The Top 10 Most Influential Entities of K-Pop

It is now a generation of K-Pop. K-Pop has come to stand next to famous brands such as American hip-hop and British rock for the first time in roughly 10 years since the birth of K-pop as a brand.

The quantifiable growth has been huge. Entertainment agencies have now started to make up to 200,000,000,000 won in sales yearly (approx. $188.6 million), and SM Entertainment exports an amount that comes to around 100,000,000,000 won (approx. $94.3 million).

Moreover, if the idol is hot in Korea, there are many cases in which they might spend over half the year on a world tour meeting fans abroad.

In August 17-18 of this year, over two days, DBSK gathered around 144,000 fans for the finale of their dome tour at the International Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, pulling in a revenue of roughly 16,000,000,000 (approx. $150.8 million). 

Big Bang’s G-Dragon, after the release of his latest solo album, “Coup d’Etat,” recently went on a world tour of 13 cities in eight countries, doing a total of 27 shows for around 570,000 fans. 

But even among these world-famous idols, who’s leading the Korean music industry?

Celebrating their 44th anniversary, local news agency Daily Sports chose the 10 most influential brands in the music industry. The brands were chosen among different players in the music industry, including distribution companies, broadcasting companies, producers, and singers. Votes were cast by 200 authorities in the industry, and each person was allowed three votes.

Here are your top 10:

1. SM Entertainment (101 votes)

SM Entertainment is Korea’s representative entertainment agency, from everything to the value of its stocks, its exports, and its affiliated artists. On the twenty-fourth (September), its shares were each worth 37,000 won (approx $35), reaching a total market price of 763,900,000,000 won (approx. $718,829,900). It’s the definite first among entertainment companies, and is twenty-first among the KOSDAQ companies. In 2012, their revenue was about 160,000,000,000 won (approx. $150.5 million), and their export of cultural content came to 100,000,000,000 won (approx. $94 million). This is thanks to top groups like DBSK, Super Junior, and Girls’ Generation who do a ton of work abroad.

Moreover, in order to not fall behind the rapidly changing K-Pop industry, SM is a company that knows how to properly operate in division. Last year, SM put a foot in the door of the drama production and management business with its subsidiary SM C&C. They also recently merged with Woollim Entertainment, which represented groups such as Infinite and Nell. With this merging, SM is planning on more label activities like Warner Music and Sony Music.

Daily Sports recently asked president Kim Young Min of SM about the future of the company.

Q: What do you have to say about being picked as the number one ‘power brand’ in the music industry?

A: “I’m thankful, and I think we’re gonna have to work that much harder. Already, Korean artists are aiming for the global market. I wonder if it’s not because of the efforts that SM has put in to become a successful global brand, and people’s acknowledgment of our success. Thank you again.”

Q: What do you think was your biggest success of 2013? 

A: I think SM’s continuous growth as a strong brand is a huge achievement. In Paris, where there had never been a K-Pop performance, our SMTOWN concert sold out and we ended up holding an additional concert. We also sold out an SMTOWN concert at the famous Madison Square Garden in New York. Moreover, on October 19, we will be holding an SMTOWN concert at the olympic stadium in Beijing, the first time ever for a foreign artist.

Q: What are your plans for the future? 

A: “SM still has a ton to do in the global market. I predict that Asia will be stepping to the front worldwide. We aspire to be number one in all of Asia. On that front, SM C&C has officially started as a record label. In the future, we’d like to become the first Korean company that can confidently stand side-by-side with major global music companies like Universal Music, Warner Music, and Sony Music Entertainment.”

Q: EXO has become one of the top idols in Korea in just two years after their debut. What’s the secret?

A: “I think it was a combination of good songs like “Wolf” and “Growl,” EXO’s high level of performance, and the effort put in by all of the members. Specifically, we tried to set EXO apart from everyone else. The Korean and Chinese subgroups, EXO-K and EXO-M, also debuted separately and were doing promotional activities in both countries, and their popularity in both Korea and China has become huge. I hope you watch for EXO’s continued growth in the future.”

