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Universal Music, YG invest in livestreaming service

Universal Music Group (UMG) and K-pop label YG Entertainment have invested in KBYK Live, a livestreaming company backed by BTS’s management company, Big Hit Entertainment.

The investment from YG – home to Korean superstars including Blackpink, Big Bang and iKon – and UMG will go towards expanding KBYK Live’s VenewLive, bringing both companies’ rosters of artists to the platform, which boasts augmented reality (AR), multi-view and 4K streaming capabilities. KBYK Live was established after Big Hit and tech start-up Kiswe partnered last summer.

The technology behind VenewLive was demonstrated at BTS’s record-breaking Bang Bang Con: The Live and Map of the Soul: One in June and October respectively. The former drew in a peak concurrent audience of 756,000, while the latter was viewed by nearly a million people worldwide.

The shows also offered a variety of premium features, delivering a full stage production from multiple angles in 4K resolution, with live chat and synchronised light sticks.

“This past year has shown that the need for reliable and innovative livestreaming has never been greater”

“VenewLive has already livestreamed several large-scale performances last year and provided unique immersive fan concert experiences that can be offered through our cutting-edge technologies, including six-angle multi-views, 4K resolution and various interactive features,” says KBYK Live CEO John Lee. “Our technology will be the basis for enabling fans to feel closer to artists, and help artists express their energy on a digital stage.”

“We are excited about this investment as our company, with many artists competitive on a global stage, has secured a high-quality platform with leading technologies,” adds YG Entertainment COO Sung Jun Choi. “We will continue to do our best to provide more interactive experiences and new services to global fans.”

Boyd Muir, executive vice-president and CFO of Universal Music, says its unspecified investment into KBYK/VenewLive will allow the company to “evolve the opportunities and live streaming experiences for UMG artists and their fans today and into the future”.

“This past year has shown that the need for reliable and innovative livestreaming has never been greater,” he adds. “VenewLive offers some of the most creative and memorable opportunities for today’s artists to globalise their art and performances, tailored to enhance the community and fan experience.”

 


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Live music to start 2021 with a (virtual) bang

Tomorrowland, Big Hit and Lost Horizon have each announced virtual New Year’s Eve events to close a year of hugely successful livestreamed events.

Belgium EDM giant Tomorrowland has announced New Year’s Eve celebration ‘31.12.2020’, which will see more than 25 DJs perform across 27 time zones to usher in the new year.

The festival will start at 8 pm local time in all zones and will close at 3 am after performances from Armin van Buuren, CamelPhat, Charlotte de Witte, David Guetta, Diplo, Major Lazer, Martin Garrix, Snoop Dogg aka DJ Snoopadelic and more.

The festival will be hosted on Tomorrowland’s website and performances will be streamed from four stages in Naoz, a brand new digital entertainment venue in which “some of the festival’s most iconic themes” will feature.

Tomorrowland held its first-ever digital festival, Tomorrowland Around the World, in July and saw 1 million fans pay to attend – 150% more festivalgoers than usual.

K-pop superstars BTS are also expected to expand on the success of their 2020 virtual events, which have seen them break records and earn millions.

The group’s management Big Hit yesterday announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for a hybrid New Year’s Eve event.

Big Hit announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for NYE

The concert, presented by Weverse, will be livestreamed and limited seating will be available, in accordance with the government Covid-19 restrictions. If restrictions change, preventing the in-person aspect, the event will go fully digital.

Nu’est, Enhypen, Txt and Gfriend have already been confirmed for the event, with more line up announcements expected tomorrow (12 November).

BTS performed on New Year’s Eve last year, headlining Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest in New York’s Times Square alongside Post Malone, Sam Hunt and Alanis Morissette and more.

Lost Horizon, the VR music venue created by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La, will also be hosting a special New Year’s Eve event to end a season of virtual events in December.

The season will take place in VR event platform Sansar and will play host to DJs, underground acts and visual artists, before culminating with ‘Chasing Midnight’, a 24-hour global celebration on New Year’s Eve, taking in 12 time zones and 12 countdowns.

Lost Horizon launched its premiere festival in July, a four-stage event in Sansar featuring artists including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, which reached 4.36m viewers, according to organisers.

 


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Korean tech giant invests in K-pop’s SM Entertainment

South Korean technology firm Naver is investing in K-pop management company SM Entertainment, in a deal believed to be worth over €70 million.

SM Entertainment, one of the largest entertainment companies in Korea, is home to K-pop acts including EXO, Red Velvet, Super Junior, BoA, NCT and Girls’ Generation.

Naver Corporation, which operates Korean search engine Naver, mobile messaging service Line and live broadcasting app VLive, is not the first tech giant to show interest in SM, in which Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba took a 4% stake in 2016.

