So, I have been studying the K-Pop industry for a while now and thought I should share some of what I have learnt. K-Pop simply means Korean pop music, an important arm of the Hallyu (Korean Pop culture Wave). If like me, just a year ago, you are wondering what the big deal is about K-Pop and why anybody would be studying the Korean music industry. The answer is simple, K-Pop is a big deal! According to Bloomberg, in 2017, global revenue from K-pop was just shy of $US5 billion, making it one of South Korea’s biggest exports. K-pop has had a tremendous knock-on effect on nearly all sectors of the Korean economy. If you consider that Psy’s ‘Gangnam style’ video has accumulated a total of 3.2 Billion views, compare that to Davido’s ‘Fall’ (Most viewed video by any artist in our industry) which has about 114 Million views at the moment, then you may begin to understand how much bigger K-Pop is. K-Pop’s influence continues to reverberate globally from southeast Asia and India to Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East and the Western world including the USA. And I think Afrobeats can a learn a thing or two from K-Pop if it is to make even greater inroads into the Global music market, which is its destiny. The first lesson that jumped at me from my study is…
The folks in the K-Pop scene take that shit seriously and I think it is one of the key pillars that has supported their rise to global relevance. In Korea, three major record companies – SM, YG and JYP Entertainment – have been in the forefront in developing K-pop idols (stars). In K-pop, talents are recruited into a rigorous training program that may last for several years before their eventual debuts. The training not only covers singing, choreography and comportment, but also lessons in foreign languages and public speaking. This ongoing process makes k-pop idols more professional and interesting and therefore able to captivate more audiences around the world with their music, elaborate performances and persona. In Nigeria though, artiste development is non-existent, and some people attribute this to the high cost and risk of fully developing an artiste to the limits of their capabilities. This is like not feeding your chicks because they may get stolen, makes no sense however you dice it, and this is one of the reasons our industry and “idols” stay stunted.
The truth is, for people looking to get something out of their music, we don’t put rigour into making music any more. Songwriting is basically a dying art in Afrobeats and nobody seems to care. In fact, I am noticing the same trend among the emerging alte crew as talking gibberish is becoming the “vibe.” Also, virtually nobody bothers to take voice lessons to improve their singing in the Afrobeats space and it’s telling. Voice training is not nothing, I mean this is the most important tool you use in your craft the least you can do is to always keep it sharp. For the novices, voice training is not about making you sing like an R&B guy no, it’s to help you do the best you could be doing with the voice that you have, everybody can be trained to sing better.
Of course, we have all agreed that performance is a joke to us. Well if this kite is going to sail much further across the world for much longer, y’all would have to do much better with your performances and there’s no way around it. Otherwise, our legendary anyhowness in handling performances will be the death of this wave. Artistes don’t take time to plan sets no more, nobody does any serious rehearsals to deliver a memorable show, I guess it’s old school. Late last year I was at one of your faves’ rehearsals and it was just revulsing. He sat in the middle of the room and randomly picking a song to ‘rehearse’ and as soon as the “band” was trying to get into some groove he would halt and then move to another song and on and on the rehearsal turned oniown. We have pop stars who can’t dance to save their low self esteem and they don’t even see the need to improve on it because they believe they can just come on stage and jump upandan and the people will scream, and they’ll call it a day. Well, one day monkey go go market…
What about fashion and style. I remember growing up and trousers had to be sweeping the floor otherwise you were called Michael Jackson. If you wore a pair of white socks and they were visible you were Michael Jackson. You could also see somebody and say they were dressed like Fela. But this is not so anymore in our industry. Yet, style is an essential element in the making of a complete star. In K-Pop, the idols are the trend setters, they don’t just go into a Gucci store and pick the most expensive shirt from the rack and go make a video or hop on stage. They stand out from the crowd, Idols create their own style which is a big revenue earner for the idols and their labels.
When I hear people say Afrobeats is taking over the world I just laugh. See, If Afrobeats is going to take over the world, and it has a long way to go, the industry will have to get serious. Join me next week for the next part in the K-pop series.