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K-pop giant SM Entertainment sells $173m share

South Korean internet company Kakao Corp is to buy a 9.05% stake in K-pop behemoth SM Entertainment for a reported 217.2 billion won ($172.8m).

The deal will see Kakao Corp become the second largest shareholder in the entertainment agency, home to acts including Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, EXO, NCT and Red Velvet.

The two companies will team up to pursue joint management projects together including global K-pop auditions, management and music distribution businesses, according to Reuters.

“We hope to work together in competing in the heavily contested global music and content market through this investment”

“We hope to work together in competing in the heavily contested global music and content market through this investment,” says Kakao Chief Investment Officer Bae Jae-hyun.

SM Entertainment says the capital raised through the deal will fund its new business strategy dubbed “SM 3.0” – establishing multiple production centres and labels as well as a music publishing-specialised subsidiary, and investing in the metaverse.

At the end of last year, the Seoul-based operation announced plans to launch a headquarters in Singapore, in order to strengthen its presence in Southeast Asia.

The SM boss also revealed ambitions to slowly expand not just to other parts of Southeast Asia, but also to the wider continent, including the Middle East.

 


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K-pop agencies’ warning over fake Fest World Tour

K-pop giants SM Entertainment and HYBE have warned fans about a fake event called Fest World Tour, which falsely advertised a number of their clients.

The tour claims to feature Enhypen, Mirae, WayV, NCT Dream and Seventeen at stadiums across Asia later this year, reports Soompi.

However, the management companies have each issued statements denouncing the announcement is a scam.

“It has come to our attention that an organisation has mentioned our artists NCT Dream and WayV, saying that they are participating in an event in Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand,” says SM True.

We wish to announce to the public that this information is misleading and incorrect. We would like to emphasise that our artists, NCT Dream and WayV, will not be participating in that event. We would like to ask the public not to respond to these schemes.”

We will take legal actions against such illegal and unauthorised attempts that infringe artist IP. We will continue to protect our artists’ rights

Belift LAB and Pledis Entertainment, which are both under the HYBE banner, have also put out similar statements and vow to take legal action.

“Any external event Enhypen participates is jointly announced by Belift LAB and the event organisers followed by discussions between both parties. Event organisers or hosts do not announce an event without an official announcement of Enhypen’s official channels. An unauthorised event that infringe Enhypen’s intellectual property has been announced online.

“We would also like to inform you that we will take legal actions against such illegal and unauthorised attempts that infringe artist IP. We will continue to protect our artists’ rights.”

Pledis has advised fans to request refunds from the purported organiser immediately if they have already purchased tickets.

 


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We Bridge music festival heads to Las Vegas

Infinite Prospects Entertainment (IPE) is teaming with MGM Resorts International on the inaugural We Bridge, a three-day cultural expo and two-day music festival event celebrating Asian culture.

Headlined by K-pop group Enhypen, the “multi-sensory, live event” will take place in Las Vegas from 21-23 April at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and 12,000-cap Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

The lineup will also include veterans such as Kang Daniel and Viviz, as well as newer artists Dreamcatcher, Cix, Oneus, Fromis_9 and BE’O, among others. Concert tickets are priced US$100-170 (€91-155), with two-day tickets available for $180-300 (€164-273).

“I’m honoured to be bringing a celebration of Asian culture to Las Vegas, one of the most culturally blended cities and entertainment capitals in the world,” says Alex Kang, CEO of global entertainment company IPE. “With the rise in Asian entertainment into mainstream prominence, we wanted to bring more awareness and access to artists, talent, and brands within our community.

“We are excited to have K-pop at the forefront of We Bridge’s music showcase this year, as the industry’s impact and popularity continue to grow. We see this as our humble beginning and have a vision of building an even bigger stage that is widely representative of all Asian talent.”

“K-Pop has quickly become a global phenomenon which Las Vegas experienced first-hand last year with BTS’ incredible sold-out concerts”

The Las Vegas Strip was turned purple in April 2022 when BTS performed four sold-out nights of their Permission To Dance On Stage tour at the city’s Allegiant Stadium.

