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Super Junior sign with ICM Partners

ICM Partners has signed Super Junior, one of the world’s biggest K-pop acts, for representation outside Asia.

The nine-member boy band broke through globally in 2009 with their hit ‘Sorry Sorry’ and have gone on top win multiple awards in both Korea and internationally. The band’s most recent studio album, their ninth, Time Slip, debuted at number nine on Billboard’s World Albums chart.

Key figures in the so-called Korean Wave, Super Junior, signed to SM Entertainment, are also renowned for their live ‘Super Show’, having played to over two million fans across 150+ shows Asia, Europe and the Americas.

“We are thrilled to represent the kings of the Korean Wave, Super Junior,” comments Jon Pleeter, vice-president of concerts at LA-based ICM Partners.

“Along with [the band’s label] Label SJ, we look forward to growing the Super Junior brand across the media landscape, including global touring, marketing, business development and strategic partnerships.”


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AEG to open “revolutionary” new arena in Korea

AEG has signed an agreement with CJ Group, South Korea’s largest media conglomerate, to open a new entertainment complex in Seoul.

The deal, with CJ Group subsidiary CJ LiveCity Corporation, will see the creation of CJ LiveCity in Seoul’s Goyang City, comprising the 20,000-capacity Seoul Metropolitan Arena, a recording studio complex, a K-pop/Korean culture-themed entertainment district and a waterfront park.

Centrally located between five of Korea’s largest cities, AEG projects the new venue will attract more than 20 million visitors annually. It will, say the partners, become the country’s “largest and most advanced live performance venue for K-pop, international artist tours, sports events and Hallyu [Korean Wave] content.”

The agreement marks AEG’s entrance into the burgeoning South Korean live entertainment market and further expands its footprint in Asia, where existing and future venues include Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena, Thailand’s Bangkok Arena and EM Live, and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China.

CJ LiveCity CEO Michael Kim comments: “This collaboration combines CJ’s long-standing cultural business capabilities with AEG’s venue development and operations expertise and its global live touring and promotions capacities. Seoul Metropolitan Arena, which will be designed by a leading architectural firm, is expected to be a competitive venue not only across Asia, but also globally, due to performances of K-pop as well as world-renowned artists.

“The combination of CJ LiveCity and Seoul Metropolitan Arena will revolutionise Korea and the region’s entertainment landscape

“Securing qualified content based on building a world-class facility is a key success factor for the arena in CJ LiveCity. In this context, the collaboration with AEG, which is one of the world’s leading venue operators and global live music companies, will be one of the most important factors for the arena’s success.”

In addition to its entertainment activities – which include record labels, concert production/promotion and music publishing, as well as television production and the CGV cinema chain – CJ Group is active in food and food service, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, home shopping and business logistics.

The company turned over US$59 billion in 2018, and made $1.7bn profit.

“We believe that the combination of CJ LiveCity and the new Seoul Metropolitan Arena will revolutionise Korea and the region’s entertainment landscape,” says Adam Wilkes, president and CEO of AEG Asia. “Both AEG and CJ share a vision of Korea as a world-leading entertainment destination and we are thrilled to work with such an innovative leader. CJ has an in-depth understanding of the Korean and Asian markets and unparallelled experience in entertainment.

“We believe that Seoul Metropolitan Arena will become a must-play destination for world tours and look forward to breaking new ground together.”


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Promoters push for end to Chinese K-pop ban

Amid the growing popularity of K-pop and other Korean music globally, concert promoters in China are reportedly pressuring authorities to lift restrictions on South Korean artists performing in the country.

The People’s Republic of China issued a nationwide ban on performances by Korean artists – as well as a prohibition on South Korean television programmes, and on Korean celebrities appearing on Chinese TV – in November 2016, during a diplomatic row over the presence of US missiles in South Korea.

No major Korean artist has played in China, a market of some 1.4bn people, since – even as the likes of Exo, Twice, Blackpink and, most famously, BTS (who yesterday announced a new world stadium tour), have gone on to huge touring success elsewhere.

According to Bloomberg, “people familiar with the matter” have revealed that China-based promoters are now seeking permission to bring in Korean bands, though it is not clear whether the Chinese culture ministry will be receptive to their requests for permits.

“People are getting ready”

“People are getting ready,” says Archie Hamilton, MD of promoter Split Works. “There is a lot of money there.”

“A lot of Korean artists would like to tour” in China, adds Modern Sky booker Jordan Corso. “It’s too big a market [not to].”

The news comes amid a limited thaw in relations between the two nations that has seen a select number of groups being allowed to tour and South Korean programming returning to Chinese TV.

