The Korea Herald


K-pop groups produced by K-pop artists: Better chances of success?

By Hong Yoo

Published : July 8, 2024 - 15:48

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Kim Jae-joong (iNKODE) Kim Jae-joong (iNKODE)

The number of K-pop artists expanding their careers and venturing into producing new K-pop groups is slowly growing.

These artists are typically in their late 20s to 30s who once dominated the entertainment scene such as Kim Jae-joong, Zico and Lee Hae-in.

Due to the notorious "seven-year curse" in K-pop, most idols' heyday is over when they are in their 20s. The seven-year curse refers to the disbanding of most K-pop groups seven years after their debut as their exclusive contracts with their agencies run out.

This situation leads artists to set off on different paths including debuting as a solo artist, becoming an entertainer, composer or lyricist.

Some aspire to become successful producers like YG Entertainment’s founder and chief producer Yang Hyun-suk, who debuted as a member of the K-pop group Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992, and Park Jin Young, the founder and head producer of JYP Entertainment, who debuted in 1994 as a singer.

Having had success as K-pop artists, these veterans have the know-how to help nurture a new K-pop band that, if successful, could generate tens of billions in profits.

Kim Jae-joong, a former member of the legendary second-generation K-pop boy group, TVXQ, revealed during a group interview with local reporters in late June that he is launching a K-pop group this year.

Even though he did not disclose whether it is a boy or a girl group, it seems likely to be a boy group as he said he tried hard to look for potential members who are just like himself.

Kim established an entertainment agency called iNKODE in April last year.

The strength of producers like Kim is their experience as a successful artist and the know-how accumulated over the years in the music scene as well as their personal network in the entertainment industry.

BoyNextDoor and Zico (right) (Zico's Instagram account) BoyNextDoor and Zico (right) (Zico's Instagram account)

Indeed, some artists have produced recent hit groups.

In May 2023, Zico, a rapper and a member of the idol group Block B, launched the K-pop act BoyNextDoor through KOZ Entertainment, an agency that he founded in 2018.

When the new boy band was launched, it did so under the Hybe label. Big Hit Entertainment had acquired KOZ in 2020, a year before the agency rebranded itself as Hybe.

BoyNextDoor's debut made headlines as a new boy band from a sublabel of the K-pop monolith Hybe.

The boy band’s second EP rolled out in April and sold over 710,000 copies. It also topped Oricon’s weekly and weekly combined album rankings.

Kiss of Life and Lee Hae-in (third from left) (Lee Hae-in's Instagram account) Kiss of Life and Lee Hae-in (third from left) (Lee Hae-in's Instagram account)

Lee Hae-in of now-defunct K-pop girl group I.B.I became a creative director, taking part in launching the popular girl group Kiss of Life in July 2023.

Lee rose to stardom through “Produce 101,” Mnet’s K-pop idol competition, in 2016, and "Idol School" in 2017.

Kiss of Life was quickly recognized for its performance as well as its unique styling and went on to win seven Rookie of the Year awards at seven different awards ceremonies given out at year-end, a huge achievement less than six months after its debut.

Artist-produced groups are not guaranteed similar success, however. Industry insiders and experts say that succeeding as an artist is entirely different from succeeding as a producer.

They could be weak in artist management, promotion and business management.

“Even legendary singers tend to think about their second life after their glory days. They easily move on to produce junior singers relying solely on their success as singers. But production or business is a separate matter," said an industry insider. "Most of them fail because they don't have this experience. They fail to read the trends and, rather, try to replicate their past career with the junior singers,” the industry insider said.

Ciipher and Rain (middle, second row) (Rain's Instagram account) Ciipher and Rain (middle, second row) (Rain's Instagram account)

K-pop act Ciipher, launched by K-pop singer and actor Rain in 2021, is a case in point.

The group drew a lot of interest as the first idol group to be introduced by Rain Company, the agency Rain established in 2020.

Rain relied on his network to promote Ciipher, inviting legendary K-pop diva Lee Hyo-ri to his YouTube channel to shoot content with Ciipher.

He also had his wife and renowned actor Kim Tae-hee star in the music video for Ciipher's debut single "I Like You."

Yet, just two years into their debut, four of the seven members left the group after the group failed to make a name.

The same thing happened to Smash, the boy group that Tony Ahn of first-generation K-pop boy group H.O.T. launched in 2008. Smash dissolved in 2015 without making its presence known in the highly competitive industry.

“They (artist-turned-producers) could contribute to diversifying K-pop by nurturing K-pop rookies. But if they rely on their own success and fail to objectify their business capabilities, they will suffer the consequences in today's fiercely competitive K-pop scene,” said Kim Sung-soo, a culture critic.