“K-Pop has quickly become a global phenomenon which Las Vegas experienced first-hand last year with BTS’ incredible sold-out concerts,” says Chris Baldizan, MGM Resorts’ EVP of entertainment. “The We Bridge event gives us another opportunity to partner with Alex Kang and his team to deliver multi-cultural experiences of music, media, art and fashion to the destination.”

The Grammy Museum will also have its own stage over the three days on the expo floor consisting of special performances and Q&A panels with acts and is open to all attendees. Hi-touch events with the artists will follow each panel, accessible to all ticket holders of qualifying tiers.

“The Grammy Museum is thrilled to partner with We Bridge on its inaugural festival,” said Michael Sticka, president/CEO of the Grammy Museum. “Our Mission includes paying tribute to our collective musical heritage, while also celebrating the dynamic connection in people’s diverse backgrounds and music’s many genres. We look forward to celebrating Asian entertainment and culture by bringing our renowned public programming to the We Bridge stage.”

 


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Korea to gain three new concert arenas by 2025

South Korea is to gain three new concert venues by the end of 2025 as it moves to capitalise on the demand created by the K-pop explosion.

Billed as the nation’s first multi-purpose arena, the 15,000-seater Mohegan Inspire Arena is scheduled to open in the city of Icheon in the fourth quarter of 2023 and promises to “transform the entire landscape of the domestic performance arts industry”.

The venue, which will form the centrepiece of Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort, is projected to welcome four million guests a year. Previously, reports the Korea Times,the Seoul metropolitan area has relied on stadiums such as Gocheok Sky Dome, the KSPO Dome in Olympic Park and the Jamsil Sports Complex’s Main Stadium to host shows.

“Korea’s performing art industry has long been facing a shortage of high-quality venue that can support shows of top-tier artists”

“Given the strong demand for K-pop and other live performances, Korea’s performing art industry has long been facing a shortage of high-quality venue that can support shows of top-tier artists from home and abroad, and various cultural events,” says Ray Pineault, CEO and president of Mohegan. “This perhaps explains the expectations building around the Mohegan Inspire Arena far ahead of its construction completion.

“This new venue is poised to emerge as Korea’s first multi-purpose arena that can showcase various types of events, encompassing global artist performances, world-class sports league tournaments such as eSports, MMA, TV award shows and media IP-based exhibitions.”

Mohegan also operates the 10,000-cap Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, US.

Elsewhere, AEG and CJ LiveCity Corporation’s new K-pop-focused entertainment complex in South Korea is set to open in Goyang City, Seoul, in 2024. The 1.8 trillion won (€1.3 billion) development comprises the 20,000-capacity CJ LiveCity Arena and an outdoor performance space capable of accommodating 40,000 people.

In addition, South Korean IT giant Kakao and the Seoul metropolitan government are in the process of building the 19,000-cap Seoul Arena in the capital’s northern Dobong district, with work expected to be completed in October 2025.

 


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Made In Korea festival to launch in Paris next year

Made In Korea festival will be exported to the Accor Arena (cap. 20,300) in Paris on 18 and 19 February 2023, following a successful edition in London this summer.

Organisers today unveiled phase one of the lineup, which includes K-pop soloists CL and Chung Ha, along with groups like BtoB, Pentagon, Kard and Cherry Bullet.

Other confirmations include Korean rappers Kid Milli, Giriboy, Han Yo-han and Jjangyou, as well as DJ Dnopf and DJ Apro. The second and third phases of the Paris bill will be announced at a later date.

The most recent Made In Korea festival was held in London’s Southwark Park in July and was hailed as Europe’s biggest outdoor K-pop festival.

The most recent Made In Korea festival was held in London’s Southwark Park in July

The two-day event comprised a K-pop day featuring performances by Chung Ha, Cherry Bullet, Red Velvet, VIVIZ and more, along with a second hip-hop day, which included acts like Jay Park and Jessi.

