and DBSK would soon rise from the dead, and for a minute I totally would have believed it.

WHAT IS THIS? It’s not so much that SM has never doe a single act of kindness previously, but instead they are taking a 180-degree stance to how they approached JYJ just a week before. Combine this with being the first company to allow young idols to date freely, and I’m thinking either a coup d’etat just took place in SM or they added something new to their water. Companies retain reputation not through ethical conduct, that much we already know. Nowadays they are entirely dependent upon reputation and consistency in performance, and with that comes consistency in policy. For SM to suddenly change like this implies that they are starting to change the very identity of SME itself.

SME is not simply an entertainment company – as any attendants of SMTown can tell you, to most of the world, it’s a family, the SM family. The upper business echelon targets not only music, apparel, and advertisements at all-too-eager screaming fans, but also the artists themselves – their personality, their lives, their privacy. It’s what makes idoldom so unique and intimate, and scary at the same time. I am all for Jonghyun’s dating freedom, but that SM has publicized and accepted this has just harmed his career, whether we like it or not – like his looks and voice and dancing, his “date-bility” and position as the object of fangirls’ desires was a part of his career.

However, I’m not going to be all party-pooping. I personally think this is a good move – he’s still a human being, after all, and what say we as fans that he can’t enjoy a normal life? Because he’s an idol? Well clearly this move is Jjong’s reply of, “So what if I am?”

So what if he is? What a good question – oppa’s not going to be yours. This may break a few hearts in the short run, but will probably be good in the long run. The fans will probably be less fervent, but simultaneously less “cray cray.”

And about dropping that injunction? About time, SM, because it was a losing game. I’m not even going to label that as an act of kindness, because SM’s claims were pretty much ridiculous – JYJ and their company stated pretty clearly that Warner is only acting as the distributor, and they were in fact NOT double signed. I just see this as SM riding the Jonghyun wave, neatly tucking their disgraceful defeat in there with some semblance of charitably and benevolence.

Now we have to wonder – did Jonghyun willingly expose this, or even made it so obvious SM could do nothing to stop it, or was there some kind of administrative push? Ahh, that’s probably just my conspiracy-theorist side coming out.

Japan, here we come!

So I’ve been waiting to write this article, and now that SNSD has finally announced that their debut single will be Genie, I can finally settle in and put in my two cents on the girl groups in Japan situation.

As you know, this summer/fall has marked Kpop’s girl groups’ inevitable migration into the land of the rising sun, which was bound to happen sooner or later after the success of their boy group sunbaes as DBSK and Big Bang. I’m actually surprised no one made the move sooner (other than the Grace, but that’s something I’ll cry about another time T__T). 4minute, Kara, and SNSD will lead the charge into Japan. 4minute has already debuted their single I My Me Mine and has traveled back and forth from Korea and Japan to perform on music shows; Kara will be releasing their Mister single August 11th and has performed their first show on Music Japan this past week; SNSD will be having a showcase August something and releasing their Genie single in September. In other words, three of the top Korean girl groups will be debuting in a very close period of time with translated versions of old, hit singles (minus IMMM which is relatively new).

One reason I waited to comment until now was because I seriously anticipated that SNSD will be debuting in Japan with an original, Japanese single, and past precedents set by DBSK and BoA gave possibilities of that happening. However, SM has completely changed their tactics regarding the marketing of their artists in Japan–first it was the change in label from Avex to UMJ, which I personally think is a good move since Avex has always been cheap on promotions, and second with the Genie single. I’m a little disappointed, admittedly, but I’m not overly surprised.

Things are changing, boys and girls. Through my extensive forum stalking, I’ve read lots of comments along the lines of “omg, XXX is going to go to Japan and fail, and I hope they disappear.” Obviously the work of antis, but it paints a rather accurate picture of the hopes of haters and the worst nightmare of fans. However, such a scenario happening to 4SoKa (ok I’m going to leave the abbreviation as that) will be near impossibility.

Does anyone realize how much companies are holding the hands of these groups and looking out for them? Take SM–contrasting their treatment of throwing the Grace into Japan while their fanbase in Korea was just growing, leading to abysmal overseas failure and their virtual disappearance from the Kpop map, they have now gone to pouring everything into the successful promotion of SNSD even before they land in Japan. Heck, they even did an entire photobook in Japan, and trust me, it was not just for the view.

SNSD has built up their fanbase these past three years to where I’m stupid gawking at the ridiculous gifts Soshified got for their 3rd anniversary. They are at their peak Korea wise, and I think it’s as good as a time as SM could’ve picked for their Japanese debut–honestly, their 2010 songs have not been as strong as the 2009 ones, but the steady sales and mid-year domination just showed that SNSD has reached what I like to call a commercial equilibrium in Korea–it doesn’t matter how fantastic or crappy their music is, it will sell like hotcakes regardless.

