The Engineer model: South Korea
The Engineer model is best represented by the policies and struemre of South Korea. The country has experienced remarkable growth, rising from the 33rd largest recorded music market in 2005 to the 11th largest in 2012, and was ranked 6th in 2017 (IFPI, 2018, p. 11). However, its share in music markets accounted fox- only 2% of global music (КОССА, 2016). As with other Asian music nations, South Korea enjoys the advantages of a considerable Asian market on its doorstep, while retaining significaxxt language barriers in gainixxg entry to English- speaking markets. For Asian markets, the practice of “twinning” (replicating) acts for different markets, or integrating band members from other nations, is not uncommon (Messerlin and Shin, 2013). For US and European markets, the nature of pop star production has been argued to work against older notions of authenticity prevalent within the music industries (Shin and Kim, 2013). Some acts have achieved success on live circuits in the US; more sustained recording success has been achieved in Japan and China.
In several ways, South Korea arguably prefigured the latest turn to more considered export policies, with music at the centre of the "Korean Wave” strategy established in the early 1990s encompassing other cultural industries (drama, television, film, dance, video) and food culture. The development of local pop through extended television networks (and TV talent programmes) from the late 1980s has allowed early local pop acts (such as Seo Taiji and Boys) to inform later national acts (H.O.T.; BoA; Girls’ Generation; Big Bang). The enormous global success of Psy’s "Gangnam Style” in 2012 (over 2 billion YouTube views; reaching no. 2 on the US Billboard charts; see St. Michel, 2017) prefigured significant gains in 2012 (global tours by TVXQ, Super Junior, Beast, Girls Generation, 2PM, CNBlue and Infinite) and in 2013, where "the number of Korean bands participating at SXSW increased from 4 in 2011 to 10 in 2013”; among the ten bands, seven went on to tour in the US (КОССА, 2013). An earlier agreement signed with Google provided a К-pop channel on YouTube, with six К-pop concerts broadcast live (ibid.).
Popular music has been argued to be the leading cultural form in making the “Korean Wave” prominent across broader promotional strategies:
We use к-pop as the big content to start talking about Korean culture - we bring the к-pop first, then we talk about other things, like movies. People think we have only к-pop, and only the dancing groups, the boys ... we have a lot genres, it doesn’t always equal k-pop - hip hop, punk and EDM [are now evident] ... Unlike the American market, we train our artists very hard and they are well trained.
(Interview 28, 2016)
In 2014, Korean cultural exports, led by popular music and television drama, increased by 8.4% to an equivalent of SUS6.16b, 2.3% higher than the country’s total expoi-t growth in 2013 (Zhang, 2016). In 2016, global revenue from K-pop was estimated to be SUS4.7b (Soesmanto, 2018). By 2016, the South Korean government could boast that it had moved from 7th to 6th place in global export volumes, with various plans for youth training, stadium construction and content creation centres based on K-pop success (Korean Culture and Information Service, 2017). In 2017, popular music accounted for 6.1% of all cultural exports, producing SUS38,491,000 (out of a total of SUS63.1 hundred million) (KOTRA. 2017, np). The “music industry accounted for the highest percentage of marketing and publicity spending (14.3%)” (ibid.). In 2018, the supergroup BTS became the first South Korean act to achieve a gold sales certification from the RIAA in the US (IFPI, 2018, p. 23).
Several factors have been noted for continued export success: The unique “pop factory” assembly line evident within core multimedia entertainment firms producing pop acts, the high popularity of local TV talent franchises in launching local careers, the liberalisation of Asian music markets (Oh, 2013) and the high emphasis placed by managers and recording companies upon social media strategies and fan interaction (Jang and Paik, 2012). It has been suggested that a different form of economic intermediary relationship is at work, with large companies “vertically integrating in-house the process of artist selection, musical and performance training, image making, song writing, management, contracting, and album production and growing into large domineering entertainment empires” (Shin and Kim, 2013, p. 260). The role of such core companies as JYP Entertainment and Star Museum (SM) combines some aspects of Motown-like production systems with an instinctive in-house production model that is distinctively Asian (Negus, 2015). The coordination of live and audiovisual content is more complex, with a range of activities and sites (e.g. YouTube) outside governmental and company control (Oh, 2013). It is a unique arrangement where “the Korean government is both omnipresent and minimal: universally engaged to naturalize the neoliberal principles and maximally disengaged by having private talent agencies enact its policies” (Kim, 2017, p. 530). The “total management strategy” of Korean music companies in discovering and preparing artists for potential stardom has been represented by the govermnent as a complete in-house system.
The South Korean model has been recognised as “one of the most salient examples of intervention into the cultural economy both nationally and internationally, with structured symbiosis linking the economic interests of major businesses with the state” (Negus, 2015, pp. 12-13). The Cultural Industries Directorate was established within the Kim Young Sam Govermnent in 1993 with renewed emphasis upon international promotion. The Basic Law for Cultural Industries’ Promotion was enacted in 1999. further explicitly outlining the role of the state in investment and planning (Lee, 2013). In the early 2000s, Korean expansion focused upon the Japanese market. Indeed, К-pop policies aligned with broader state policies of expansion, including seeking free trade agreements with various
Figure 6.3 Korean artist development structure. Source: Korean Culture and Information Service, 2011, p. 38.
nations (Kim, 2017). К-Pop was viewed equally as both cultural export and "item of tourist destination” (ibid., p. 529).
