HALLYU WAVE ALIVE
Richard Choo, founder of KpopUnited (KU), is no stranger to bringing Korean brands to other countries. His previous works include founding Red Mango in the U.S. and also throwing K-pop concerts in Las Vegas. After coming up with the idea while living in Los Angeles, Richard eventually moved to Korea to set up KU’s base in Apgujeong.
“KpopUnited is a hallyu site dedicated to bringing hallyu content to the rest of the world. We have an international team made up of people from all over the world and all walks of life.” We want to be a new kind of globalization intersection point, especially as Korea is now looking to become a global startup hub.”
“WE WANT TO BE A NEW KIND OF GLOBALIZATION INTERSECTION POINT, ESPECIALLY AS KOREA IS NOW LOOKING TO BECOME A GLOBAL STARTUP HUB.”
“As Kpop grows, many international promoters want to cast these acts on their own soil, but the biggest problem is interfacing with the agencies here in Korea. What we do at KpopUnited is act as a very nice middle ground or conduit plate for the promoter from countries like China or Brazil so that they can work a little easier with the agencies in Seoul.”
Part of KU’s solution is through an analytics tool built in-house called KrowdPop to help Kpop promoters decide what acts and artists to recruit for various cities around the world. “Usually, it’s a wild guess by a 45-50 year old promoter who might decide just by asking their niece or nephew ‘who do you think is big these days?'”
“USUALLY, IT’S A WILD GUESS BY A 45-50 YEAR OLD PROMOTER WHO MIGHT DECIDE JUST BY ASKING THEIR NIECE OR NEPHEW ‘WHO DO YOU THINK IS BIG THESE DAYS?'”
It’s not difficult to look towards acts like Big Bang and 2NE1 as successfully viable candidates, but the issue at hand is that they’re very expensive. Artist and premium agency fees, combined with technical setup costs of lasers, lights, and sound add up and a lot of times, promoters don’t end up making money from the show.
“It’s tough for (promoters) to understand what kids want because of generation gaps, but the reality is that there are a lot of A-list acts like Vixx, Jay Park, Ailee with huge fan followings. However, promoters don’t have enough information to justify the financial risks of taking these acts overseas. Kpop casting is essentially done on theory and has gotten very expensive over the past couple of years. Coupled with high costs, they then try to convince kids to buy these tickets at expensive prices. It makes this financial investment into the Kpop show almost like a gamble.”
“COUPLED WITH HIGH COSTS, THEY THEN TRY TO CONVINCE KIDS TO BUY THESE TICKETS AT EXPENSIVE PRICES. IT MAKES THIS FINANCIAL INVESTMENT INTO THE SHOW ALMOST LIKE A GAMBLE.”
“Krowdpop eliminates the risk by going to the fans directly, who will in turn us ‘We have 20,000 fans that want to see U-Kiss.'” In other words, KU provides the metrics needed by promoters to justify casting Kpop concerts overseas while reducing the risk of falling behind target sales.
As Choo’s fourth company, KpopUnited seemed to represent more than just bringing Kpop artists to America. KU joins the hundreds, even thousands of startups in Korea who aim to go global. Choo believes that at the height of the hallyu wave, Korea needs to better address the friction that currently exists in the entertainment business.
Choo expanded on the potential impact and weight of Kpop to Korea’s success as a country.
“From a gyopo’s perspective, it’s 아까워(akkawuh,regrettably wasteful) because you see Korea finally make it on the global scene as a content provider and the business friction that comes with cultures and partners could kill off the Korean wave. As Samsung takes hits with their lowering smartphone sales, where is Korea looking to be the next economic loss leader to push us forward? It’s the hallyu wave, but if that starts to fall because of the content piece, then Korea has to really look at and reevaluate itself in a hard light.”
“IF THE HALLYU WAVE STARTS TO FALL… THEN KOREA HAS TO REALLY LOOK AT AND REEVALUATE ITSELF IN A HARD LIGHT
Being a 교포(gyopo/Korean American) who’s unwilling to bend to the common practices in the entertainment industry, Choo was well aware of the challenges that faced both him and KpopUnited. KpopUnited is an outsider looking to solve a business issue that’s deeply rooted in culture and rarely found to compromise their own habit… especially in “the wild wild west of music.”
“What really drove us was that we realized we needed to do business not by favor but by merit. It upped our game to produce a product that is global quality level, that makes our business model look better, and our business practices look professional so that were recognized by simply doing an awesome job,” said Choo.
“To startups out there in Korea, it’s about sucking it up and persevering through anything because it’s grit and endurance that gets you through the day.”
“THIS IS WHY SILICON VALLEY INVESTS MORE INTO THE TEAM AND NOT JUST THE CONCEPT. I’M REALLY HAPPY TO SAY THAT WE HAVE A VERY SMART AND GLOBAL TEAM THAT’S ABLE TO ENDURE THOSE HARDSHIPS, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, TO BE IN KOREA AND BE ABLE TO ADAPT TO IT.
Eddie Cho (firstname.lastname@example.org)