The latest industry news to your inbox.

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities


I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Global Promoters Report: South Korea

At the epicentre of K-pop, everything moves at lightning speed. With quarantine measures lifting in 2022, the region’s hunger for live shows reaching ravenous extremes, population growing, and its IT platforms outperforming any in the world, South Korea’s live music culture has not so much bounced as catapulted back to life.

“This country is an extremely trendy market, with everything moving fast, including fashion, trends etc,” says Tommy Jinho Yoon, CEO of ACI Live Asia, one of the region’s biggest promoters alongside Live Nation, Creativeman, Summer Sonic, and Ovation Productions. “Everything needs to be done quickly, and there is no time for patience. This is the general mentality of the pop culture in South Korea, and it’s been like this for many years. Korea has always been aggressive towards the entertainment world, meaning people really love music and live shows here. Regardless of any economic changes and challenges that may be faced through the region, there will always be demands for shows here.”

Pre-pandemic, ACI had launched YOURSUMMER Festival, the first festival in Korea to consist largely of international acts (including Rita Ora and Zedd) and saw their show with The 1975 sell out at Seoul’s Olympic Hall. Such levels of international action are swiftly returning to the region. But as K-pop has become a global sensation; Yoon argues that the
business has grown unnecessarily combative in South Korea.

“Collaborating with pop and K-pop artists who are already popularly established in Korea, are the best methods of building an artist here”

“Competition would have to be one of the primary challenges yet also one of the biggest ways of creating opportunities,” he says. “If there is one artist everyone wants, several promoters make several offers, resulting in a bidding war. No holds barred! I’m sure this sort of challenge takes place in other regions as well, but from our experiences having offices in Korea and the US, we see Korea’s competitiveness is at a much higher level, resulting in promoters having no respect for one another.

“Japan still seems to better-understand the meaning of respect in the business world […] generally speaking, there is less of a war in the entertainment world in Japan compared to South Korean entertainment companies.”

The popularity of K-pop is also the key to success for new artists wanting to break in the territory, say Live Nation Korea’s Steven Kim and Yongbae Cho, who say artists’ overall style should be relevant to current K-pop trends.

“Collaborating with pop and K-pop artists who are already popularly established in Korea, are the best methods of building an artist here,” they explain. “Younger fans in Korea are more drawn to discover new artists online who are actively communicating with their followers on social media, sharing their other attributes besides music, for example, talking about and/or sharing their looks, taste in fashion, lifestyle, celebrity friends, and so on.”

“Regardless of the technology advancements, the fundamental ingredients that formed music was from the hearts for the hearts”

Yoon emphasises the importance of trust and firm relationships within the live music industry – alongside a firm grip on social media promotion – as key to success.

“Due to our long history of being one of the promoters that essentially created the international show market and festivals in the region for [the] last 25 years, we have accumulated a person-to-person, relationship-based community with fans, which still plays a very valuable and undeniably important role. And we believe it will always remain as one of, if not the most important tools to sustain concert marketing in the region, regardless of the technical advancement of the marketing world in the future.”

By establishing a unified network of promoter allies across southeast Asia as “the engine to sustain and enhance the development of international tours,” Yoon sets a sense of loyalty between artists, managers, agents, promoters, and fans at the core of a successful South Korean strategy.

“Regardless of the technology advancements, the fundamental ingredients that formed music was from the hearts for the hearts,” he says. “As we promote shows, rather than just looking at numbers, we try to connect with the audience for better communication and to genuinely provide better foundations and to educate each other, which motivates and results in new innovations. Although Korea is extremely trendy and everything moves quickly, there’s still the essence of the basic human foundation that respects genuine music from the heart, regardless of genre. I believe this applies to anywhere in the world.”


The Global Promoters Report is published in print, digitally, and all content is also available as a year-round resource on the IQ site. The Global Promoters Report includes key summaries of the major promoters working across 40+ markets, unique interviews and editorial on key trends and developments across the global live music business.

To access all content from the current Global Promoters Report, click here.

K-pop’s global explosion ‘yet to plateau’

K-pop is yet to reach its peak despite its incredible growth on the international stage, according to experts.

ILMC’s How K-pop Conquered the World panel charted the history of the genre and how it broke worldwide, while pondering what is next for the scene.

ICA-Live-Asia president Tommy Jinho Yoon, who moderated the session in London, outlined the growth of the K-pop, saying he would never have imagined that Korean music would be embraced on a global platform.

“It’s about perfection,” said Yoon. “These artists live together and are trained at least two years before they do anything. They’re not allowed to do this and that; they’re not even allowed to date. It’s just total military training – this high, intense level of choreography, vocal and physical training – all these elements are embodied in the performance side of K-pop. And apparently, it is working with this generation.”

“It takes a significant time and also talent development for these artists to debut to the world,” affirmed Humid.TV’s David Choi, a former A&R director/producer for K-pop giant SM Entertainment.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage where it’s going to plateau yet”

California-based Choi credited a ’90s show in Korea by iconic American boyband New Kids on the Block for inspiring SM founder Lee Soo-man to create K-pop pioneers H.O.T. in 1996.