South Korean technology firm Naver is investing in K-pop management company SM Entertainment, in a deal believed to be worth over €70 million

Naver is believed to be acquiring shares worth approximately ₩100 billion (€71.2m), or just over 12% of the company, making it the second largest shareholder after SM Entertainment founder, Lee Soo-man.

According to AllKpop, Naver plans to use the intellectual property owned by SM Entertainment, which is home to acts including, to bolster content across its own platforms.

The deal follows a similar investment by Naver in fellow K-pop giant YG Entertainment, home to acts such as Blackpink, Big Bang and iKon, in 2017.

Founded in 1995, SM Entertainment is one of the big three Korean entertainment firms, along with YG Entertainment and BTS home Big Hit.

Last year, SM became the first K-pop company to join forces with a US talent agency, signing with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) for company-wide representation.

Photo: mang2goon/Wikimedia Commons via YouTube (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)


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BTS, Big Hit donate $1m to Crew Nation

K-pop stars BTS and its agency/management company Big Hit Entertainment have put US$1 million towards Live Nation’s Crew Nation fund, matching a donation the band made earlier this month to the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to statement obtained by Variety, the donation is one of the largest artist donations submitted to the Crew Nation fund so far.

Live Nation set up the Crew Nation fund in April to support touring and venue crews through the coronavirus pandemic. The live entertainment giant pledged $10m to the fund, comprising of an initial $5m donation and a commitment to match tth next $5m donated by artists, fans and employees.

At the start of June, Live Nation announced its Crew Nation Presents concert series in Madrid, which will see €1 from each ticket sold donated to the fund.

“We are aware that a lot of communities need help due to Covid-19, and we wanted to support the music industry crews by making a donation”

“If it weren’t for Covid-19, we would have been happily touring across the world with many of our live concert crews by now,” comment BTS, who recently performed in the most-attended paid live stream in history, peaking at 756,600 concurrent viewers.

“We are aware that a lot of communities need help due to Covid-19, and we wanted to support the music industry crews by making a donation. We hope to meet again on stage very soon.”

Earlier this month, BTS helped raise over $2m for Black Lives Matter, in the week following the music industry’s Black Out Tuesday initiative. The band committed $1m and encouraged fans to collectively match their donation using the #MatchAMillion hashtag, with the fanbase ultimately raising around $1.3m.

The boyband was set to embark on its mammoth Map of the Soul tour in April.

 


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Big Hit releases BTS-themed Korean language course

Big Hit Entertainment, home to K-pop superstars BTS, is launching ‘Learn Korean with BTS’, a series of videos dedicated to enabling global audiences to understand the band’s lyrics.

The release comes as many around the world are looking for new ways to pass the time, as they are confined to their homes or facing social restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rolling out on fan community platform Weverse tomorrow (24 March), ‘Learn Korean with BTS’ consists of three-minute videos teaching simple Korean grammar and expressions.

The episodes will be aired a total of 30 times, with the first three three episodes released at 5 a.m. (GMT) on 24 March, followed by one episode released every Monday at 12 p.m. All episodes will be free for anyone who is registered on Weverse.

“With the recent popularity of K-pop, the demand for learning Korean is increasing greatly”

Professor Heo Yong of the Department of Korean Education at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and researchers at the Korean Language Content Institute (KOLCI) participated in the development of the learning programme.

Big Hit plans to expand the venture to include educational content for other artists on its roster in the future.

“With the recent popularity of K-pop and other Korean cultural contents, the demand for learning Korean is increasing greatly, so we are planning Korean education contents to improve our accessibility,” reads a Big Hit press statement.

“We hope that through learning Korean, global fans will be able to deeply empathise with the music of artists and enjoy a wide range of content.”

Big Hit works with artists including Tomorrow X Together and Lee Hyun.

 


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BTS to visit three new European stadia on 2020 tour

Following a short hiatus from touring, K-pop superstars BTS are heading back out on the road in 2020, visiting stadia in South Korea, Japan, the United States, Canada, and Europe.

The tour is the band’s first outing since their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself world tour, which was the sixth highest-grossing tour of last year, generating US$170.3 million and selling over 1.3m tickets.

Beginning on 11 April with four dates at Seoul’s 69,950-capacity Olympic Stadium, the 2020 Map of the Soul tour sees BTS head to Europe in July, after 15 North American dates and two shows in Fukuoka, Japan. The band are playing two nights each at London’s 82,000-capacity Twickenham Stadium, Berlin’s 74,475-capacity Olympiastadion and the 55,926-capacity Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona.