Alongside music, the £168 ticket price also included non-music activities and events revolving around Korean fashion, lifestyle, culture, street food and more.

Made In Korea is one of a raft of new K-pop festivals that have launched in Europe in the last year, including K-pop.Flex which debuted in Frankfurt this year and Singapore’s HallyuPopFest which was transported to London’s OVO Wembley Arena in July.

K-pop.Flex, touted as Europe’s largest K-pop festival, will debut next September at London’s The O2. The venue’s VP and general manager Steve Sayer recently spoke to IQ about launching the festival, as well as Blackpink’s recent headline shows at the venue.

 


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AEG Presents partners with K-pop promoter Powerhouse

AEG Presents has announced a strategic partnership with K-Pop touring and marketing company Powerhouse.

The Seoul and Los Angeles-headquartered company has worked with some of the biggest names in K-Pop, including BTS, Blackpink, Monsta X, and Tomorrow X Together, and is a partner of the biggest K-pop festival in the world, CJENM’s KCON.

Having teamed up on many successful K-pop artists over the past 13 years, AEG Presents and Powerhouse will build on their relationship by collaborating on all aspects of live K-pop business including touring, production, marketing and media.

“In the course of last two decades, K-pop has grown to be one of the most popular genres in the global music industry,” says C.S. Hah, CEO and president of Powerhouse, founded in 2018.

“Our collaboration has only become more extensive as the barriers continue to evaporate between global music markets”

“The K-pop market has proven its depth and width to be more matured than ever, and I hope our launch of this formal partnership with AEG Presents can help K-pop grow to reach new horizons across the regions.”

Adam Wilkes, president and CEO of AEG Asia Pacific, adds: “Powerhouse and AEG Presents have a great history together, and our collaboration has only become more extensive as the barriers continue to evaporate between global music markets. This feels like a logical progression in our ongoing partnership.”

AEG Presents and Powerhouse kicked off their relationship in 2010, producing the SM Town Concert at Staples Center, regarded as the first blast of K-pop in the US and selling out 12,500 tickets in a matter of minutes.

Since then, the two companies have collaborated on blockbuster K-pop tours including BTS’ 2017 The Wings Tour North American arena shows and their 2018 Love Yourself arena world tour, as well as MONSTA X’s 2018 The Connect World Tour.

Over the last five months, the two companies have produced and promoted tours for the likes of Blackpink, Tomorrow X Together, Enhyphen and Ateez.

 


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The O2’s Steve Sayer on the K-pop boom

The O2’s VP and general manager Steve Sayer has spoken to IQ about the global K-pop boom after the London venue was lit up pink in honour of Blackpink’s two headline shows.

The 21,000-cap venue’s iconic white tent, and entrance sign were transformed to bright pink for the South Korean girl group’s AEG-promoted concerts on 30 November and 1 December.

The O2 was an early adopter of the K-pop craze, having welcomed BTS in October 2019, who smashed a merchandise sales record previously held by the Rolling Stones. The seven-piece band went on to make history the following year by playing to 120,000 people over two nights at Wembley Stadium, promoted by Live Nation.

“We hosted BTS before most people in the UK mainstream even knew who they were,” Sayer tells IQ. “They had this phenomenal fan base, but it was still relatively cult, and when we had those two shows I remember walking into the venue that morning – it was midweek and it wasn’t a school holiday – and there was this huge queue on the square outside The O2.

“We’ve had a lot of smaller K-pop artists and Asian artists play The O2 over the last 10 years, but that event really set the standard. You now have major artists – Blackpink’s a great example – that have the capability of selling out huge venues.”

“It’s a genre that is clearly only going to grow”

Europe’s largest K-pop festival, Kpop.Flex, sold more than 70,000 tickets in 84 countries for its inaugural edition at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany, in May.

