My DA on Kpop was inspired by my love with kpop and fascination for how groups promoted themselves. Before I knew of the companies, I had assumed every group was with a different company. I was shocked to find that most groups belonged to a select few companies, and from then I was interested in how the companies differentiated them, either in demographics, design or music. I chose JYP as my focus for this DA as I am most familiar with their groups, and they have the most active roster right now out of the “Big 3”. So, I set out to find what differs each group from each other, using social media.
For ethnographic resources, the easiest way to collate differences was to go through their social media profiles and see their accounts. I chose Social media accounts because thought it would be a quick and effective way of seeing the difference between each group. Seeing the comment reactions was also a priority, and I aimed to be informed by these comments for my ethnographic research. The groups each have their own social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, which I could use to see differences.
Going on Reddit is where I got my information about people’s thoughts on the Division structure and concerns they had about individual groups. They had more detailed and in-depth discussions than throwaway comments on Twitter
For secondary resources, I used a clip of JYP speaking at a conference about the Division structure to inform me. I also got all the album sale and tour information from sites, to add extra detail to the differences in JYP groups. The secondary resources outline the relative popularity of each group and provide a basis of difference between the two groups.
I also used myself as a loose resource, as I have been to two JYP group concerts, Stray Kids and DAY6 and follow the groups casually.
In concluding this DA, I found that Social Media was a boring way to show differences between idol groups. In hindsight, I could have used a different distinctive metric for observation, such as Music Videos, which could showcase the different music and video styles of each group better. In observing social media, I instead found the opposite of difference within groups, I found unity in the company structure. It was only through observing my secondary sources of album sales and tours could we see the difference in groups. The comments for each group were also just people endlessly praising them. It was a missed opportunity to do this DA but not look at their music. Though I was more focused on visual aesthetical differences, I barely found any on social media like I was expecting.
So, I found no significant information to support my difference though the ethnographic research.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
JYP is one of the ‘Big 3’ companies in Kpop, the others being SM and YG. They are the biggest Kpop companies with revenue and groups.
Kpop is part of the Hallyu Wave, exporting Korean popular culture overseas. This is aided by better communication, such as internet and mobile phones. This has allowed Kpop to be one of the biggest ‘soft exports’ out of South Korea, and inciting interest in people coming here.
Social Media sites such as YouTube are crucial for this spread, as it allowed Kpop to be viewed freely, rather than traditional mediums like TV. Kpop also has very concept driven and visually stimulating music videos that are entertaining to watch. Combine this with the use of choreography in a song (called a ‘point dance’) and you have an interesting format for a visual as well as an audio hook.
Kpop has spread far with this method, with people resharing these catching videos and gathering a large fanbase. Kpop also has organised ‘official’ fanbases, called “Fan Clubs” where people can pay for membership and get perks in fansigns, and get access to their ‘fancafes’, which is where members post and talk. Another big part in drawing fans to this medium is ‘fandom names’. Each group has an official fanbase name, for example Twice fans are called Onces (like ‘this only happens once’), Day6 fans are called MyDays and Stray Kids fans are called Stays. Not to mention lightsticks, which are personalised sticks for each group. All of this allows fans to become loyal to their group and create strong fanbases.
As my media niche is Kpop and how groups in JYP are promoted, I needed a kpop article. For background research I am going to be using this article by Minjeong Kim et al. This article will help contextualise the promotions of kpop and the social media. This academic article is a great cross section for what I hope to accomplish, only on a smaller scale. The academic article used twitter for their research and collected tweets with the hashtag #kpop to collect their data. Their methodology is very similar to what I want to achieve in this subject. However, this was about comparing global twitter networks, whereas mine focuses on a particular kpop group. This article helps with my primary research and how to make it more in depth It will help me analyse my Digital Artefact by setting times to look at feeds such as “looked at #itzy for 30 minutes’ and summarise findings from there. The journal Article also has a Node Network that they used, and while I can’t use it for my project as it involves connecting accounts together and revealing what or who they are connected to, I can get some inspiration from it and make something similar.
