MADTOWN member H.O recently told some stories from his days as a trainee at JYP Entertainment.
H.O spent time as a trainee at JYP before he joined the agency J.Tune Camp and debuted with MADTOWN in 2014. He is currently a broadcasting jockey on the website AfreecaTV. In a recent live show, he shared stories in the hopes that it would help others who dream of joining the industry.
He said that he’d auditioned for JYP Entertainment by performing WINNER member Kang Seung Yoon’s song “Instinctively.” He explained, “I really couldn’t sing at all. I had only ever danced, and the only time I’d been able to sing was at karaoke. So I picked a song that I sang a lot at karaoke, it was probably a recent song at the time.”
H.O added that he hadn’t been worried about the dancing portion of the audition, since he’d practiced dancing for a long time. However, there was a part of the audition where they turned on random music and asked the applicants to freestyle dance.
“But when I’d learned to dance, I’d only learned choreography,” said H.O. “So I couldn’t do things like freestyle, because I’d never tried. They put on a really energetic pop song, and I just clapped.” He then did a funny impression of how he’d awkwardly clapped along to the song instead of dancing.
He went on to say that he’d passed the audition and began training at a special training center. He clarified that while a lot of people know the famous main JYP Entertainment building where artists practice, there was a separate training center about a five-minute walk away where training took place.
As he talked about the daily life of a trainee, he shared that trainees were given meal tickets for the cafeteria. In addition, he said that the building was set up with CCTV cameras everywhere, and he explained that he’d found all the blind spots by the time he was a month into his training, so he could sleep and eat junk food without being monitored if he wanted to.
H.O also shared how the monthly evaluations worked at JYP while he was a trainee. “All of the kind of systematic entertainment companies that you would recognize are probably the same,” he said. “There’s an evaluation that they do once a month.”
“It shows them how much a person’s improved, and how passionate they are,” he continued. “They kind of draw a picture in their heads. They say, ‘Oh, that person seems to be passionate, and it seems like they’ve practiced hard. Their skills seem to have improved since last month.’ Then they keep training them. But if they see them and think, ‘Oh, their skills haven’t improved since last month,’ then they keep observing. They don’t let them go right away. If they haven’t improved for two or three months and they don’t seem to be passionate, then they let them go. Then other trainees keep coming in. So it’s really competitive.”
H.O was asked what the vocal lessons were like at JYP, and he said that since he’d never learned how to sing, he had to start with vocalization. He’d go into a practice room with a teacher and practice scales. “There’s something called a JYP basic scale,” he said. “It’s on an MP3 file.” He laughed as he shared how he’d connect an MP3 player to a speaker and follow along with a voice giving directions on the file.
He also said, “At JYP, you can’t do monthly evaluations with Korean songs.” Even if trainees asked if they could sing a Korean song, they were told not to. Instead, the trainees all had to sing songs in English. “I still don’t know the reason why,” he said.
When asked about the ages of the trainees, H.O said, “When I was there, there were some really young people, and elementary school students and middle school students. I think the oldest was 20 or 21 years old.”
H.O went on to talk about the good environment at JYP, saying that when the monthly evaluations were finished, they’d host a birthday party for the trainees, and also held Christmas parties. The trainees who were celebrating a birthday were also given gift cards worth 50,000 won (approximately $46.83).
“Also, at the very end of the monthly evaluations, they’d have a freestyle part,” he said. “The 40 to 50 trainees would all get together in one spot and make a circle. They’d turn on music and people would take turns coming out into the center and doing a freestyle dance, just doing whatever they wanted.”
“Once a year, we’d also go somewhere as an outing,” he added. “I’m not sure what it’s called, but we’d have a campfire and stuff like that. They treated us really well.”
When asked if they gave them clothes, H.O said that wasn’t provided, so he’d just buy several sets of track suits. “I was always ripping them,” he explained. “So I’d just buy five of the same thing.”
H.O explained that trainees had contract periods, with some of them being a year or two years. He was asked if trainees were paid, and he confirmed that they weren’t. “Instead, there’s really no place to use money,” he said. “You can live on the allowance and they pay for a place for trainees to sleep, they give them food, and take care of the lessons. They provide everything.”
He said, “It was actually hard at the time, but looking back on it now, it was a good memory and really fun.”
A commenter asked if he’d go to JYP Entertainment again and debut, if he could go back in time. H.O replied, “If I could go back in time, I’d get into Bitcoin. Don’t be crazy.”
MADTOWN has been on hiatus since 2016, and the group has been through a difficult time in the past year and a half. They remain in a legal battle to be completely free from their contracts with their former agency.