Staged by K-Pop Europa in partnership with PK Events, K.Flex was due to make its UK debut at The O2 last month with acts including Winner, Pentagon and AB6IX, alongside the first-ever Kpop.Flex Awards For Emerging Artists. But the event was cancelled following the Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon, Seoul that killed 158 people. The festival, which returns to Germany from 17-18 June, will now launch in the UK from 22-24 September 2023.

“It was sad that we had to cancel the event recently, but I think everybody understood why,” notes Sayer. “But next year’s K. Flex is going to be brilliant, because there will be big headliners but it will also be an event that breaks some of the up-and-coming K-pop artists.

“In addition to K.Flex, we’ve have a number of other pencils for K-pop artists next year. It’s a genre that is clearly only going to grow and our partners on that event are very much connected with the Korean equivalent of our DCMS, which is actively using it as a way to promote Korean culture globally.”

“To mark Blackpink being the first female K-pop band to headline The O2, it was only right that the whole venue should be turned pink for the first time ever in their honour”

Blackpink recently became the first girl group to gross US$3 million (€2.9m) from a single arena concert in North America, generating $3.297m per night from their two 23,928-cap sellout shows at the Prudential Center in Newark from 14-15 November. The quartet will return to London in 2023 for their UK festival debut at BST Hyde Park on Sunday 2 July.

“We were very excited and proud to start Blackpink’s European arena tour with two historic nights at The O2 – a mere sneak peek into what they have planned for their colossal BST Hyde Park show in July 2023,” adds Simon Jones, SVP of International Touring at AEG Presents. “To mark Blackpink being the first female K-pop band to headline The O2, it was only right that the whole venue should be turned pink for the first time ever in their honour. Iconic!”

Meanwhile, Billboard‘s newly published Year in Touring places BTS as the 27th highest-grossing tour of 2022, generating US$75,489,240 from 458,144 ticket sales for just 11 shows.

BTS’ record label Big Hit Music announced in October that the K-pop superstars were moving forward with plans to fulfil their mandatory military service, ending a long-running debate in Korea over whether they should receive an exemption due to their artistic accomplishments.

 


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S.Korea’s SM Entertainment eyes expansion

South Korean entertainment giant SM Entertainment is planning to launch a headquarters in Singapore, in order to strengthen its presence in Southeast Asia.

The Seoul-based operation, which is home to K-pop acts such as Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation, EXO, SHINee, NCT and Aespa, says that the new HQ will be tasked with “managing joint ventures in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as communicating with [its South Korea office] for other related ventures and plans.”

SM Entertainment founder Soo-Man Lee told CNBC that the company is already  “in the midst of hiring more local talents, which will hopefully increase the full-time staff count.” The company is also “looking at hiring local undergraduates or fresh graduates for internships.”

On top of that, the company plans to launch retail businesses in Singapore, including cafes, merchandise stores and pop-up exhibitions.

The Singapore HQ will be tasked with “managing joint ventures in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand

The SM boss also revealed ambitions to slowly expand not just to other parts of Southeast Asia, but also to the wider continent, including the Middle East.

The company made its first foray into the region earlier this year after partnering with the Saudi Arabian investment department.

The deal will see SM discover, nurture and produce local S-pop (Saudi pop) artists with the active support of the Saudi Ministry of Investment, with plans to establish a venue “that can hold music festivals year-round”.

SM also plans to build a metaverse platform to “share Korean and Saudi culture” and “actively promote local business… production of various contents, and production and sales of products using IP”.

 


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Blackpink make history with US concerts

Blackpink have made history by becoming the first girl group to gross US$3 million (€2.9m) from a single arena concert in North America.

According to @touringdata, the K-pop superstars generated $3.297m a night from their two 23,928-cap sellout shows at the Prudential Center in Newark from 14-15 November.

The South Korean quartet’s current Born Pink World Tour commenced at Seoul’s 20,000-cap KSPO Dome on 15 October before embarking on a US leg, which wrapped up last weekend with two dates at Los Angeles’ Banc of California Stadium.

