Lee Sun-jeong, Head Of YouTube Music Partnership: “Proud Of How Far K-Pop Has Come, Will Branch Out To Indie Artists.”
Recently, Lee Sun-jeong, the head of YouTube Music Partnerships at Google Korea headquarters in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, recalled the explosive global growth of K-pop over the past 10 years, saying “K-Pop has had explosive growth globally over the past 10 years.” Lee, who has been with Google for 15 years, moved to the Korean branch in Japan in 2013, just after PSY’s “Gangnam Style” became a hit on YouTube, and has been in charge of music partnerships ever since. He said, “K-Pop has grown so rapidly that even though my job title has been the same for 10 years, it always feels like I’m doing something new.”
K-Pop’s elevated status is also evident within the company. Lee said, “While we used to mainly work in Korea before, we now frequently communicate directly with the U.S. headquarters.” A representative example is the BTS “Permission to Dance Shorts Challenge,” which was held for three weeks in July 2020. Lee explained, “While the headquarters was looking for a way to promote the new content ‘Shorts,’ the Korean branch proposed a collaboration with BTS, and the headquarters readily accepted.” The challenge generated over 10,000 hashtags and gained immense popularity.
Although he has been instrumental in the remarkable growth of K-Pop over the past decade, Lee still feels there are many genres with potential beyond the mainstream, such as indie music and trot. In line with this, YouTube operates a “Foundry Program” that promotes one or two indie artists per country every year. Korea is also included in this program, and famous indie artists such as Bibi and SeSoNeon are graduates of the program.
There are also programs that are unique to Korea. The “Artist Connect” program, which has been running since 2020, is a representative example. This program connects artists who are not familiar with YouTube production with professional creators. Singer Crush, YouTuber Yang Tung, rapper Tiger JK, and YouTuber and writer Jo Seung-yeon are among those who have participated, and due to the support in Korea, the program plans to expand overseas starting this year.