“That’s when [Soo-man] got the idea that, ‘Hey, I should build a boy group like this,'” said Choi. “That group was called H.O.T. And he was right – it was a global success.”

With superstars BTS not expected to regroup until 2025 while the band members fulfil their mandatory military service, there have been suggestions that the genre is starting to wane in popularity. But to Live Nation Australasia’s Wenona Lok, who recently worked on Stray Kids’ record-breaking Australian shows, any concerns on that front are premature.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage where it’s going to plateau yet,” she said. “It’s something that people can really learn from and we’re also starting to see a lot of K-pop acts collaborate with Western artists.”

“A lot of Western artists that I deal with are requesting to be connected with K-pop artists to do collaborations, and vice-versa,” agreed Yoon. “So I foresee a lot of that in the future – there is going to be joint shows and a lot of music produced together.”

“We had more traffic in the AXS waiting room for BTS than for Adele’s comeback shows one or two years before”

The O2’s VP and general manager Steve Sayer reflected on the impact BTS’ two nights at the London venue in 2018, which he said exceeded even the promoter’s expectations.

“I won’t put anyone on the spot, but I don’t think anyone really appreciated quite how big it was going to be,” he said. “We had more traffic in the AXS waiting room for BTS than for Adele’s comeback shows one or two years before. We could have had 20 shows comfortably, but they were holding back shows for Wembley Stadium the following summer.

“On the morning of [the first show], I had to double take because it was about 8.30am and there must have been at least 5,000 fans, if not more, queuing compliantly, and the front doors of The O2 weren’t even open.

“You announce one band, you sell 5,000 tickets. You announce the next band, you sell another 5,000 tickets, and then it adds up to 40,000 at the end”

“Everyone was in the arena bowl 90 minutes before the show’s start time. It smashed our merchandising record, which was broken, subsequently, at Blackpink a few months ago – and when the band came on stage, I’d never seen anything like it – not even at One Direction shows. I will use the word ‘hysteria’ because I can’t I can’t think of a better adjective.”

The O2 will host Europe’s biggest K-pop festival Kpop.Flex from 22-24 September this year, while Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park hosted the inaugural edition of Kpop.Flex in May 2022. The event will return to the German venue for a second edition from 17-18 June this year.

“We announced the line-up band by band,” said the stadium’s MD Patrik Meyer. “You announce one band, you sell 5,000 tickets. You announce the next band, you sell another 5,000 tickets, and then it adds up to 40,000 at the end. You could see that every fan had one specific band [they had come to see], but they like it all, so that’s fantastic for a festival.

“We sold out the first day of the [2022] festival within four to six weeks, so we added the second day. That didn’t sell out completely, but at the end we had almost 70,000 – 40,000, plus 30,000 for a first time event, which was a huge success.”

“It’s become a community and a culture beyond the music”

He added: “Social media is key to K-pop. Without that, it wouldn’t be possible to create that phenomenon. For our festival, no flyer was printed, no poster was put up, it was just starting an Instagram account from zero, so it’s a very active crowd.”

Creative director Amy Bowerman, whose past clients include Blackpink, extolled the strength of the genre’s relationship with its fans.

“One of the things that Kpop does so well is talk in youth language,” she said. “The power of that culture is huge, and one of the beautiful things about it is that it obviously lives online, but there’s also a physical space where you see all these dance groups come together. It’s become a community and a culture beyond the music. And I think that that is incredible, specifically for young people.

“With how tumultuous the world has been over the past four years, looking to these people who stand as beacons for  inclusivity and bringing people together… that is one of the reasons I think people are connecting to the artists so deeply and profoundly.”

“I think the reason K-pop is so big is because it’s really accessible,” agreed Lok. “If you go online, there are many fan groups that are happy to help educate you. Having the internet makes a big difference – it’s a right time, right place thing – but a lot of K-pop fans are women in their mid 40s, of all race groups. They come to the shows and bring their daughters because it’s something that is easy to share and get excited about.”


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Festival leaders look to domestic artists for 2021

Gathering speakers from Australia, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, Festival Forum: Reboot & reset delved into the states of those local markets and their various timelines for reopening.

Moderator Beatrice Stirnimann, of boutique event Baloise Session, explained that when her event was cancelled early on in 2020, it allowed the organisation to spend time concentrating on a series of livestreaming shows, leading her to quiz her fellow speakers about how they have spent the last 12 months.

Stephan Thanscheidt, CEO of FKP Scorpio, disclosed that the company had to get creative during last year’s first lockdown by developing digital versions of festivals to prepare audiences for the rescheduled 2020 festivals, although he admitted that this year’s diary is now looking precarious as well.

Thanscheidt said tickets are currently on sale for events, but nobody is buying at the moment. “I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe,” he stated, adding that he believes a lot more events will cancel their 2021 events in the coming weeks. “We have to think about strategies to keep people on board to have the best possible outcome for 2022.”