2. YG Entertainment (75 votes)

YG Entertainment is the entertainment agency that’s right there next to SM. If SM trains singers for popular music, YG Entertainment specializes more in hip-hop and R&B music. YG represents stars such as PSY, G-Dragon, Big Bang, and 2NE1. While it is not as large as SM, YG produces unique yet trendy music. It is known as an agency that doesn’t hold back with funding for music, and is often chosen as the preferred agency to go to.

One of YG’s biggest strengths is its CEO, Yang Hyun Suk. He successfully made the transformation to a CEO in 2000 since his days as Korea’s representative idol with the group Seo Taiji and Boys in the 90s. He’s got a touch for trendy music, having edited the music video for Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” and also personally appears on TV shows on occasion to promote his artists.

 3. Melon (50 votes)

Melon is Korea’s largest music distribution company. Its subscribers number 2,300,000, and the company’s market share is roughly 59%. Second to Melon is Bugs Music and Mnet, which have a market share of 10-13%. They provide approximately 2,600,000 songs through various mediums such as PC, mobile apps, and smart TV. Moreover, they provide a real-time music ranking chart based on consumers. Artists’ ranking on the Melon music site get factored into televised music programs, and carries considerable weight in deciding the winner on these shows. It’s so important that there are people saying that the Melon recommendation system should be discontinued, because it has an influence in the site rankings. Since 2009, since they started holding the Melon Awards, the influence of the company has grown even further.

4. G-Dragon (43 votes)

It’s not too much to say that G-Dragon is the ‘second Seo Taiji.’ He has been called the president of young adults, having a huge influence on teens and people in their twenties. He was popular worldwide as a member of Big Bang, but with his recent solo album, “Coup d’Etat,” has taken over the Korean music industry. Out of the 12 songs on his new album, his four title songs, “Black,” “Who You,” “Crooked,” and “Niliria,” have competed for the number one spot in real-time music charts. Not only is his music hugely popular, G-Dragon himself is always much-talked-about, especially with his powerful fashion sense.

5. EXO (42 votes)

Just two years after their debut, EXO has taken Asia by storm. They are the group that officials of the music industry have had their eye on. With their latest song “Growl,” they have achieved ‘triple crown’ status on three main music programs, “M Countdown” on Mnet, “Inkigayo” on SBS, and “Show Music Core” on MBC. Their first album, called “XOXO (Kiss & Hug),” released in June, along with its repackage that was released in August, sold over 730,000 copies. The group debuted separately as EXO-K and EXO-M, winning over fans in both Korea and China. Having now united, EXO is a group to stand at the front of K-Pop for years to come.

6. CJ E&M (40 votes)

CJ E&M also holds great influence in K-Pop. Riding the wave of the K-Pop boom, the company largely produced K-Pop performances both in Korea and internationally, and has recently started management, as well. The company also has successfully been involved in content creation, especially with its popular audition program, “Superstar K,” not to mention it also has its own cable channels, “Mnet” and tvN.”

7. Cho Yong Pil (28 votes)

There is such a thing as forever. It’s the popularity of the king, Cho Yong Pil. At the beginning of this year, he released his 19th full album, with the songs “Bounce” and “Hello” which instantly became enormous hits. The album sold over 200,000 copies, and his Korean tour has completely sold out. In November, he will be holding a concert in Japan for the first time in fifteen years.

8. PSY (25 votes)

‘World star’ PSY. His song “Gentleman,” which was released earlier this year, did not do as well as his worldwide hit “Gangnam Style,” so PSY was not ranked quite as high as his popularity might have merited. However, it seems that he is in the works for a new album, and ready to take on the world once again.

9. Superstar K (22 votes)

“Superstar K” has solidified its place as birth place for rookies. Having gone all the way through Season 5, it wouldn’t be too much to say that the show started the audition program boom in Korea. “Superstar K” has discovered many popular artists such as John Park, Heo Gak, Busker Busker, Ulala Session, Kim Ye Rim, and more. It’s not uncommon to see an artist from “Superstar K” to rank in the top ten on music sites.

10. Youtube (20 votes)

Youtube is the site that played a main role in world star PSY’s success. PSY’s music video for “Gangnam Style” has so far gotten over 1,700,000,000 hits on the site, and has since gotten recognition as a ‘world hit song,’ revealing the amazing power and influence of Youtube.

What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree with Daily Sports’ rankings? Who else would you put on the list?


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