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Earlier this month, Woollim Entertainment merged with SM Culture & Contents to form Woollim Label. Woollim Entertainment was adamant that the merger would not change the quality of the music itself, but the partnership would improve distribution. What that will look like has yet to reveal itself.
Woollim has a very friendly image as both the current agency for Infinite and the former agency for Epik High, whereas SM has more of a perfectionist image with tight control over music production and performance. Take f(x) for example. A lot of their songs are very abstract and this is not something that was decided by the girls, but by the management. Watching them perform “Nu ABO,” I never would have guessed that they pretty much have no idea what they’re trying to perform. That’s SM—control over artistry, control over quality. Given how different SM is in reputation, Woollim knew that there would be backlash over the news, hence the attempt to assuage fears of SM-ifying Woollim artists. Given that they were aware of how the fans would feel, I trust that they were careful in deliberation over merging.
My guess is that the biggest difference will be in marketing and packaging, domestic and overseas.
For Super Junior‘s “Sorry, Sorry,” there were two original versions (A and B), a repackage version (C), and a DVD bonus version (D). For Exo‘s debut, there was a veritable flood with the concept photos, the debut music video teasers, the pre-debut music videos, and their teasers. I’m hoping that we won’t be seeing Infinite release copious amounts of everything to the point that buying their music becomes a game of gotta catch ’em all.
As for international distribution, however, I think pairing up with SM was a very wise decision. Girls’ Generation has not been in Japan very long, but they’re almost a household name. Every person from Japan that I’ve met knows “Shoujo Jidai.” SM knows how to get artists slotted into all the right places so that they get a robust amount of attention. Infinite (sorry, I know that there are other Woollim artists, but I’m not even close to familiar enough with the others that I could talk about them) has already been doing very well in Japan. Partnering with SM will allow Woollim to ensure that they keep or improve their position in the Japanese market.