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Save Our Stages movement reaches South Korea

Around 70 South Korean bands will take part in a livestreamed benefit concert in aid of the country’s shuttered music venues.

Taking inspiration from the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA)’s Save Our Stages campaign in the US, which culminated in a US$15 billion relief package of the same name, #SaveOurStages Korea launches with a multi-day event taking place at five music venues in western Seoul.

Local acts Galaxy Express, No Brain, Jambinai and Crying Nut are among those taking part in the #SaveOurStages concert, which runs from 8 to 14 March in the Hongdae area of the South Korean capital, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Promoter CODE says most of the money raised in ticket sales and donations will be used to pay venues’ rent and compensate artists and staff, with the remaining amount going back into the local music scene.

Hongdae (pictured) is one of Seoul’s most popular shopping and entertainment areas, but has been hit hard by lockdown and social distancing measures. The greater Seoul area is currently under a 9pm curfew, with gatherings of five or more people banned.

 


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Fan tents and sanitiser showers at 1,200-cap K-pop show

An estimated 1,200 K-pop fans attended an innovative socially distanced live show intended to offer a blueprint for how live events may continue in South Korea while Covid-19 is still a threat.

The Live in DMZ concert, held as part of an annual event promoting peace in the Korean peninsula, was organised by the government of the province of Gyeonggi as a means of providing “comfort” to people who are tired of ongoing coronavirus restrictions, according to local media.

For the show, fans were placed in 300 clear dome-shaped tents, specially constructed for the occasion and capable of seating four people (from a single household/bubble) apiece. According to organisers, the tents aim are the first of their kind in the world, and prevent the transmission of potentially disease-carrying droplets between fans.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, the Gyeonggi authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist at the entrance to the concert, as well as a thermal temperature-checking system and a ‘distancing fence’ to prevent household mixing in the waiting area before fans took their seats, reports the Gyeonggi Daily.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist

For the purposes of contact tracing, all attendees were required to fill in a health-check questionnaire and provide their details in advance of the show. After filling in the form, ticket buyers received an automatically generated QR code to use for entry into the concert.

Explaining the concept to Cities Today, Lee Jae-gang, Gyeonggi’s vice-governor for peace, says: “By operating a web-based access system that enabled entry using QR codes for confirmation, the Gyeonggi provincial government was not only able to implement rapid and accurate quarantine procedures, but [can] also undertake follow-up management by once again sending self-health-check questionnaires to concert attendees two weeks after the event.”

https://twitter.com/KJH_GLOBAL/status/1320666624010055682

Held from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 October at the 41,000-seat Goyang Sports Complex in Goyang (a satellite city of South Korean capital Seoul), the Live in DMZ show featured performances from local stars including Monsta X, Mamamoo, Itzy, Loona, (G)I-dle, and Oh My Girl’s Seunghee and Yooa.

According to Cities Today, the novel set-up gave the stadium a capacity of 1,200 for Live in DMZ, while an additional 400 people watched the concert online.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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BTS gross an estimated $44m from weekend live streams

K-pop superstars BTS have grossed over $44 million from their ticketed virtual concert weekend, Map of the Soul On:e.

The two-day live stream was broadcast live from Seoul in South Korea on 10 and 11 October and reached 993,000 viewers in 191 regions.

This is a substantial increase from the group’s record-breaking livestream concert in June, Bang Bang Con: The Live show, which was watched from 104 regions.

General admission tickets for Map of the Soul On:e were priced at $81 for a weekend ticket; $90.89 for a weekend ticket plus entry to the online exhibition; and $44.55 upwards for a day ticket.

Production for Map of the Soul On:e is said to have cost eight times more than Bang Bang Con: The Live

For the Bang Bang Con: The Live concert, the group charged between $24 and $32 and grossed an estimated $18m.

Map of the Soul On:e, the world’s first streaming concert that applied both multi-view and 4K/HD, comprised a total of 23 performances across two 150-minute concerts.

Production for the show is said to have cost eight times more than Bang Bang Con: The Live, comprising four stages; technological features such as AR, XR and 4K/HD to bring viewers a more vivid and theatrical concert experience; and multiview live streaming that displays six screens from which fans could select their favourite.

Bang Bang Con: The Live, earned the group a Guinness World Record title for attracting the highest number of viewers for a music concert live stream ever.

A total of 756,000 viewers from over 100 countries tuned in concurrently to watch the online performance on 14 June, which was broadcast live from Seoul, South Korea, featuring a 12-song setlist and allowed fans to switch between six viewing angles.

 


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South Korea: Venues open, despite Covid-19 spike

There are no plans to reinstate social distancing in South Korea, one of the first countries to report cases of Covid-19, despite a spike in infections linked to a cluster of venues in Seoul, the country’s deputy health minister has said.

Health officials were placed on high alert last week when a 29-year-old clubgoer tested positive for Covid-19 after having visited five nightlife venues in the neighbourhood of Itaewon, potentially exposing thousands to the virus, according to UPI. At press time, there had been 76 confirmed patients who attended the Itaewon clubs, as well as 43 who were infected through secondary transmission.

