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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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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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K-pop girl group Twice sell out Japan shows

All 15 concert dates on the Japanese leg of K-pop band Twice’s current world tour have sold out, after over one million fans applied for tickets.

The nine-piece girl group have concert dates at the Makomanai Ice Arena in Hokkaido (10,000-cap.), Chiba’s Makuhari Event Hall (9,000-cap.), the Osaka Jo Hall (16,000-cap.), Miyagi’s Sekisui Heim Super Arena (7,000-cap.), Nagoya’s International Exhibition Hall (13,500-cap.), Marine Messe Fukuoka (13,000-cap.) and Shizuoka’s Ecopa Arena (10,000-cap.)

JYP Entertainment, the management company behind the band, announced two extra dates on Sunday (27 October) at the 55,000-capacity Tokyo Dome.  Twice will be the first K-pop girl group to play two consecutive concerts at the dome. The shows will take place on 3 and 4 march 2020.

Twice will be the first K-pop girl group to play two consecutive concerts at the Tokyo Dome

The concerts are part of the Twicelights 2019 world tour, which has seen the band play in Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Mexico, Malaysia and the United States.

According to IQ’s recent Japanese market report, Japan is the second largest music market in the world, behind the United States and ahead of Germany. The country’s live sector has reached unprecedented levels in recent years, generating ¥332 billion in 2017 (£2.4bn) and ¥345bn (£2.5bn) in 2018.

K-pop in particular has “made a big impression” in Japan, with Twice and other bands such as BTS and Blackpink recording and performing Japanese versions of their songs.

 


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Big Hit acquires music game company Superb

Big Hit Entertainment, the agency behind K-pop stars BTS, has acquired Seoul-based music game company Superb.

Superb will retain its management team and “maintain its unique colour and independence as a game company.”

Through the acquisition, Big Hit expands its reach into music-based game development and services. Superb will capitalise on the entertainment company’s music and intellectual property to create games.

Big Hit chief executive Bang Shi Hyuk says he believes that the gaming industry “will create a strong synergy” with the music industry.

“We believe that Big Hit will especially thrive in the two industries, so we have been looking into many different opportunities. We believe this acquisition will bring a positive value and more possibilities for both companies, as well as the multi-labels that Big Hit is expanding into,” says Bang.

“We believe that Big Hit will especially thrive in the two industries, so we have been looking into many different opportunities”

Bang adds that Big Hit will continue its partnership with Korean game publisher Net Marble, which developed the game and mobile app BTS World.

Superb’s co-chief executive Kim Sun Haeng states that Big Hit is “revolutionising the music industry’s business model” and believes the deal “will be a new opportunity” for the gaming company.

“Superb has been focusing on creating new ways of having fun by combining music and games,” says fellow co-chief executive Oh Min Hwan, “through both parties’ revolutionary content and development ability, we will work to create content that lives up to expectations of global users.”

Founded in 2016, Superb has released rhythm-based game Pianista for mobile and Nintendo Switch and Yumi’s Cells with Naver Webtoon.

 


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Big Hit announces “extended” BTS break

K-pop stars BTS are taking a break from touring, following their appearance at the Lotte Duty Free Family Concert in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday (11 August).

For the first time since their 2013 debut, the band will be going on “an official and extended period of rest and relaxation”, reads a statement posted on management company Big Hit Entertainment’s Twitter page.

The break is intended to offer BTS members a chance to “recharge” and “enjoy the ordinary lives of young people in their 20s”.

The announcement follows the release of the third BTS feature film Bring the Soul: The Movie. The film opened in 110 countries, a record for ‘event cinema’. Since its release, the film has grossed US$4.4 million in the United States and $8.2m elsewhere, totalling $12.6m – a “noisy number for a special-event release” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“BTS will return refreshed and recharged to return all the love you have and continue to show them”

Big Hit Entertainment urges fans to “show consideration” for the band members’ need to rest, should they encounter one of the artists during their time off.

“BTS will return refreshed and recharged to return all the love you have and continue to show them,” concludes the statement.

BTS are scheduled to play a show at Saudi Arabia’s 70,000-capacity King Fahd International stadium on 11 October, before embarking on a three-night run at Seoul’s Olympic stadium (69,950-cap.). Tickets for all dates will become available soon.

 


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BTS Saudi Arabia concert prompts mixed reaction

K-pop stars BTS have added a date at Saudi Arabia’s 70,000-capacity King Fahd stadium to their 2019 world tour.

BTS are the latest high-profile act to announce dates in Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom continues its bid to put itself on the touring map. The boy band would be the first international group to play a solo stadium concert in the country. The concert is scheduled to take place on 11 October 2019 as part of the band’s Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour.

