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At the epicentre of K-pop, everything moves at lightning speed. With quarantine measures lifting in 2022, the region’s hunger for live shows reaching ravenous extremes, population growing, and its IT platforms outperforming any in the world, South Korea’s live music culture has not so much bounced as catapulted back to life.
“This country is an extremely trendy market, with everything moving fast, including fashion, trends etc,” says Tommy Jinho Yoon, CEO of ACI Live Asia, one of the region’s biggest promoters alongside Live Nation, Creativeman, Summer Sonic, and Ovation Productions.
“Everything needs to be done quickly, and there is no time for patience.”
“Everything needs to be done quickly, and there is no time for patience. This is the general mentality of the pop culture in South Korea, and it’s been like this for many years. Korea has always been aggressive towards the entertainment world, meaning people really love music and live shows here. Regardless of any economic changes and challenges that may be faced through the region, there will always be demands for shows here.”
Pre-pandemic, ACI had launched YOURSUMMER Festival, the first festival in Korea to consist largely of international acts (including Rita Ora and Zedd) and saw their show with The 1975 sell out at Seoul’s Olympic Hall. Such levels of international action are swiftly returning to the region. But as K-pop has become a global sensation; Yoon argues that the business has grown unnecessarily combative in South Korea.
“Competition would have to be one of the primary challenges yet also one of the biggest ways of creating opportunities,”
“Competition would have to be one of the primary challenges yet also one of the biggest ways of creating opportunities,” he says.
“If there is one artist everyone wants, several promoters make several offers, resulting in a bidding war. No holds barred! I’m sure this sort of challenge takes place in other regions as well, but from our experiences having offices in Korea and the US, we see Korea’s competitiveness is at a much higher level, resulting in promoters having no respect for one another. Japan still seems to better-understand the meaning of respect in the business world […] generally speaking, there is less of a war in the entertainment world in Japan compared to South Korean
The popularity of K-pop is also the key to success for new artists wanting to break in the territory, say Live Nation Korea’s Steven Kim and Yongbae Cho, who say artists’ overall style should be relevant to current K-pop trends. “Collaborating with pop and K-pop artists who are already popularly established in Korea, are the best methods of building an artist here,” they explain.
“Younger fans in Korea are more drawn to discover new artists online who are actively communicating with their followers on social media”
“Younger fans in Korea are more drawn to discover new artists online who are actively communicating with their followers on social media, sharing their other attributes besides music, for example, talking about and/or sharing their looks, taste in fashion, lifestyle, celebrity friends, and so on.”Yoon emphasises the importance of trust and firm relationships within the live music industry – alongside a firm grip on social media promotion – as key to success.
“Due to our long history of being one of the promoters that essentially created the international show market and festivals in the region for [the] last 25 years, we have accumulated a person- to-person, relationship-based community with fans, which still plays a very valuable and undeniably important role. And we believe it will always remain as one of, if not the most important tools to sustain concert marketing in the region, regardless of the technical advancement of the marketing world in the future.”
“Regardless of the technology advancements, the fundamental ingredients that formed music was from the hearts for the hearts,”
By establishing a unified network of promoter allies across southeast Asia as “the engine to sustain and enhance the development of international tours,” Yoon sets a sense of loyalty between artists, managers, agents, promoters, and fans at the core of a successful South Korean strategy.
“Regardless of the technology advancements, the fundamental ingredients that formed music was from the hearts for the hearts,” he says.
“As we promote shows, rather than just looking at numbers, we try to connect with the audience for better communication and to genuinely provide better foundations and to educate each other, which motivates and results in new innovations. Although Korea is extremely trendy and everything moves quickly, there’s still the essence of the basic human foundation that respects genuine music from the heart, regardless of genre. I believe this applies to anywhere in the world.”