Shares of YG Entertainment, which manages Blackpink, gained nearly 3% on the publication of the Bloomberg report. JYP Entertainment, which represents Twice, rose 1.4%, while SM Entertainment, whose roster includes Exo and Super Junior, was also up as much as 3%.


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‘It’s a natural export market’: Becky Ayres on Sound City Korea

Becky Ayres, COO of international new-music brand Sound City, has spoken of the huge appetite for British music in South Korea, as the deadline approaches for applications for its upcoming fourth Sound City Korea music mission.

Sound City, the UK-based company behind the annual Liverpool Sound City festival and Sound City+ conference, expanded into South Korea in 2015 with backing from Arts Council England and the British Council, taking artists to showcase events MU:CON and Zandari.

While the western world’s growing love of Korean music and culture – the so-called ‘Korean wave’, exemplified by boy bands such as BTS and EXO – is well known, the rise of K-pop in Europe and North America is part of a “two-way” street, says Ayres, with emerging European, especially British, artists also finding a keen audience in South Korea.

“Koreans are really passionate about British music,” she tells IQ. “We’ve had a fantastic reception so far.”

Reflecting on the genesis of Sound City Korea, Ayres says: “It came about over a number of years. We’d had Korean acts at Sound City, the first of which performed at the 2013 edition, sponsored by Samsung. Then, Dave [Pichilingi], our CEO, went over to Korea and was blown away by how incredible the music scene is there – he said it reminded him of Japan in the ’80s and ’90s.”

That thriving music industry, “coupled with mindboggling technology” – Korea was streets ahead of the West when it came to mobile payments and the availability of high-speed internet, for example – “and a voracious appetite for British music”, meant it was a no-brainer to start sending UK artists over, she adds.

“Korea is a great early export opportunity”

Ayres also highlights – as in CD-buying Japan – Koreans’ healthy spend on music as a key attraction for acts wanting to make it is in the east.

“[Korea] is a great early export opportunity,” she continues. “The artists don’t have to be at a very established level – it’s just a really natural market for British music.

“But that doesn’t mean you can find success in the territory without doing a lot of homework first,” she adds. “As with any new market, knowledge of how businesses and infrastructure operate over there, and an understanding of the culture, is vital. Finding the right partner to help facilitate things will make all the difference.”

Ayres is also COO of Modern Sky UK – the British division of Chinese entertainment giant Modern Sky Entertainment, which bought into Sound City in April 2016 – and Sound City working with Modern Sky to take UK artists over to Sounds of the Xity in Beijing next year.

“Sound City has a longstanding relationship with many businesses and artists across Asia now, and our recent partnership with Modern Sky has only helped bolster that and create exciting new opportunities for artists travelling in both directions,” she says.

Applications for Sound City Korea (Zandari/MU:CON) are open until 6pm GMT on 27 July. Click here to apply.

“The bands that have taken part in these festival exchanges in the past have seen great returns,” said Ayres in May. “We look forward to seeing who steps forward this year.”


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K-pop superstars BTS announce world tour

Korean pop megastars BTS have announced Love Yourself, a seven-country (so far) world tour set to be their biggest yet.

BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan, or Bulletproof Boy Scouts), arguably the world’s biggest boy band, are one of the first K-pop acts to achieve lasting success outside Korea, last year collaborating with Steve Aoki and the Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart and performing on US TV institutions such as the American Music Awards and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. At home, the seven-piece also topped Forbes’s Korea Power Celebrity list in 2017.

A remix of their song ‘Mic Drop’, released in February, peaked at no28 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first chart entry by a K-pop group.

The band’s last tour, Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour, was seen by more than half a million people in Asia, Australasia and North and South America. The tour was particularly well received in the arenas of Latin America: according to the New York Times Magazine, the band’s March shows at Movistar Arena in Santiago reached an “earsplitting 127 decibels” – the loudest ever recorded at the venue – while their online popularity had become so entrenched in Chile that tour promoters didn’t even bother with a traditional media push”.

“BTS will launch a brand-new tour this year, entitled Love Yourself, following last year’s success of the Trilogy Episode

The Love Yourself tour will will kick off with two hometown shows in Seoul in August and wrap up at Paris’s Accorhotels Arena in October. It will also visit the O2 Arena in London, Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome.

“BTS will launch a brand-new tour this year, [en]titled Love Yourself, following last year’s success of the Trilogy Episode begun in 2014,” according a statement from tour promoter Big Hit Entertainment. “We have only released the concert schedule whose dates and venues have been confirmed, and will announce further schedules as they are confirmed later on.”

Other acts part of the ‘Korean Wave’ of pop groups making headway outside Asia include Exo, Big Bang, Girls’ Generation and Super Junior.

Boom in K-pop shows as Korean Wave hits the west [updated]

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