Lessons from the K-Pop Industry

When the subject of Korean entertainment including K-Pop, K-dramas and K-movies is discussed, one can expect to hear a myriad of opinions on the matter—some positive and some negative. However, whichever side of the argument you are on, there is no denying the influence of the "Korean wave" or the "Hallyu" phenomenon.

The Korean entertainment industry is not without its imperfections, issues, and scandals. Just review the well-publicized disputes on artist rights, unfair contracts, intellectual property, and even sex and suicide scandals that surrounded the Korean entertainment industry last year. Still, even with these controversial industry stains, the resulting product continues to win fans all over the world.

With the unstoppable force of the hallyu phenomenon, the Korean entertainment industry must be doing some things right. What can members of the local entertainment industry learn from them?

Invest on Local Talent

One of the strengths of the Korean entertainment industry is that they believe in and consciously utilize local talent. Their drama industry, considered the main cash cow of Korean entertainment, hires local talent in all aspects of its production including the scriptwriters, the directors, the actors, the production crew, and even the extras. When shooting a drama project, there is abundant work for many local talents including songwriters who have the opportunity to create original songs for the drama. This brings us to discuss another thriving industry—the K-Pop industry.

Korean pop music has infiltrated not just Asia but other parts of the world such as Europe and the Americas. The success of K-Pop proves that music is universal; it is not limited by language barriers. In the not-so-distant past, fans were bombarded with American pop music which had the lion's share of marketing and talent investments. However, in the age of the Internet, talents are allowed to shine on a worldwide stage without much marketing push. Think Justin Bieber and Charice Pempengco. This open worldwide stage is pivotal in the spread of the hallyu phenomenon.

Investing on local talent has proven to be beneficial for the K-Pop industry. Korean management companies are known to hold periodic auditions to discover promising talents they can further train to "idol" perfection. Although this system has also resulted in many broken hearts along the way to stardom, the K-Pop formula of professional, heavily trained talents expected to deliver impeccable performances has produced many successful acts translating to high earnings for the company (and hopefully the artist as well).

Think Out of the Box

Several industry analysts have predicted that CDs and DVDs are on the way out. However, if you look at how Korean movie, drama, and music CDs and DVDs are selling, you might think otherwise.

Why do Korean CDs and DVDs continue to sell thousands at a time when most people are using iPods? I mean, CDs are really not very practical anymore. After ripping the CD of its musical files, the actual CD is typically stored somewhere never to be played again.

One of the reasons for massive CD sales is how Korean CDs are packaged. If you have seen the quality and design of a Korean CD, you will understand why fans continue to flock to the stores on opening day to purchase these pricey items. A typical Korean CD comes in an unconventional shape along with a photobook prepared with so much artistry, fans cannot help but covet it…and probably purchase it.

Other ways the Korean entertainment industry "think out of the box" is their use of non-traditional marketing strategies such as the cultivation of "artist-fan" relationships through social media marketing. Many popular Korean artists are very active on Twitter making their fans feel "close" to them. Aside from marketing, those familiar with Korean dramas and movies know that they are not reluctant to experiment and push the envelope on new concepts and storylines. Think vampire priests, body-switching lovers, and a love story between a man and a fox and you may start to understand the creativity of Korean entertainment.

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