The tour lands in Europe next week for stops at The O2 in London (30 November & 1 December), Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona (5 December), Cologne’s Lanxess Arena (8 December), Accor Arena in Paris (11-12 December), Royal Arena, Copenhagen (15 December), Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin (19-20 December) and Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome (22 December).

Blackpink’s 2018-20 In Your Area World Tour scored a total of $56,756,285 at the box office from 36 dates

In 2023, Blackpink have a string of huge outdoor dates lined up in Thailand, China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore from January to March, followed by a tour of Australia and New Zealand in June. They will also headline the 65,000-cap BST Hyde Park in London on 2 July.

The group’s 2018-20 In Your Area World Tour scored a total of $56,756,285 at the box office from 36 dates.

Elsewhere, Korean eight-piece Stray Kids will become the second K-pop boy band (after BTS) to headline a US stadium when they perform at the 22,000-cap Banc of California Stadium in LA on 31 March 2023 as part of their Maniac World Tour.

 


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K-pop concert in Indonesia cut short after crowd crush

K-pop band NCT 127 had to cut short their first-ever concert in Indonesia after 30 attendees fainted during a crowd crush.

Around two hours into the Jakarta concert, the band handed out freebies causing fans to surge toward the stage until the barricade fences collapsed.

“Because of it, 30 people fainted. To prevent other incidents, we decided to stop the concert at 9.20pm,” said police spokesperson, Endra Zulpan, adding that the collapsed fans had recovered.

Police allowed a second NCT 127 concert to go ahead on Saturday (5 November), but banned the distribution of merchandise to fans and required stricter measures to separate fans and performers.

“To make amends [for the crush] and give the best experience, we will add more paramedics and security personnel for the day 2 show,” the concert organiser Dyandra Global Edutainment said on Instagram.

It is the third crowd control incident in Indonesia in just over a month, prompting concerns from the Association of Indonesian Music Promoters about whether the remainder of this year’s concerts and festivals would be able to secure the necessary permits.

Last weekend, police cancelled the third day of the Berdendang Bergoyang music festival in Jakarta after nearly 30 people fainted due to overcapacity.

While, last month, 131 people were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede as they attempted to leave the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, after a football match.

AMPI has claimed officials could have a tougher stance on concerts and festivals, which would effect forthcoming events such as Soundrenaline, Head in the Clouds and Djakarta Warehouse Party.

However, the music body has stressed that the incidents at the live music events should not be equated with the Kanjuruhan stadium disaster.

“To make amends and give the best experience, we will add more paramedics and security personnel for the day 2 show”

Overcrowding was also the cause of two massive tragedies the weekend before last, in South Korea and the Congo.

The former incident happened following the Halloween celebrations in Itaewon in Seoul on Saturday (29 October). It was reported that over 100,000 people gathered in the district, which witnessed the crowd crush that killed over 150 lives and injured more than 100 others.

On the same day, 11 people died following a crush at an overcrowded stadium concert in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. Two police officers were among the victims at singer-songwriter Fally Ipupa’s hometown headline show at the Stadium of Martyrs on Saturday.

The two disasters came just weeks after nine people died in a stampede at a rock music festival in Guatemala.

In other news, a foundation has been launched in memory of 23-year-old Madison Dubiski, who was killed during the deadly crowd surge at last year’s Astroworld Festival, in an effort to ensure concert safety.

The Pink Bows Foundation is aiming to promote stronger safety protocols at concerts and provide scholarships to students interested in pursuing a career in risk management.

“Pink Bows Foundation promotes stronger safety protocols to be consistently implemented at entertainment venues, while encouraging safe spaces and protecting attendees to prevent avoidable injuries or death,” reads the charity’s mission statement.

The organisation is also working to establish legislation, possibly named Maddie’s Law or Showstoppers, that would stop events that don’t adhere to necessary safety measures.

The first wrongful death lawsuit settlements over last year’s Astroworld festival tragedy were reached at the end of last month.

 


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