“I don’t see festivals happening in June or July in continental Europe”

Jim King reported that AEG Presents took a view to pause and review what the situation was during the past year, while the company tried to be a voice to support the various organisations that have been lobbying on the industry’s behalf. “With the success of the vaccination programme in the UK, it’s giving us a foundation to build off,” he said. “What is important for us [in the UK] is that we now have these ‘not before’ dates which brings all the stakeholders together in the industry so everyone can align. That means that the planning side now becomes easier, although it’s still not easy.”

Jessica Ducrou of Secret Sounds explained that the company has recently rescheduled its 2021 edition of the Splendour in the Grass festival from July to November. “We’ve been offering refunds to people, but the retention is high at 90% despite rescheduling three times. So that shows that people are really looking forward to events reopening,” she said.

Tommy Jinho Yoon of International Creative Agency revealed that there are shows currently happening in Korea, but a travel ban means there are no international acts performing at the moment. “I’ve been doing the same as everyone else at the moment – basically putting out fires,” he said.

Explaining that his events generally twin with festivals in Japan to share acts, Yoon observed that optimism appears to be is higher in that country than Korea, which informed his decision not to plan any festivals in 2021. However, he revealed that the shows he is booking for Q1 and Q2 of 2022 are in conjunction with artists who are also confirming Australian dates, hinting that international touring could be on the way back sooner than some people imagine. “When our shows go back on, it’s going to be intense,” said Yoon. “Machines are not going to replace that.”

Exploiting domestic talent makes sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel

For her part, Ducrou told her peers that Australia is gradually getting back to business. “Domestically, artists are touring not at full capacity, but the shows are getting bigger,” she said, noting that the government recently gave approval for a festival at Easter with a 50% capacity and other restrictions.

“Using domestic talent is where Australia is at the moment. Shows are getting bigger and density is getting higher, so I’m optimistic,” added Ducrou. But in terms of international acts, she stressed that the mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone entering the country remains the biggest challenge.

On a similar note, King said exploiting domestic talent made sense for the UK while there is a high degree of hesitancy for international acts to travel. Therefore any AEG events this summer would likely be dominated by UK artists.

However, Thanscheidt said that having only domestic artists would not work for some of Scorpio’s festival brands, where restrictions such as social distancing or zero alcohol policies wouldn’t be a good fit either.

But Thanscheidt also ended on a positive vibe, by repeating a theme that has run throughout the discussions at ILMC, thanks to regular calls that the FKP Scorpio team have had with the likes of AEG Presents, Eventim Live, Goodlive, Live Nation and Superstruct as part of Yourope’s Solutions for Festivals Initiative. “The teaming up by different companies in solidarity is, for me, a very astonishing and very good outcome,” he declared.


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

A long road to recovery: Promoters in Asia talk Covid-19

As some residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease now known as Covid-19 originated in November, leave their houses for the first time in months, IQ turns to promoters in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region to find out if this means a return to business as usual any time soon.

“People are cautiously optimistic,” Archie Hamilton, managing director of Shanghai-based promoter Split Works tells IQ, noting that some clubs – but no live venues – in Shanghai opened their doors for the first time in months last weekend. “We have a while longer until things open up properly.”

Although Split Works has projects ongoing in its brand business, which has been active in China for around 15 years, and is looking into moving into the livestreaming sector, Hamilton states that the core part of his business – live events – “is not coming back any time soon”.

Zhang Ran, director of international business at Modern Sky, echoes this sentiment, saying that “nothing has changed here yet for the music industry” and adding that “some venues likely won’t survive”.

Although the situation “is getting better” with regards to the virus, Zhang believes it will be a month or two until Modern Sky will be able to hold shows again and “probably longer for [shows by] international bands, given the virus situation elsewhere.”

Zhang says that Modern Sky is currently looking to book shows for November.

Elsewhere in Asia, Tommy Jinho Yoon, president of Korea’s International Creative Agency (ICA), says that everything “is calming down” in comparison to a lot of places around the world.

“We just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time”

Yesterday (23 March), South Korea reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases since infection rates hit their peak four weeks ago. Although the virus has led to the shuttering of many events and venues in Korea, some popular musical theatre productions have continued to enjoy successful runs over the past few months.

“The Covid-19 madness is not completely over yet, but we are anticipating and hoping that the majority of this gets settled down by May or June,” Jinho Yoon tells IQ.

Matthew Lazarus-Hall, senior vice-president for AEG Presents’ Asia-Pacific division, states that, although China and other countries in Asia appear to be over the curve of the pandemic, the situation in many other parts of the world continues to put the brakes on international touring.

“The challenge is that a lot of artists can’t tour due to quarantine measures,” says Lazarus-Hall. “I anticipate that this situation will continue for many months, with everyone rescheduling tours until the back half of the year, and then maybe longer.”

With government restrictions on events and other public gatherings still in place across much of Asia, domestic touring remains difficult too.

China still has a complete event ban in place, whereas a surge in new cases of the virus led to a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people over the weekend in Singapore and a resumption of social distancing measures in Hong Kong.

“At AEG Presents, the plan is evolving every day based on government regulations, the industry and doing the right thing by our artists and staff, and we are reacting, and modifying our plans in real time,” says Lazarus-Hall.

“There’s no rulebook here, we just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time.”


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.