K-Pop and Gangnam Style

psyPSY’s Gangnam Style went viral. K-Pop is a YouTube sensation. We asked some music industry experts about what’s behind the international rise of Korean pop music.

Ed Rivadavia, an expert in   and strategy for the music business, says that Gangnam Style is a fad in the oldest definition of the term: great video + good song = viral sensation. He sees a similar rise in Gotye’s song, Somebody that I Used to Know. “Neither artist will likely ever enjoy the same exposure again, and not because they lack talent but because most people won’t care,” says Rivadavia. “Psy’s signing with Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, reflects this state of affairs. Scooter name is hot at the moment. The next viral fad is just around the corner and much harder to predict.”

Rivadavia says that there is an unpredictable appeal of hit songs, and it’s a copycat business. “If a label, producer, or manager gets hot, everyone wants to sign with them. But, the modern day consumer is neither calculating in their choices nor as loyal as in yesteryear. Success is a lottery. Long-term or recurring success is about branding and talent, not fads.

Andy Hagerman, an audio and music production expert based in Japan, says the gradual willingness of Western audiences to embrace Asia music in general is enabling all sorts of music exports. “Leading countries for this are the Philippines, Japan (with artists like Utada Hikaru), and of course the K-pop wave,” he says. “I’d look to Korea to continue to be popular, and for Japan to regain the popularity that it enjoyed in the 1980s propelled by a more connected worldwide listening public. Also look to the Philippines and Vietnam to come into greater prominence probably in about 3 years.

Hagerman says that the technological music revolution is being embraced in Asia more than in any other part of the world because there is less traditional audio infrastructure to oppose it. “Especially in countries like China and Southeast Asia, where economies are also strongly rising in the middle class, we’re seeing the initial growth of a larger audio industry using the latest tools. In EMEA and Americas, this revolution is ameliorated somewhat by the fact that there is a transition from older analog and large-studio  talent workflows,” says Hagerman. “The quality of production in Asia is phenomenally high, especially in Korea. From a strictly technical perspective, it blows all other geographies out of the water. There is a different aesthetic about audio sound. Gangnam style has a decidedly more delicate feel than we get from something similar from the states, but this approach is now being embraced by the West.”

By Maureen Aylward

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