K-pop agencies keen to cash in on indie music

CHINA CRAZE: Indie band Hyukoh has sold out its Shanghai concert, showing the appeal of Korean indie music.


    Jun 30, 2016

    K-pop agencies keen to cash in on indie music


    IN ANOTHER sign that the worlds of K-pop and indie music are colliding, some 3,000 concert tickets for indie rock band Hyukoh sold out in just one minute in mainland China.

    This was revealed last week by the band's management agency, Duruduru AMC.

    The Shanghai concert on July 9 will be its first performance in the country.

    It was a stark contrast to its quiet debut in the South Korean music scene in 2014 when it dropped an EP titled 20.

    The music gained traction when people began sharing the moody tunes on social media.

    Now, Hyukoh has been signed up by HIGHGRND, the indie branch of major K-pop agency YG Entertainment.

    Industry experts say large K-pop agencies have caught on to the profit potential of indie bands who are cost-efficient.

    They make their own music and require little additional training - and boast growing mainstream appeal.

    "Just because (indie bands) operate on a small budget does not mean the consumer base is also small," said Jang Kyu Soo, director of the Entertainment Industry Research Institute.

    SM Entertainment and Loen Entertainment - known for churning out commercially successful, if highly produced, music - have also created indie labels and are actively scouting successful indie artists.

    Some welcome the potential of a healthy tie-up of corporate money and creativity while others worry that the free-spirited indie scene is being overrun by market principles.

    Hong Jung Taek, chief operating officer of HIGHGRND, sees this new corporate-indie cooperation as a way to allow struggling artists to pursue their craft with better resources.

    Indie labels also offer big agencies a chance to rebrand themselves as more "artistic" and less "commercial", said Mr Jang.

    "A growing number of consumers feel (K-pop) is too commercial and limited," he noted.

    Lee Kyu Young, who owns independent indie label Ruby Records, said this new model could help deliver indie music to a wider audience.

    But music critic Kim Yoon Ha noted: "The very definition of 'indie' is to be independent from large companies.

    "Saying big companies own indie labels is an oxymoron."