BCM241, Media Blog

Differences in JYP’s Kpop Groups (BCM241 Digital Artefact)

Section 1- Introduction to Kpop

First, I will explain what Kpop is. It is a genre of music from South Korea and has grown into a popular genre over the years. Drawing inspiration from US Pop culture and Japanese Idol groups, South Korea tried their hand at creating a modern musical genre following these trends. It was an eventual success, and today we see the results of Kpop as a soft export, also known as a ‘Hallyu Wave’.

Kpop has done much to distinguish itself from its inspirations, focusing primarily on visual aesthetics of music, like cinematic Music Videos, choreography incorporated into songs, fashion choices and artists picked for how good they look. Many kpop idols are thus stunningly attractive, because Korea also places a high cultural emphasis on looking good, going so far as to require a picture for any job applications.

In Kpop, there are several company conglomerates that control the majority of the kpop scene. These kpop conglomerates are a record label and production house rolled into one. These big companies also take care of housing their idols. The biggest companies currently are SM, YG, and JYP, also colloquially known as the ‘Big 3’

JYP is an idol company created by Park Jin Young. The company has a history of acts such as the Wonder Girls, Rain, 2PM and Miss A. But for this Artefact my focus is going to be on the current JYP line-up, with artists like TWICE, Day6, ITZY, GOT7 and Stray Kids. Each artist is a part of JYP and promote their albums and songs for the company. As the company has complete creative control, they control when they release albums, the choreography and the looks of each idol.

TWICE
Stray Kids
ITZY
GOT7
DAY6

Section 2 – JYP Divisions and Big 3

A typical Kpop company would have all of its employees work on the material for all groups, and producing the teasers, album covers and marketing together.

In 2018, JYP announced that they were changing the structure of their teams, after conducting an ‘experiment’ on TWICE’s management. There were a small team of employees that were dispatched to TWICE so they could streamline the process and focus on groups. Instead of a separate Marketing or Sales Department, they would be added into a ‘Division’ that would work only on one or two groups. According to JYP it was a ‘success’ and they adopted this format for all of their current groups. Instead of one big group, JYP is essentially split into four Divisions, that look after certain artists, and have no overlap. This video is JYP talking about this structure at a presentation.

Division 1 is Stray Kids with 25 staff

Division 2 is GOT7 and ITZY with 23 staff

Division 3 is TWICE with 22 staff

Studio J is Day6 with 19 staff

The divisions also take care of some other acts and individual artists under the company, but these groups are the divisions biggest focus. The Division structure divides JYP from other Kpop companies, as none of them use this structure and JYP is the first to implement something like this. This structure was noted because it plays a big part in the difference of group promotions, as they have different employees that are familiar with the workings of the group they are assigned to.

The current Division Structure and their groups

I looked for people’s reactions online to the Division System and found people dissatisfied, even if most noted it a positive change for kpop on the whole, as it is a more streamlined process. Opinions included were that the company was understaffed for what they do, and thought they were unorganised for large scale activities, and that if they were American, there would be more employees. Division 2 was regarded as being particularly understaffed since they had to deal with two major groups, GOT7 and ITZY. Some were also unhappy with Division 3, saying that the teasers for TWICE’s album release, Fancy, looked bad and amateurish.

The ‘Fancy’ Teaser in question

Especially since Division 3 only has TWICE to look after. They felt that the promotions weren’t utilized properly, such as Vlive, a Korean video streaming service that kpop groups use for interaction or audience interactions like fansigns. Division 4 was regarded as more ‘creative’ and is also a sub-label of JYP. People were also dissatisfied with Studio J, as kpop fans expected more consistent marketing or teasers for a Day6 release. They noticed a difference between Divisions, as some groups get a lot of online promotion and no physical, while other groups get a lot of physical promotion and no online presence. For example, Stray Kids has a lot of YouTube content to explore, while ITZY doesn’t have any of that. They said than from this it seems like the Divisions don’t talk to each other and calculate the best promotional approach. 

Section 3- Kpop and Social Media Accounts

For my ethnographic research, I wanted to see if the social media accounts for each group were different in any way. I summarised my findings with each group and their content.

When I visited TWICE’s Instagram profile, I saw that all the photos were selfies of the members and very well shot. They all had a light pastel aesthetic and were posing happily. They usually had short captions in Korean about their day or thanking ONCE’s (The fanbase for TWICE).

The comments underneath the posts were all overwhelmingly positive. The fans would spam hearts and sparkles. Some comments were in foreign languages like Indonesian and Arabic, and I didn’t see many in Korean. There were a few rude comments to be seen, most amounting to ‘Blackpink is better!”. Blackpink is another girl group made by YG that has four members, and some of their fans take ‘kpop rivalry’ seriously, to the point where Kpop is known for its ‘fanwars’. TWICE’s other social media accounts followed a similar route. Their YouTube is full of music videos, dance practices and content. The comments are all talking about comeback goals and improving streaming numbers, showing how focused Kpop fans can be on numbers and ‘winning’.