However, some fans have taken to social media to criticise the decision, questioning the Saudi government’s human rights record.

Nicki Minaj recently cancelled her appearance at the country’s largest-ever music festival, Jeddah World Fest, citing support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the organisation that lobbied for Minaj’s cancellation, is also urging fellow headliner Liam Payne to withdraw from the festival.

“Saudi Arabia is attempting to change the country’s image in part by developing an entertainment industry”

In a statement to Middle East Eye, Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle said that Saudi Arabia was “attempting to change the country’s image in part by developing an entertainment industry and hosting concerts by well-known artists”, and encouraged artists to speak out against abuses.

Others believe the opening up of the live entertainment market is a sign of Saudi Arabia’s growing liberalisation.

Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever gender-integrated concert series last December. The following month, Mariah Carey became the first international female to perform a solo concert at the King Abdullah stadium.

Jeddah World Fest takes place later this week (Thursday 18 July) at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium. All tickets for the event have sold-out.

Tickets for the King Fahd stadium tour date will become available soon.

 


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88rising announces North American tour

The Asian-American music collective 88rising has pleased fans once again by announcing a 16-date North American tour, just weeks after announcing their inaugural Head in the Clouds music festival.

Co-produced by Live Nation, the tour will kick off on 28 September in Philadelphia, PA and make stops across the US and Canada before wrapping up on 31 October in San Francisco, CA. It will feature label favourites including Don Krez, Keither Ape and NIKI.

News of a tour follows a busy year for the group. As well as planning for a tour and a festival, artists in the collective have been working on their forthcoming studio album, also called Head in the Clouds.

“88rising means ‘double happiness’ and that’s what we intend to bring to the live experience for years to come.”

The record will feature the label’s big names, including Rich Brian, Joji and Higher Brothers.  The first single from the upcoming album, titled ‘Midsummer Madness‘ has just been released and is currently topping both Spotify’s Global Viral 50 and United States Viral 50 charts.

On the subject of their upcoming live performances, 88rising founder and CEO Sean Miyashiro says: “88rising means ‘double happiness’ and that’s what we intend to bring to the live experience for years to come.”

88rising’s success is partly down to the rising popularity of Asian artists in western markets. In the past few years, a number of Asian performers, in particular South Korean artists have found huge success in the US and Europe. 88rising consider themselves to be the bridge between Eastern and Western youth culture.

Tickets for the 88 Degrees & Rising tour go on sale to the public on 22 June at 10am local time at LiveNation.com

 


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

The number of K-pop concerts in the west is on the rise as Korean artists become increasingly popular among North American and European audiences.

An infographic by live music crowdsourcing website MyMusicTaste, provided to Billboard, which analyses the spread of K-pop outside its home of South Korea and traditional stronghold in east Asia reveals that, from 2013 to present, the US was the foreign country with the third-highest number of K-pop concerts (102), behind only Japan and China.

The ‘Korean Wave’ has also hit Europe, where the number of shows grew to 30 last year (compared to 18 in 2014 and 14 in 2013), overtaking south-east Asia, which held 19 in 2015.

South America, too, has experienced consistent growth, from 12 K-pop concerts in 2013 to 16 in 2014 and 18 in 2015.

The Made 2015 world tour by Big Bang scored the highest attendance over the last three years, with an estimated 750,000 people worldwide attending 65 concerts

In Australia, 20 K-pop concerts have taken place since 2013, although no information is available about year-on-year growth.

Only the Middle East lags behind: it has hosted just one K-pop show, in the UAE, since 2013.

Most concerts in the period were by groups – 1,209, compared to 126 for solo artists – with the majority, 1,028, by male groups.

The Made 2015 world tour by boy band Big Bang scored the highest attendance over the last three years, with an estimated 750,000 people worldwide attending 65 concerts. TVXQ!’s With tour is close behind, with an attendance of 749,000 from 16 much larger shows, followed by Korean-Chinese group Exo’s Exo Planet #2 – The Exo’luxion (626,784), rapper G-Dragon’s One of a Kind in 2013 (570,000) and the sole female entranct Girls’ Generation/SNSD’s Girls & Peace tour of Japan (276,400).

View the full infographic, courtesy of MyMusicTaste and Billboard, below:

K-pop infographic (2013–2016), MyMusicTaste

 


Update: A number of fans of South Korean boy band Super Junior have written to us on Twitter to point out that the group may well deserve a place on the infographic above. According to the Super Junior, the band were the first K-pop act to perform 100 concerts worldwide and have performed to a total of 1.3 million people since 2008.