Govermnent strategies and policies are situated across several departmental responsibilities. In relation to Figure 6.4, the following can be noted for then- particular relevance to music exports. The Music Industry Team is located within the Bureau of Popular Culture in the Korean Creative Content Agency (КОССА), and is responsible for album production, pioneering new markets, organising the Seoul International Music Fair (MU:CON), hosting global showcases, the participation of music businesses and musicians at international music festivals, promotion and marketing, live music concerts and the discovery and development of new musicians (“K-rookies”). They are supported by and work with the Bureau of Global Business in relation to marketing and promotional activities. Broader policy considerations (such as industry strategies, cultural/content industries policy and R&D) are provided through the Bureaus of Cultural Policy and Content Policy, including international exchange and national cultural branding. The Korean Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) leads the penetration of new markets for knowledge-intensive industries, including the content industries.
The Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism’s five-year plan for the music released in 2009 emphasised enhanced international competitiveness for K-pop, along with domestic support. For example, the Global Music Showcase programme funded Korea-centric promotional events in China, incorporating fashion and animation with music promotion, and an Original Sound Track Video Music Festival (КОССА, 2010, p. 492). The showcase funding also prioritised B2B opportunities and networks with international agencies and was designed to ensure a Korean presence at the global circuit of showcase events, including Music Matters, South by Southwest and Canada Music Week. There has been more recent emphasis upon businesses and musicians “achieving noticeable business deals” from state support (КОССА, 2015, p. 373).
КОССА was established in 2009. It has oversight of broadcasting, gaming, music, comics, animation, licensing/merchandising, fashion, “next-generation content”, “culture technology R&D” and human resource development (to “train content creators”) that also includes the CKL business support centre and academy (КОССА, 2018a). “Overseas expansion” is a core concern, providing local support prior to “global market entry”, including hosting expoxt and trade fairs and roadshows (ibid.). A broader goal is to “develop Korea into one of the world’s top five content powerhouses” (КОССА, 2018b, p. 2). According to 2017 government literature, KOCCA's music funding includes concerts, translation, export marketing and festivals, social media promotion, hosting of the Seoul International Music Fair, collaboration with international producers and musicians, business networking and SME support (financial, taxation advice). The central activities are “recruiting K-rookies” (emerging musicians) and project and concert support. For example, in 2013, the first year of the programme, six acts were selected to perform with other К-pop artists, and provided financial support for album production (КОССА, 2014, p. 482). The programme has evolved to include assistance with broadcast and digital platform promotion. For more
Figure 6.4 South Korea cultural export structure. Source: Derived from Ministry, agency and bureau literature.
established artists, К-pop global showcase performances and tours of artists have been funded in partnerships with larger entei-tainment firms, primarily playing across Asia and the US.
MU:CON, the Seoul International Music Fair, has also been a central component of Korean expoxt activity. Its 2014 fair, for example, incorporated a business exchange, song camp (collaborations between ten international songwriters and eight Korean songwriters), workshops, a conference and MU:CON Choice (masterclasses, selected festival promotional choices) (КОССА, 2015). This event is designed as the premier showcase for South Korean artists; in 2013, MU:CON hosted “878 representatives of 310 music businesses from 20 countries, 7,444 participants and attendees for the conference, showcases and networking events. In additional business booths were setup and 304 consultative meetings took place” (КОССА, 2013, p. 438). As part of the larger event, "MU:CON Live” musicians in 2018 performed before “65 music industiy professionals from 18 countries, which could lead to the chance to perform at some of the world’s major music festivals”, receiving funding to participate in overseas festivals (Bang, 2018). КОССА also provides funding for presences at key showcase events, including MIDEM, South by Southwest, The Great Escape, Music Matters and Canadian Music Week, including business-to-business meetings. In 2013, КОССА support also included direct financial assistance to music producers for album production and subsidising concert venue hire (КОССА, 2013). By 2014, greater emphasis was placed upon mentoring from and working with international producers, songwriters and performers at MU:CON, with the song camp producing 13 songs between 10 foreign and 8 Korean songwriters (КОССА, 2015, p. 373).
Concerns emerged in 2014 that beyond the larger enterprises (such as SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment) smaller SMEs and artists were not faring well in foreign markets (КОССА, 2014). This could be rectified by widening the diversity of artists that to date had been “too narrowly focusing on dance music performed by well-groomed idol singers” (ibid., p. 52). Similarly, it was argued that there was scope for expansion across rock, hip hop, jazz and traditional Korean music (ibid.). Funding structures have become more complex with recent and sustained Chinese investment in Korea's cultural industries; the “accumulated investment on the music industry is KRW 529 billion, accounting for 26.9% of the total investment in the cuhural industries” (КОССА, 2016, p. 134). Beyond the injection of capital, Korean firms such as SM Entei-tainment have benefitted from greater access to Chinese markets (ibid.). More recently, КОССА has provided more resources in building expertise in the IT components of the culmral industries, including Start Up Con, a conference and concert event; increasing research partnerships with VR and other "next-generation” content; and other forms of start-up business incubation.