Ethical issues that can arise from this research are-
Reading and using tweets or social media that are not my own. For this assignment I can’t use other people’s tweets as it would be a breach of privacy without any consent. I can only summarise and give my opinions on what I felt the comment was about.
Another ethical issue that can arise from being on the internet is getting involved with comments or tweets, by deliberatively inciting conflict to put a certain line of thinking in my research. My involvement should be observatory only and to not cross an ethical line with comments.
Kpop is also an industry with a long list of ethical issues that can overlap with social media, and a big one pertaining to my topic is fansites. Fansites, to explain in simpler terms, are fans of a specific person in a kpop group,that follow them around with a DSL Camera and take photographs of them. Fansites are also not ‘sites’, they are just a person with a twitter account that only upload pictures of a certain member.
While there are fansites that are respectful and only take photos at concerts from the crowd, there are also many other fansites that are blacklisted by companies by being too invasive either by following them at airports or going to all of their events. There was even a fansite that attended all the stops of love yourself tour that BTS went to.
I would also recommend this video by DKDKTV, who went to a Kpop event, and recounted their experiences with fans, starting at 39:09
Other issues to touch on-
‘Sasaeng’ fans. These are possessive and fanatical, gong as far to stalk their idol and trade information on idols private lives. Some even leak out phone number details or addresses.
‘Fanservice’ in Vlive by streaming live video from a phone to make it seem more intimate, and while not a bad concept, can contribute to sasaeng culture.
My media niche is kpop, and I wanted to explore how kpop groups promote themselves online. I want to know how different groups within the same company can differ in promotion methods. The online promotions include social media posts, such as M/V Teasers, Photo Teasers and Group Teasers. These are usually posted on Twitter and Instagram, with YouTube being used for M/V Teasers. Kpop groups will typically release various teasers to gain attention before release. But this strategy can vary wildly between groups, even within the same company. I will be observing and analysing JYP and their artists, TWICE, GOT7, DAY6, STRAY KIDS and ITZY.
Exploring the social media that they use, like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and VLive will help me collect data. As well as looking at album and merchandise sales will provide an interesting look into the management of kpop groups.
JYPE’s artists are aimed at slightly different demographics and I wanted to know if that had an effect on promotion. Is this more favourable to popular groups like TWICE?
My goal with this media niche is to show how well of an oiled machine kpop is, and how different it is to the western concept of ‘promoting’. This is aimed at non-kpop fans that have no experience with how a kpop promotional period works. I would like them to take an interest in how different kpop is from the American promotions.
This is more of a cross-section of how typical Korean idol promotions work, as the ‘Big 3’ (SM, JYP and YG) typically have a set promotion period. I won’t do any large outliers like BTS because since they are so popular, their promotional strategy has varied.
My research plan-
I will gather this information by looking though social media each week and seeing what each group is targeted towards. Do they have positive comments? Negative? What are their posts designed to look like artistically? How often do they interact with the commenters?
After doing this, I will sum it up into a short blog post about my findings for each week and then consolidate that into one large blog post at the end of this subject for my DA, outlining the differences and nuances between each kpop group and how they are treated for promotions.
Week 3- Research history of JYPE
Week 4- Look at TWICE with promotions (Social Media- Fan interactions, frequency/ length of post/videos, likes etc.)
Week 5- Look at GOT7 with promotions
Week 6- Look at DAY6 with promotions
Week 7- Look at STRAY KIDS with promotions
Week 8- Look at ITZY with promotions
Week 9- Evaluate the use of VLive (Kpop streaming and the comments underneath as well as views)
Week 10- Evaluate Western promotions in comparison (Ariana Grande etc.)
Week 11- Compare all JYP groups and summarise promotions + differences from the west
I have chosen to do Kpop as my general media niche. In this industry there are a lot of key players, artists and companies that all work together to deliver a finished product. I want to explore how the companies and other entities affect how kpop is presented to us.