BTS will return to the UK on 3 July after two record-breaking shows at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena and two sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium last year. The Wembley gig, which saw the band play to 120,000 fans over live shows and to 140,000 more across the world via live stream, marked the first time a Korean act headlined the iconic London stadium.

The K-pop group will play at stadia in Germany and Spain for the first time

The K-pop group will also visit Germany and Spain, playing at stadia in the two countries for the first time. The Stade de France, along with London’s Wembley Stadium, were the only two European stadium dates appearing on the Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour.

Following the European leg, BTS will return to Japan, playing a six-night run at the Kyocera Dome (55,000) in Osaka and two shows a piece at Saitama’s MetLife Dome (34,000) and the Tokyo Dome (55,000).

The 2020 tour is the boyband’s biggest North American outing yet, seeing them perform a run of stadium shows at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium (68,5000-cap.), Los Angeles’ Rose Bowl Stadium (90,888), Dallas’ Cotton Bowl Stadium (92,100), Orlando’s Camping World Stadium (65,000), Atlanta’s Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000), East Rutherford’s MetLife Stadium (82,500), Washington’s FedExField (82,000), Toronto’s Rogers Centre (53,506) and Chicago’s Soldier Field (61,500).

Tickets for the Map of the Soul tour go on sale on Friday 7 February at 3 p.m. local time here. A verified fan presale begins on 5 February at 3 p.m. local time, with presale for non fan club members opening at the same time the following day. Fans can register for the verified fan presale now here.

A full list of tour dates can be found on the BTS website.

 


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Korean ‘industry pros’ implicated in $4m K-pop scam

Several South Korean industry insiders have been accused of defrauding promoters and investors out of more than ₩5 billion (US$4 million) by posing as representatives of BTS’s management company, Big Hit Entertainment.

According to The Fact (via Allkpop), a total of 11 music companies, primarily small and medium-sized promoters, were targeted by concert professionals ‘K’ and ‘D’, who forged Big Hit contracts and took ‘deposits’ – ranging from ₩150m ($130,000) to ₩1.4bn ($1.2m) – for non-existent BTS shows.

In one typical example, The Fact reports, an Indonesian promoter put down a deposit for a BTS concert due to take place some time between November 2019 and February 2020. The ‘fee’ for the show is listed as US$2.8m, with the number of concertgoers estimated at 50,000.

Other individuals involved in the alleged scam include a famous actor, ‘A’, and their manager, ‘Seok’, who posed to Chinese investors as a Big Hit Entertainment board member.

One of the victims, ‘L’, says: “The manager, ‘Seok’, deceived them by saying that he holds the rights to distribute BTS transportation cards at ‘C Entertainment’, an agency created by him and ‘A’. The Chinese investors believed the stories of the famous Korean actor and his manager and invested about ₩800m [$685,000] in distributing the fake cards.”

“The Chinese investors believed the stories … and invested about ₩800m”

Other victims include companies based in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong company, reports Soompi, realised they had been scammed after a concert due to take place in the city-state did not go ahead.

‘K’ was reportedly arrested on 9 November and is being held in a detention centre in Seoul. Police believe he has a history of posing as other Korean artists and their representatives, including Exo, Super Junior, Lee Min Ho and Sistar.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Big Hit says the company was unaware the scammers were posing as its employees. “We did not learn about this ‘fake document’ until we received photos of the reports,” it reads. “The contracts depicted in the photos [obtained by The Fact] are fake documents, and have nothing to do with Big Hit Entertainment. When we confirm specific details of such crimes and damages caused by these crimes, we will take legal action.”

The scam appears to be a more sophisticated version of those employed against promoters in Europe, who have been targeted by bogus emails purporting to come from leading booking agents.

 


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CAA takes on roster of K-pop giant SM Entertainment

Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed K-pop management company SM Entertainment for representation in all areas.

CAA will assist on all areas of SM Entertainment’s business, including lifestyle brands and advertising, in addition to live events.

Based in Seoul, SM Entertainment looks after artists including new supergroup SuperM, girl groups f(x), Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation, NCT sub-unit NCT 127 and Super Junior.

In 2016, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group bought US$30 million worth of shares in the entertainment company, equivalent to a 4% stake.

The deal marks the first time one of the major K-pop management companies – SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment (Blackpink, Bigbang) and Big Hit Entertainment (BTS, Tomorrow X Tomorrow, Lee Hyun) – has entered into such an agreement with a US talent agency.

“We are honoured and excited to be working with the incredible SM team to support the growth of what is already a huge fan base around the world”

“It is a great pleasure [to be] working together with the largest entertainment and sports agency in the US,” comments SM Entertainment executive director Soo-Man Lee, adding that SuperM and NCT 127 in particular “will expand further on the global market with CAA”.

