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Inside Hybe: Seven agencies making a splash on the music scene

Hybe has continued to grow through acquisitions and restructuring, adding multiple subsidiaries.

The company announced plans in March to augment its business portfolio to bring people together through music. The music industry heavyweight also aims to enter the international market with its lineup of labels.

The firm boasts some of the biggest names in the Korean and global music scene, including megastars like BTS and Seventeen.

Here’s a list of seven subsidiaries under Hybe’s umbrella. 


K-pop star BTS (Big Hit Music)
K-pop star BTS (Big Hit Music)

Big Hit Music

Big Hit Music, formerly Big Hit Entertainment, is South Korea’s leading entertainment management agency, housing K-pop superstars like BTS and Tomorrow x Together. The revamped agency under Hybe was first founded by Bang Si-hyuk, the mastermind behind the two A-listers, in February 2005.

On April 1, Hybe announced its split from Big Hit Entertainment. The business division, a merger between Hybe IP and Hybe 360, eventually created Big Hit Music. Hybe holds a 100 percent stake in the new subsidiary.

The agency label made its first steps in the industry when it signed the trio 8eight in 2007. The company added to its roster when it signed a joint management contract with JYP Entertainment to co-manage boy band 2AM in 2010.

In the same year, producer Bang held auditions across the country and brought RM in as the first member of BTS. The group debuted under Big Hit Entertainment in June 2013. Five years later, the label launched its second boy group, Tomorrow x Together, in March 2019.

The subsidiary label mainly concentrates on music production, artist management and communication with fans.

Having gained immense success from the two groups, Big Hit, once a meager rookie in the industry, has successfully grown into global music giant. 


Seventeen (Pledis Entertainment)
Seventeen (Pledis Entertainment)

Pledis Entertainment

Founded in 2007 by Han Sung-soo, Pledis Entertainment is one of South Korea’s leading K-pop agencies housing globetrotting acts like Seventeen and NU’EST.

Singer-turned-actor Son Dam-bi was the first artist to debut under the agency in 2007, with her song “Cry Eye.” Two years later, the agency launched its first girl group, After School. It formed a subunit, Orange Caramel, with bandmates Nana, Lizzy and Raina, in 2010 to expand its presence as a leading agency in the Korean music scene. In 2011, the company created two more subunits of After School -- A.S. Red and A.S. Blue.

The company introduced its first boy band NU’EST in 2012 with the single “Face.” In the same year, the label teamed up with talent agency Fantagio and created a six-piece act, Hello Venus.

In 2015, thirteen-member boy band Seventeen made their debut in May 2015 with their first EP, “17 Carat.” Today, the K-pop juggernaut’s music takes them all across the globe. The last group launched by the agency-label was 10-member group Pristin in March 2017, though the group has since disbanded.

Big Hit Entertainment welcomed Pledis Entertainment under its umbrella on May 20, 2020, when it acquired 50 percent of Pledis Entertainment’s shares and another 35 percent on June 9.

The label’s name originates from the “Pleiades,” a group of more than 800 stars located about 410 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. 


GFriend (Source Music)
GFriend (Source Music)

Source Music

Source Music was established in November 2009 by So Sung-jin, a former talent manager at K-pop powerhouse SM Entertainment who was also previously at H2 Entertainment.

The music agency managed the popular girl group GFriend since its debut in 2015. The six-piece act is the first group the label has solely planned and produced since its establishment and has supported the group until they bid farewell to fans in May.

The band has notched several rookie awards after setting foot in the music industry, and immediately rose to stardom. The agency and the group left an indelible mark in an industry where acts from small companies rarely gain the spotlight.

The company had a long history of partnering with Big Hit Entertainment, even before it was added to Big Hit Entertainment’s roster on July 29, 2019. 

The agency label launched a five-member group Glam with Big Hit in July 2012 with the single “Party (XXO),” although the act decided to part ways in 2015. Source Music has also co-managed vocal trio 8eight, consisting of Lee Hyun, Joo-hee and Baekchan, and previously housed solo artist Kan Mi-yeon.

