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Men only: Band audition show reignites discrimination furor

JTBC under fire for again accepting only male applicants for ‘Super Band’

“Super Band” (JTBC)
“Super Band” (JTBC)

When JTBC’s band audition program, “Super Band,” announced the opening of registration for the second season, the application requirements reignited the gender discrimination controversy the first season of the program faced.

“Any male musician in fields such as practical music, K-pop, classical music, traditional Korean music, rock, EDM, hip-hop, musical, jazz, world music among others can apply regardless of age /nationality / academic background!” said the application announcement on the JTBC website.

Although the musicians can play any instrument in any genre to compete, they must be men.

Since the announcement went public, social media platforms and the program website have been flooded with requests that female musicians be allowed to compete as well. No official response from the program or the broadcaster has been issued so far.

This isn’t the first JTBC program to accept application from men only. Another audition program “Phantom Singer” allowed only male vocalists to compete for three consecutive seasons.

There is a stark similarity between the two programs in that they both gather individual musicians to compete as groups. In the case of “Super Band,” musicians playing different instruments from guitar to cello formed a band while “Phantom Singer” forms a duet, trio and quartet with each successive round.

As the second season of “Super Band” is once again open only to male participants, calls are growing for female musicians to be given a chance to participate. There are calls to boycott the program as well. Popular female band members like So Yoon of Se So Neon and Ahn Da-young of In The Endless Zanhyang We Are have also publically denounced the program.

The program producer mentioned in an interview with local media during the previous season that they made the program male exclusive because they looked to Maroon5 as a model and wanted a clear direction. In addition, the producer said he was willing to consider adding female members in the following season or make it female focused should the program do well.

“Super Band” is one of the few audition programs where musicians in non-mainstream fields get an opportunity to perform on stage and make themselves known. That such an opportunity is barred to women, despite many indie bands having female members, is perplexing to the fans of the program.

On the other hand, some fans are siding with the show, arguing that JTBC is under no obligation to provide equal opportunity as it is a private company seeking profit.

“I don’t understand why people in a capitalist society ask a broadcasting company to take risk and give up steady sales as shown in season 1,” said one fan on the program website. “If the producers don’t proceed like the first season and the program faces troubles, are they going to take responsibility?”

In the Korean music industry, male musician groups have been more profitable than their female counterparts because they are more popular with female fans, who are willing to spend more money, leading to programs such as “Super Band” to focus on male musicians.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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