K-Pop Idol : Fierce Competition for Global Market Dominance through IP Acquisition
Amidst record-breaking K-pop album sales, it’s evident that the influence of K-pop is expanding both domestically and internationally, with a significant portion of revenue coming from overseas. Notably, in the first half of this year, out of the 1.316 trillion KRW ($1.1 billion USD) in revenue generated by HYBE Corporation, home to artists like BTS, Seventeen, NU’EST, and ENHYPEN, 63.3% was generated abroad (Financial Supervisory Service’s semi-annual report).
With this scenario unfolding, global music distribution companies have joined the fierce competition to secure K-pop intellectual property (IP) rights. The fact that these distribution companies, which primarily dealt with pop music, are now heavily investing in the K-pop industry underscores the heightened influence of K-pop.
Warner Music Korea, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group based in the United States, jumped into K-pop group production by exclusively managing GOT7’s activities last year. This year, they signed an exclusive contract with members of the group Brave Girls, also known as “Brave Girls.” Additionally, it was reported that they attempted to acquire FiftyFifty, a group currently embroiled in a contract dispute, with an offer reaching a whopping 20 billion KRW ($17 million USD).
Sony Music Korea, the Korean subsidiary of Sony Music headquartered in Japan, also signed an exclusive contract with MONSTA X’s I.M last year. Furthermore, Sony Music Japan is collaborating with JYP Entertainment on the joint project “Nizi Project Season 2” aimed at discovering a boy group. Previously, through this project, they successfully debuted the girl group NiziU.
HYBE Corporation, on the other hand, ventured into girl group production in collaboration with Geffen Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. They recently unveiled 20 trainees who were selected out of 120,000 participants from around the world through a project called “The Debut: Dream Academy.” These trainees will target not only the US mainstream market but also global stages.
A K-pop industry insider stated, “As the popularity of K-pop continues to rise, global music companies are focusing on developing content based on exclusive K-pop IPs. Given that owning IP is essential for moving the market, K-pop, which is currently increasing its influence, has become the prime target.” They added, “However, securing IP requires significant investment, which could lead to market growth being dominated by large planning companies and global record labels, potentially deepening the polarization within the K-pop industry.”