While some Seoul nightclubs and bars were temporarily re-shuttered, the government has stood by its decision to ease restrictions by reopening offices, public facilities and sports centres, reports Reuters. Despite the reopenings, daily infections remain under 50 a day (for comparison, the still-locked-down UK, which has only 15 million more people than South Korea’s 51.6m, is still reporting more than 3,000 daily cases).

“For now, we will monitor how the current transmissions go and review [at a later date] whether we should reconsider our distancing policy,” said Kim Gang-lip at a media briefing today (13 May).

Live entertainment began to return to Korea in March, after the January–February peak in infections, at a time when much of the western world was still formulating its response to the growing pandemic.

“For now, we will monitor how the current transmissions go and review whether we should reconsider”

Key to South Korea’s success in getting the coronavirus under control is its robust programme of testing and tracing, which experts believe could provide a model for other countries to restart their economies while keeping their citizens safe. Kim also said today there will be no return to social distancing while authorities can trace at least 95% of infections.

According to the Guardian, “by the time the World Health Organization issued its plea in mid-March for countries to “test, test, test”, South Korea had spent weeks doing just that, quickly developing the capability to test an average of 12,000 people – and sometimes as many as 20,000 – a day at hundreds of drive-through and walk-in testing centres. The mobile centres conducted the tests free of charge within 10 minutes, with the results were sent to people’s phones within 24 hours. By mid-March more than 270,000 people had been tested.”

Outside Korea, several European countries and US states have set a timetable for reopening entertainment and hospitality venues, although all still include some form of social distancing – Dutch proposals to allow venues a maximum of 30 people, including staff, provided they remain 1.5 metres apart, for example, have been dismissed as especially unworkable.

The Event Safety Alliance, which recently released a ‘reopening guide’ for entertainment venues, describes how some countries are “using contract tracing to enable health authorities to track who has been to an event or location if an outbreak flares up. They are then contacted and instructed to seek medical advice.”

Privacy advocates in Japan and South Korea have been critical of those countries’ use of emergency powers to snoop on citizens

This enables venues to reopen more safely, knowing that any outbreaks can be isolated and contained, though only South Korea and, to a lesser extent, Australia (which is tracking the virus using its COVIDsafe app), currently have the capability to do so, according to the guide. Additionally, “some societies are more tolerant of the perceived impact on personal liberty than others”, it warns.

Privacy advocates in Japan and South Korea have been critical of those countries’ use of emergency powers to snoop on citizens, according to the Japan Times, where virus carriers’ contacts are “aggressively traced” using tools like GPS tracking on smartphones, credit card records and CCTV. “People’s movements before they were diagnosed are published on websites and relayed via smartphone alerts to inform others whether they have crossed paths with a carrier,” the paper adds.

While Korea-style contact tracing could provide the answer to reopening venues safely – and when faced with a choice between privacy invading contact tracing and socially distanced shows with 30 people, the latter arguably looks more appealing – not everyone is convinced.

Germany – whose testing and tracking regime is the envy of much of Europe – has warned it could reimpose lockdown after a rise in Covid-19 cases last week. “We always have to be aware that we are still at the beginning of the pandemic,” said chancellor Angela Merkel, “and there’s still a long way in dealing with this virus in front of us.”

 


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Korean musical theatre triumphs despite Covid-19

Several musical theatre productions in Seoul, South Korea, have reported near-full attendance rates for the past few months, reports the Korea Herald.

Productions of shows including Rebecca, Dracula:The Musical and Phantom of the Opera have enjoyed successful runs, even during the height of the Covid-19 epidemic in the country, which caused the cancellation and postponement of many concerts and festivals.

The international touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, produced by the Really Useful Group, began its run in Seoul’s Blue Square Interpark on Saturday (14 March), after wrapping up a two-month run in Busan.

Posting on social media after the “first weekend of packed houses in Seoul”, Australian soprano Claire Lyon wrote: “Thank you in advance to our audience members who continue to support us and for being so diligent in wearing masks and washing hands at the theatre.”

“Thank you in advance to our audience members who continue to support us and for being so diligent in wearing masks and washing hands at the theatre.”

“We feel confident that life will continue to go back to normal over here in the coming weeks (it already seems to be!). Sending love to those around the world whose livelihoods or health has been affected. These are uncertain times but we are soldiering on.”

The number of new cases of the virus reported in Korea has dropped greatly in the past few weeks. However, even at the peak of the epidemic in January and February, theatregoers appeared undeterred.

According to EMK Musical Company, an average of 92% of 1,255 available seats were occupied for the whole season of Rebecca, which ran from November to February at Seoul’s Chungmu Art Centre.

The show is embarking on a nationwide tour on 27 March, visiting 12 cities throughout the country.

Dracula: The Musical, which is produced by OD Company, began its run on 11 February at Seoul’s Charlotte Theatre, recording an average admission rate of 95%. The show is set to continue until 7 June.

Earlier this week, almost 300 theatres in the UK temporarily closed their doors following government advice to “avoid” visiting them. Theatres on New York’s Broadway shut down the week before.

 


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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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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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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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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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