In my network, I am including several kpop companies, including the ones dubbed as the ‘Big 3′. These are the entertainment companies called JYP, YG and SM Entertainment. All of the company names are abbreviations of the founders’ names, being Jin Young Park, Yang Hyun-suk and Lee Soo Man respectively. As these companies are essentially big conglomerates, they also handle advertising, distribution, production and have their own record label. They each have a board of directors as well as a CEO. Remember Psy with his hit ‘Gangnam Style’? He was under YG Entertainment when it was released. He has since left YG and gone on to fund his own company. Another big company that I will be including is Big Hit Entertainment, home to the biggest kpop idol group, BTS.
The Big 3 also has its own impressive roster of idol groups that I will include in the network, such as Twice from JYP, Blackpink from YG and Red Velvet from SM (all girl groups). These groups are a primary focus because they are all currently active and promoting, though I will refer to other groups such as YG’s Big Bang and SM’s Exo, both boy groups, as their popularity was unmatched during their time. Another fact of the industry is that boy groups are more profitable than girl groups, because the key demographic for idol groups is usually teen girls.
There is a process to promoting the music these idol groups put out. An idol group’s ‘comeback’ is usually announced on social media, and when they release their album, they choose one song as the ‘title track’, which is promoted everywhere. They promote this song primarily by posting the music video on YouTube and social media. They also go on music shows. Music shows are usually on cable tv and feature a line-up of idol groups that are actively promoting.
These music shows are also run by companies, the most prominent being Mnet M Countdown. There are other music shows, on the other days of the week, like KBS, Inkigayo etc. There are 7 in total. Idols usually promote for 3-4 weeks on most music shows. The music show companies make their money by letting people come and watch them on their stage, though in this social media age, it is fast becoming an archaic way to promote.
All of the music show performances are uploaded to Youtube and other social medias for people to watch. All idol groups also have their own various social media channels for posting videos and variety content. None of the content is controlled by the members, usually all of it is uploaded by the company. Idols may have individual accounts that they can use.
I have three media interests that I want to touch on in week 1, and hopefully narrow my search as the weeks go on. Some of these I have a passing but inquisitive interest in, such as a show I am watching (Avatar: The Last Airbender), or things I l do, like doing art as a hobby, so I am interested in the subculture of fan artists. There is one I have a deeper interest in, because I have been following it for so long, which is kpop.
To explore my first point, Avatar: The Last Airbender. I watched the series as a kid in primary school, and then watched it as a young teen, so I know major plot beats already. I am currently rewatching the series in its entirety after the internet exploded about it again after it was available for streaming on American Netflix. I am interested in exploring how this show has held on to popularity and status after finishing in 2008. What made the series so loveable, and how did this show still garner so much attention? I still see people making memes and discussion posts on twitter about the character arcs and world of ATLA (There is no war in Ba Sing Se anyone?)
This segues into my second point nicely, which is about fanart. There are many shows airing, and some of these can even gain additional fans if there are fan artists that draw them. Fan artists are usually big fans of a shows characters or designs if them draw them and share that with their followers. That leads to a bunch of fan artists getting together to create a community to create zines, fan books or merch. A good example of fanart that reaches people in this piece by @devinellekurtz about Avatar, and has been some of her most liked posts.
There are also multiple artists that only post fanart, because they love a specific series or movie so much. I want to know why they enjoy being fanartists so much, and if they like the community they’re surrounded by?
My third and final niche is kpop. I have been into kpop since 2017, when BTS dropped their title track ‘DNA’. Ever since then I have been fascinated by kpop, such as they lingo they use, like ‘Comeback’, ‘Music Show Win’, ‘Perfect All Kill’ and ‘Daesang’. I was also fascinated at how kpop is basically a cultural export for foreigners to come to South Korea. I am amazed at how fast kpop has grown in the past 3 years, and how the fanbase has grown. I am also interested in the cultural differences and hardships of kpop. Many people on the internet like to tout about the ‘dark side of kpop’ with slave contracts, fainting etc. and while some of them might have truths embedded, I always wonder why the American entertainment industry is seen as so ‘different’.
Everyone talks about how kpop is awful, but neglect to mention the cultural situation they are in that separates them from America, such as being in South Korea, and has a totally different and in some ways, more oppressive culture than America.
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