What I’m totally confused about is how permanent SM is making this debut seem. The girls have been completely pulled from their shows except for Seohyun, and their recent SendVoice messages made it seem like they aren’t coming back, with lots of “don’t forget us!” and “wait loyally for our return!” sprinkled in. Didn’t they learn from BoA, DBSK, heck even Se7en and WG, that the fanbase will slip if the groups are gone for an extended period of time?

4minute has already started promotions but are still performing on Inkigayo. That could just be that they don’t feel pain, but it doesn’t seem they will stay long term. As an aside, I think Cube is steady winning my vote as managing company of the year, which will make for an awesome future post, not spoiling anything at all. Kara’s already made it clear they’d stay for 20 days only, but 1.) DSP has never been good at planning, or choosing good title songs until 2010, or at giving their artists good living/practicing conditions, now that I get started. However, since they’re now under UMJ’s management, this might be part of an actual plan of a series of waves of promotions, especially since fluent Japanese is apparently no longer a prerequisite in attempting to break into Japan, and the artists would never leave Korea long enough to weaken their presence there, which would be pretty smart.

So let’s quickly digress to the songs. Repackaged Japanese versions of hit songs, I guess, creates more chances the song will be a success if we consider the Korean version a test trial period. Kara’s Mister is a fantastic choice in my opinion–it finally becomes the title song it should have been during Revolution promotions, it has a fantastic butt dance, and translated really nicely into Japanese. Personally I believe it was too early for 4minute to enter Japan, but I can see now that this part of Cube’s larger plan to train their artists to adapt to the international market, so I don’t see current long term promotion.

Lastly, here’s what the CEO of UMJ had to say about promotion plans for Kara/SNSD in Japan:

Universal Music Japan’s CEO Koike Kazuhiko discusses his promotion plan for KARA and SNSD in Weekly Toyo Keizai (A Business Journal).

“They have good looks and great singing abilities. It’s a waste to keep them just in Korea, so they should sell in Japan as well.“ Major record company Universal Music’s CEO Koike Kazuhiko, in addition to being the company president, he praises Korean girl groups KARA and SNSD in this way. He seems confident in giving both of these girls from his company success through full-blown promotions, which will begin this summer.

(omitted)

(Traditionally), for foreign artists to succeed in Japan a moderate level of Japanese skill was essential, unless they were top class artists. However, that’s not really the case now.

Speaking frankly President Koike said, we’ll decide which promotion method to use depending on the artists’ characters. Whether that means mainly doing activities in the Japanese market, or using a similar promotion method to the one we use for artists from Western countries doing activities mainly outside Japan. Discussed above, KARA has looks like Japanese idols and their Japanese songs should be easily accepted. Japanese was studied enough for them to be active in the center of Japan.

He explains that, SNSD and KARA are completely different, their appeal as “real-deal artists” is a profitable plan, and that Japanese ability isn’t really necessary when using the same promotion techniques as western music.

From what I’m inferencing, Kara will be promoted as a Japanese group much like DBSK’s promotion, while SNSD will get more of the western-style “treat them like foreign artists” promotion. Smart since this will prevent the two groups from clashing in the market since they will be labeled differently, but there’s definitely a lot of questions to be asked, like if Kara’s Japanese proficiency is enough for their style of marketing, whether SNSD can have the influence of western artists even if promoted like one, and most importantly if consumers are willing to distinguish these two groups instead of lumping them together as “those two korean groups” (admittedly, they’re lumped together quite often in Korea).

So how will it all play out? To tell you the truth, I have absolutely no idea. In a sense, the existing Japanese market is an iron curtain–dominant female groups such as MoMu and AKB43904859384 and solo artists like Koda Kumi and Namie Amuro make it hard for newcomers to gain a solid foothold in the market. However, a similar story existed for the guys, where Johnny’s groups (Johnny & Associates is a company that produced Jpop powergroups like Arashi, KAT-KUN, and SMAP) made it nearly impossible for even other Japanese pop groups to survive, let alone foreign acts. But lo and behold, Tohoshinki/DBSK became one of maybe two non-Johnny groups to be able to have consecutive number ones and actually present competition.

Final tidbit of FYI. So SNSD is release their single September 8th…and guess when JYJ is releasing their The…minialbum? Yeah…so just coincidence or revenge? Will this affect CD sales at all? Johnny’s groups usually bring terrible sales to other artists releasing the same week, and Tohoshinki’s been known to outsell them, not to mention this is JYJ’s big return after their Tokyo Dome stint, so no doubt fans are angsty. We’ll see. And that rumored 5 minute long Mister mv complete with story better be hella good. I’ve waited so long.

Thanks to Soshified for the article translation from Weekly Toyo Keizai, a business magazine.