The saying “the early bird catches the worm” now applies to idol groups and their members as the showbiz industry has become a battlefield of idols. Entertainment agencies no longer try to hide their newest idol members. Rather, they fully utilize the “Early-bird” members, or the “Aces,” to make a group known to the public. The sooner a member of an upcoming idol group is revealed, the better chance the group has in surviving in the harsh industry. Different groups take different measures in revealing their aces and warming up to the public.
Some new idol groups reveal an “Early-bird” member to prove to the public that they are attention-worthy. Although B.A.P. only debuted in January 26, the public has been aware of the name of the group since last year. Leader Bang Yong Guk showed that he is a talented artist through his unit activity with the youngest member of Zelo. They released a single, “Never Give Up,” in December 2011 and made a great impression to K-Pop fans all over the world. Prior to this unit activity, Bang Yong Guk featured in Song Ji Eun’s “Are You Crazy” and released a single, “I Remember” with Yoseob from Beast. Therefore, it has been easier for B.A.P. to grab the public’s attention as “the group that Bang Yong Guk belongs to” when they finally made their big debut.
The “female Infinite” is taking a similar approach as B.A.P. Alhough this particular girl group does not even have a name yet, their members Baby Soul and Yoo Jia have been revealed. They also released a single album to let the public know that these are two pretty AND talented girls from an upcoming group. This is a clever strategy not only to express confidence in the Aces’ talents, but also to “test the water” before fully revealing the group all together. If the aces fail to attract much attention, they still have time to figure out the problem and come up with an appropriate solution before the group makes its debut.
Some other idol groups utilize their agencies’ other artists or connections by being featured in another artist’s work. For example, the heroine from FT Island‘s music video of “Fiercely” has garnered much attention and soon had her own unofficial fan club launched. She later turned out to be a member of an upcoming girl group from FT Island’s agency, FNC Entertainment. Son Na Eun from A Pink also first made her debut through BEAST’s music videos, “Breath” and “Beautiful.”
2NE1 made a successful debut with the help of Big Bang. They sang “Lollipop” together and this allowed 2NE1 to position themselves successfully in the industry as “female Big Bang.” A new girl group Spica, who are to debut in February, is taking a similar approach as 2NE1: its member Park Joo Hyun joined Heo Young Saeng for his first solo single, “Let It Go” and showcased her rapping skills.
The emergence of “Early-bird” idols represent that the trend within showbiz industry has changed: Even in a group, members work individually rather than as a team. Now idols are required to cross over boundaries beyond just singing and dancing. This environmental and industrial change allows a chance for each member of a team to make an impression within and outside of the group he or she belongs to. For entertainment agencies, it brings more financial benefits if members individually work 24/7 disregarding what the “team” has to do.
Especially for new idol groups, these individual activities are even more valuable. It is more cost effective to have one “Ace” or “Early-bird” member make a breakthrough and let the team be known than have every individual member trying to make a mediocre impression. A showbiz agency official commented, “Groups often pick ‘the member of the album’ to be in the spot light as a way of making themselves known to public. Public’s awareness of individual members is directly related to the team’s popularity and for new idol groups, even the littlest public attention helps them make it or break it.”