Looking at the K-Pop Phenomenon

Vibrant colors. Skin-tingling beats. High energy. These traits describe the Korean Wave movement, a newer form of pop culture which dates back as recently as 1995. Even though it’s young, Korean Wave has gained an incredible following thanks to K-Pop (Korean Pop) genre leaders like Rain and BoA. Having conquered most of Asia, K-Pop is looking to break into the music scene in a big way in Europe and the United States, a movement which is encouraging Korean entertainment companies to use the Internet – specifically, YouTube and social media – as a powerful music distribution tool.

Creating a Fan Base

Most K-Pop bands and artists are fresh-faced teenagers with a memorable combination of style, sound, and choreography, but critics speculate that it’ll be hard for the new genre to make any sort of impact in America, especially since stateside audiences have already seen their share of Pop bands. This is where YouTube comes into play. Korean music distribution companies have been aggressively marketing their K-Pop bands to international audiences by uploading music videos and reality TV clips about their biggest artists – and it’s working.

K-Pop now has a notable presence on YouTube thanks to big-budget music videos and fan-generated content. For instance, Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” has gained over 56 million hits and countless dance covers from devoted fans, and other K-Pop hits have been given English cover versions to make them more accessible to their potential Western audience.

Social Media

K-Pop’s relative youth means that its appearance in the States is still in its early stages, but one of the most intriguing aspects of its attempt to break into mainstream American music is its reliance on social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Sharing links, music videos, and information about notable K-Pop bands has been the biggest way for international audiences to gain access to new music, especially since many of the stars themselves are the ones behind their social media accounts.

“Social-media-savvy K-Pop stars are now tweeting, YouTubing and Facebooking their way up music charts across and beyond Asia,” said Bernie Cho, president of Seoul-based K-Pop music distribution agency DFSB Kollective. And the trend is working: U.S.-based Korean pop blogs are gaining more popularity, including sites like allkpop.com, which receives more traffic than many Korean music portals.

What do you think? Is K-Pop the next big thing? Let us know in the comments!

The Songcast Crew

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