Hybe chairman believes K-pop needs crises, big businesses like Samsung, Hyundai. 2023

Bang Si-hyuk, chairman of Hybe, the K-pop behemoth behind worldwide hit BTS, stated on Wednesday that it is time for the music business to experience a crisis instead of being content with its accomplishments.

In Seoul, during a session held by the Kwanhun Club, a group of top South Korean journalists, he emphasized the necessity to grow global entertainment enterprises in South Korea in order to compete with the main players on the global market.

In 2005, Bang established Big Hit Entertainment, the forerunner of Hybe, and in 2013, he released BTS. Hybe has created a multi-label structure with Belift Lab (representing Enhypen), Source Music (Le Sserafim), Pledis Entertainment (Seventeen), KOZ (Zico), and ADOR (NewJeans) as the boy band soared to worldwide fame.

Bang reflected on the significance of the letter ‘K’ in ‘K-pop’ in light of the international popularity of BTS and his subsequent commercial ventures on the worldwide market. “K-pop is becoming a business and cultural axis for increasing the power of the letter ‘K’.”

In spite of all the accomplishments of K-pop, “there are still many mountains to climb” in the global music industry, he noted.

He said that large K-pop businesses located in South Korea had less than two percent of the worldwide market, comparing them to the three global music titans, Universal, Sony, and Warner, who he compared to Goliath.

He also observed that the expansion of K-pop music in the United States and other major markets is decreasing, and that the number of K-pop songs on the Billboard Hot 100 singles list declined by around 53 percent from 2021 to last year. He noted that exports of K-pop albums have also dropped since 2020.

“It’s time to have a feeling of crisis instead of being happy with (K- pop’s) accomplishments,” he remarked.

“Just as there is Samsung in the worldwide semiconductor business and Hyundai in the global car market, the K-pop industry requires global entertainment firms to overcome its current condition.”

Bang stated that he has made significant effort to prepare Hybe for a “post-Bang Si-hyuk” age, and that the creation of a multi-label system with numerous producers and creators is the outcome of these efforts.

He recommended that in order for K-pop to continue its growth, its foundation must be strengthened by increasing its visibility and impact in mainstream markets, as well as by improving music production procedures and introducing healthy management techniques. Creating platforms to expand the industry’s access to music lovers worldwide is another option, he continued.

Hybe has just withdrawn its offer to acquire rival K-pop group SM Entertainment, after weeks of conflict with digital titan Kakao Corp. and its entertainment subsidiary Kakao Entertainment. In contrast, Hybe has opted to collaborate with Kakao in the platform industry.

“Some may say you fought well even though you lost, but I’m really pleased because we struck an agreement with Kakao on platform-related topics, the most critical axis for our future,” Bang said of the arrangement.

After observing how the unexpectedly heated bidding and corporate mudslinging affect K-pop artists and their fans, he stated that he had difficulty sleeping at night.

“It is acceptable to apologize,” he remarked.

Regarding the company’s intention for the 15.8 percent interest in SM it purchased directly from SM founder Lee Soo-man and through a tender offer, Bang stated that he will attempt to make a “fair” conclusion after all staff who handled the matter return from vacation later this week.

Bang refused to provide specifics on the arrangement to collaborate with Kakao in the platform sector, stating that it is too early to say.

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