GOT7 have social media accounts, the most interesting of which is Twitter. They have the standard promotional material, but the comments are different. The fans are asking JYP for ‘fair treatment’ of the members and have a copy and pasted list of issues they want JYP to address. They are angry about substandard promotion, like not producing enough album prints, and that JYP doesn’t care about their international audience by not providing English translations on GOT7 videos, when other JYP artists usually have subtitles for content. Their other accounts are standard, with Instagram posting selfies and their YouTube having dance practices and music videos.

These were repeated by multiple people underneath GOT7’s Account
This was also repeated

Day6 has the least number of followers out of all of them, and their media accounts are largely the same, with Twitter being promotional content and retweets, and YouTube having music videos. In the comments section in Instagram though, there were quite a few responses asking them to come back to their country. Day6 is known for touring a lot, which is why there are responses asking them to come back.

Stray Kids has a similar vibe to all of the other accounts, on Twitter they have promotional material and retweets, their YouTube has alot of their online content like dance practices, Music Videos and a lot of behind the scenes content, more than other groups. There ae also a lot of foreign comments and memes about the group. There is also a push to stream music so they can get better sales and results.

ITZY are the newest JYP group and have the most praise I’ve seen in the comments. On Instagram they post selfies and dancing content. The comments on Instagram are all positive and talking about how they like their singing and dancing. There are also a lot of foreign comments, specifically Arabic. On Twitter they have retweets and promotional content like other groups. Twitter is also known for its ‘fancams’ of idol stars and groups and ITZY is no exception.

While looking through all of JYP’s groups, the formula for each social media was apparent. On Twitter JYP artists only use it for promotional material. There are other kpop artists that don’t use the platform that way, like BTS, and use it to post tweets that they themselves composed. Instagram is also used for selfies a lot of the time. Though most kpop groups do this as it is a format used for pictures and people want to see the idols. Their YouTube is also structured, with music video and dance practice content. This isn’t exclusive to JYP either and most kpop groups follow the same structure with their channels.

What the ethnography of the social media channels has taught me is that kpop groups have a very tight and distinct online presence to appeal to an international audience, such as releasing Music Videos on YouTube and additional content. Most kpop groups promote online in the same way because it is easier for people to access.

Section 4- Kpop and Statistics

List of sales in 2019 on Gaon

In this chart of 2019 of Gaon Physical Album Sales, we can see the distribution for JYP groups and how this correlates with their popularity.

Out of all JYP groups, TWICE is the biggest, being the current ‘nations girl group’ and the highest selling Kpop girl group in 2019. As such, they have the most fans and most sales in JYP. TWICE is a big outlier in kpop, as boy groups are usually a lot more popular than girl groups in terms of sales, occupying 35% of sales.

GOT7 is second on this chart with 31% of sales. As they are the most senior boy group, it makes sense they would be so high. However, they are the oldest JYP group that he has on its current roster, which could contribute to the lack of sales, since the kpop industry move very quickly and new Kpop groups are constantly debuting.

In third, we have the junior boy group Stray Kids, which debuted in February 2018. In only around 2 years they managed to grab 22% of album sales and have a dedicated fanbase. In a far away fourth, we have ITZY, which debuted that year. With only a mini album under their belt for the year, it is impressive they managed to get 5% of the chart and narrowly beat out DAY6. ITZY had an explosive debut in 2019 and hyped comebacks, making them the new ‘it girl’ on the kpop that year. Day6 is the second oldest group on this list, debuting in 2015. Being a band and not marketed as a mass pop sensation, they occupy the niche of a kpop band, attracting fans of rock and other genres. They have steady but small sales.

But the biggest indicator of money is tours. Over the years all the groups have gone on tours, with the most recent tours being Day6’s European Leg of the ‘Gravity’ Tour, ITZY’s Showcase Tour and Stray Kids ‘Unlock’ Tour, which were all done in January 2020. Due to the explosion of popularity in the West of kpop, groups have been touring there more often. Being the biggest group, TWICE got big arenas to perform in, while acts like Day6 got smaller venues of around 8,000 people. JYP aims groups at different demographics and also books different venues according to size.

Conclusion

On the surface of social media, it might seem that they groups have no difference in promotion, with the formula being the same for each group, but it is readily apparent that JYP knows the limits of each group. Each are tailored to a different demographic, with changes in musical style, group members and popularity. They adjust this to what they believe is their audience and then book venues appropriate for that. Day6 is not a huge group, but TWICE is, so it wouldn’t be feasible for them to perform the same venues. Kpop is very structured and so is JYP.

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