Since its founding, the company has operated as a record label, talent agency, music production company, and music publishing house.

The company is hoping to gain a better foothold in the music industry with plans to launch a new girl group. Last year, the label held an audition under the slogan “2020 Untact Global Audition” in December. Further details of the group have yet to be revealed. 


Zico (Koz Entertainment)
Zico (Koz Entertainment)

Koz Entertainment

Koz Entertainment is a South Korean music agency founded by K-pop artist and producer Zico in November 2018.

The popular 29-year-old rapper established his entertainment company with the aim to carve out a solid presence in the underground hip-hop and R&B field.

The hip-hop label currently boasts trendy lineups. The agency initially started as the leading hip-hop soloist’s self-established agency, representing the rapper himself. But it later added another singer-songwriter, Dvwn, and paired up with revered industry figures like musician cheese and beat-maker Giriboy, on its list in November 2019.

The 3-year-old startup agency intends to go global with its musicians and ramp up its music production capabilities. Although Zico went on a two-year hiatus to complete his alternative duty service, the door to Koz Entertainment has remained open for aspiring K-pop stars.

The company puts its artists and content at the forefront and lists innovation and excellence in the music industry as its core values.

It officially became a subsidiary of Hybe on Nov. 18, and runs under Yoo Seung-hyun.


Hybe Labels Japan

Hybe Labels Japan is an entertainment company based in Tokyo, Japan. It was established on Sept. 29, 2017, as Big Hit Entertainment Japan until it changed its name on March 20. Hybe holds a 100 percent stake in the Japanese label.

Han Hyun-rok, previously the chief executive of Hybe Solutions Japan, has been tapped to lead the Japanese unit. The Japan-centered label’s services include music production, music publishing, music copyright management, artist management, and talent scouting and development. It plans to amplify the brand by eyeing characteristics unique to the Japanese music market.

Hybe Japan boy band, a temporary name for the group, is an upcoming J-pop act under the label. The multinational group currently consists of Nicholas, K, EJ and Taki.

Adding to the excitement, the label reached out to male singer hopefuls around the globe to finalize the production of their unnamed new boy band. Earlier this year, the agency held its “Hybe Labels Japan Debut Project” audition in January to recruit additional bandmates to the group which is expected to make their appearance sometime in 2021. 


K-pop group Enhypen (Samsung C&T)
K-pop group Enhypen (Samsung C&T)

Belift Lab

Belift Lab, also styled “BE:LIFT,” is a joint venture between South Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM and Big Hit Entertainment established in August 2018 with a capital of some 7 billion won ($6.13 million).

The two giants partnered up with the aim to create K-pop acts and produce better songs. CJ ENM supports the company in television programs, concerts and music delivery platforms, while Hybe supervises the process of launching K-pop bands.

The Hybe subsidiary is home to K-pop rookie Enhyphen, the only act under the agency, who made their grand debut with the single “Given-Taken” in November 2020 from the Mnet competition program “I-Land.”


Hybe America

Hybe America, previously known as Big Hit America, was founded on April 26, 2019, with its headquarters in the United States.

CEO Yoon Suk-joon and Scooter Braun took the helm of the Korean entertainment giant’s fully owned US subsidiary earlier this month.

Under the management of the two gurus, Yoon aims to plant K-pop business models into the US market by nurturing trainees through intensive training and diversified marketing strategies. Braun plans to widen the company’s presence and competitiveness in the American music market.

In April 2021, Hybe announced it would buy all shares of Big Hit America, said to be worth 1.7 trillion won, to grow its stake in the US market. Following the news, Hybe later announced it would acquire a 100 percent stake in Ithaca Holdings, worth some 1.07 trillion won, via the label’s American arm with an ambition to break down cultural barriers and transcend borders.

Ithaca Holdings, home to pop stars Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, is an American media company led by Scooter Braun operating in the music, film and television sectors.

By Park Jun-hee (junheee@heraldcorp.com)
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