Do Idol Groups Have “Central” Figures?

Do idol groups really have “central” figures? There have always been rumors of idol groups having certain “ranks” among the members, but we were never able to confirm it. But according to a recent report by OSEN, idol groups do have these “central” roles, although they are increasingly trying to get rid of the practice.

Recently, Hwang Jung Eum used the word “center” to describe her position in her former idol group Sugar. The term “center” is supposedly given to the main member of each idol group. Unlike the group’s leader, who communicates the most with group members and the management, the “center” is the member that most actively promotes and first comes to mind when the group is mentioned.

Until early to mid 2000s, each idol group clearly had a central figure. The agency would pick the member that would most appeal to the fans (i.e. most popular) and placed that member at the center for all promotional activities, giving the most spotlight. This was a pretty firm “rule” among idol groups that even for minor photoshoots, the “center” figure would always position in the middle.

This strategy obviously puts most of the attention on the “center” member. When being cast for a show, the broadcaster would demand the “center” to be present, even if others can’t make it, and this leads to the “center” being exposed more to the fans. Of course, there are also occasions where another member would unexpectedly rise up to stardom, taking away the original “center” member’s position.

Therefore, it often caused a lot of adverse effects. The group would have to heavily rely on the “center” and a lot of times tension among members grow, which eventually leads to the group’s disbandment.

That’s why recently more and more idol groups are trying to get rid of this “center” strategy. Most idol groups rotate the middle position now, and castings for dramas or variety shows are also equally spread out. A certain girl group even let their most popular member rest because too much spotlight was being put on her. That’s something we haven’t seen in the past. If a certain member gets overwhelming attention and popularity, that member would usually be forced to run more promotions in order to maximize profit.

“In the past, some of the groups saw huge discrepancies between their members’ appearance fees. If the ‘center’ moved to another agency, that group would be over. If you focus on a single member, you might be able to make more money now, but the group as a whole won’t last too long. For the group to have a long career, it’s important to groom each member equally,” an industry expert said.

“If you just publicize only a single, ‘central’ member, the fans easily lose interest in the group as a whole. These days we’re seeing every group member possess outstanding musical skills and good looks, so it is important to focus on each member’s unique personalities and equally grow their popularities,” the expert added.

Is this an effective strategy? What idol group comes to your mind?