“This contract is only the beginning of our collaboration,” continues Soo-Man Lee. “I hope to contribute to our forthcoming global entertainment business by providing new visions and creating more meaningful content.”

“Seeing an SM Entertainment show is an amazing experience,” says CAA president Richard Lovett. “Soo-Man Lee and his talented team have an incredible eye for high energy and charismatic talent. We are honoured and excited to be working with the incredible SM team to support the growth of what is already a huge fan base around the world.”

The companies have already worked together on SuperM’s upcoming North American tour, which kicks off on 11 November in Texas, and on TV appearances for NCT 127.

 


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Company behind BTS to form new girl band

Big Hit Entertainment, home to K-pop sensations BTS, is calling global auditions to launch a new girl band, in conjunction with its label Source Music.

The auditions are taking place in 16 cities worldwide in the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand.

The auditions will be used to select members for a new girl group, aimed to debut in 2021.

Big Hit chief executive and founder Bang Si-Hyuk and chief brand officer Min Hee-jin are leading the project, with Bang overseeing all elements of production and Min focusing on creative direction and branding.

The new band will be Big Hit’s first girl group since Min joined the company in January. Min previously worked at Korean record label and agency SM Entertainment, where she worked on projects for girl groups Girls’ Generation, f(x) and red velvet.

Big Hit Entertainment, home to K-pop sensations BTS, is calling global auditions to launch a new girl band

Founded in 2005, Big Hit focuses on music production, artist management and publishing. The company is behind artists Lee Hyun and Tomorrow X Together (TXT). The company’s most famous creation, BTS, recently broke more box-office records with tour film Bring the Soul: The Movie.

Big Hit has enjoyed a profitable 2019 so far, generating revenues in six months that almost surpass last year’s total. The company recently announced plans for a BTS TV series and added to its partnership with game publisher Net Marble, acquiring music gaming company Superb.

The full list of audition dates and locations can be found below, with more information available via the Plus Global Audition Twitter and Instagram pages.

 

Los Angeles, New York City: 5 October
Perth, Singapore: 12 October
Melbourne: 13 October
Busan, Gwangju, Osaka, Sapporo, Taipei: 19 October
Seoul, Tokyo, Kaohsiung: 20 October
Hanoi, Bangkok: 26 October
Ho Chi Minh: 27 October

 


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Big Hit reports record H1 results amid future plans

The first half of 2019 has proved extremely profitable for Big Hit Entertainment, the company behind K-pop stars BTS, generating revenues that almost surpass last year’s total.

The Seoul-based company reported record revenues of KRW 200.1 billion (US 166.4 million) in the first half of 2019, not far from the KRW 214bn ($178m) generated in the whole of 2018. Operating profits were also up from the same period of last year, at KRW 39.1bn ($32.5m).

Speaking at the company’s ‘Big Hit corporate briefing with the community’ at the Korea Textile Centre, Big Hit CEO Bang Si-Hyuk said that enhancing brand power through artists such as BTS was at “the core of Big Hit’s IP [intellectual property] business vision”.

Big Hit plans to develop a new TV drama series based on the BTS Universe (BU), a fictional storyline told through the band’s music videos, for the second half of 2020.

The company is also working on a new BTS-themed game project in collaboration with Korean game publisher Net Marble, adding to its growing presence in the music gaming sector.

Bang also stated that new kinds of customer experience would help boost revenues and expand the whole market further. Part of this strategy includes changing the way fans experience concerts.

“Big Hit is committed to turning the host city of a concert into a festival, improving inconvenient and unfair elements and enhancing the overall customer experience,” explains Lenzo Yoon, chief executive of Big Hit’s business contents.

“Big Hit is committed to turning the host city of a concert into a festival, enhancing the overall customer experience”

The company plans to expand its ticket raffle system to counter touting, facilitate quick-and-easy merchandise sales and establish a ‘play-zone’ for concertgoers to pass the time before music begins.

For those not attending a show, Big Hit intends to put on live viewings near concert venues, introduce real-time streaming and set up pop-up shops and exhibitions on concert days, to turn the area around a venue into a ‘city of celebration’.

Fan community platforms, such as Weverse, Weply and BTS Fan Cafe, are another area with potential to improve customer experience, according to Steve Seo, chief executive of Big Hit subsidiary Benx.

The platforms can serve as a “one-stop service in the music industry”, integrating the whole process for customers, “from ticket purchase to identity verification, special event interaction and buying merchandise.”

Two million people have signed up to Weverse, which facilitates fans-to-artist interaction, since it launched in June.

Currently on an “extended” break, BTS return on 11 October, with a show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before a three-night run at Seoul’s 69,950-capacity Olympic Stadium. Tickets for the Korean shows are available here for KRW 110,000 ($91).

 


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