What could Korean entertainment agencies learn from their Japanese counterparts?

What could Korean entertainment agencies learn from their Japanese counterparts?

January 25, 2011

The increasingly contentious ’slave contract’ issue has grown to such proportions that even international companies are sitting up to take notice. After observing the cases of JYJSM Entertainment and KARA-DSP Media, many Japanese entertainment agencies have been voicing their confusion over why contract terminations are imploding into such a controversial issue.

Contract terminations are rarely seen in the Japanese music industry. Case-in-point, the idol group SMAP, who debuted back in 1991, are still going strong even after 20 years as one of the most popular groups in the idol industry.

Japanese agency representatives believe that the key ingredient to their idol group’s longevity is the fair and reasonable conditions of the contracts signed. “In TVXQ’s case, the main problem stems from the 13 year contract deal, whereas in Japan, a one or two year contract is the norm,” stated a representative of a magazine company affiliated with five major media companies in Japan.

In other words, the Japanese agencies utilize a system based off personal incentives – if a group attains popularity and earns a solid profit during their contract period, that group will receive a higher salary for the following year. Other methods include enforcing a monthly pay schedule, which in turn allows for less-popular celebrities to pay for their living expenses, and thus strengthen their loyalty with the company.

A special characteristic about Japanese entertainment agencies are the humane relationships shared between the company and their artists. An seasoned representative of Japanese celebrity management companies said, “It’s not about dealing with celebrities as ‘items’; it’s about managing them with an equal understanding and relationship as human beings.”

There was a case back in 2009 when a Japanese actress/model’s contract impressed all those who read its details. “We do not tolerate the emotional and physical pain of labor force,” it said. “Schedules must always be adjusted in order to develop the greatest skills of our models and actresses.”

The CEO of this small agency, Sasaki Masumi, stated, “It’s part of the entertainment business to run into difficulties in managing celebrities as they are our ‘products’, but it’s not just about simply managing a celebrity; I also focus on helping them develop as an actor by instilling in them a deeper knowledge of their craft.”

However, that’s not to say that the Japanese music industry doesn’t see artists leaving their companies due to complications or differences in opinion. Although the majority of artists leave a company because they couldn’t attain as much popularity as they wanted, there are also many cases where the celebrities earn even more fame for leaving a company, like ex-idol actor Masahiro Motoki (2009 Academy Award winner for Okuribio). For JYJ’s case, however, this is the first time a group has been blocked from public music programs by the force of their powerful ex-agency for fleeing the company.

Netizens made comments such as, “The principle of someone becoming a betrayer just because they left after been taken care of doesn’t many any sense. The agency is blocking their activities and making a hindrance… Was it even right for them to take care of them in the first place. I’m a bit skeptical, but they definitely should give back the amount they’ve grown and give them the right of choice” and “I believe there is a lot to learn from these foreign cases.

Source: Hani via Nate

Translation by: VITALWARNING of Allkpop

Shared by: TheJYJFiles

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25 thoughts on “What could Korean entertainment agencies learn from their Japanese counterparts?

  1. thank you Admins! Korean system really have too learn, they really behind when they alout company like SM to treat their youth talent like that.

  2. Thanks for sharing this article…
    I’m just hoping that SME will realize what a big idiot they are being seen as for not trying to hear and see things around them.
    JYJ fighting!

  3. I have a question about the Korean music industry — not the entertainment agencies. I hear about the big three all the time, but nothing about where real musicians go to get a CD produced, play concerts, earn a living. The ones that have careers after the age of 30 or start careers outside of K-pop. If I wanted to rock with someone with a few wrinkles where would I look? Are there branches for these musicians at companies like SME? Are they in smaller companies that we never hear about? Are their contracts similar (giving up intellectual rights, no say on schedules) or are they more equitable?

    Part of this is prompted by the idea that keeps getting pushed that the boys’ career would be over at 30, which seems so blatantly false to me, but no one has ever called anybody on it.

    • @Eliza, LOL – “If I wanted to rock with someone with a few wrinkles where would I look?”

      I completely agree, especially about your last statement. It’s almost as if it is written in stone. What rubbish!! Take a look at artists from around the world who have been in the music industry for decades!!

      Does anyone tell Bono, Elton John, Phil Collins, Madonna they can’t continue in their careers. Hugh Masakela from South Africa has been around forever!! I won’t even go into the MULTITUDE of artists here in the USA who have been around for decades. The current ones who are popular are just about to enter into their 30s – Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Usher (he may already be), etc. Others are already there – Mariah, Jay-Z, Maxwell; the list is long. They will still be popular because they have talent.

      To me, it appears to be a form of ‘psychological advertising’. You say something often enough, people will tend to believe it. Facts? Don’t worry about that, “take our word for it.” Huh? Prove it!!

      They are catering to a ‘young fanbase’ who are easily manipulated. Once, they are done with them, they will bring in the next batch. I believe the shortsightedness is on purpose. This way, they get to control the message and the outcome. We are beginning to find out how they make their money, and have these huge stock portfolios.

      If fanbases stay with their artists for years, they won’t be able to market them the way they want to. Maturity tends to be a downer to some folks. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, record companies here in the West tend to downgrade artists after a while, but the fanbases stay around. I have been a Prince fan forever. He may not be on top of the charts, but because of his musical talents, which are many – insert JYJ here – his fanbase will show up to fill whatever venue he is appearing at. I’ve even gone with some friends to a MIDNIGHT close curcuit theater showing of a concert in anoter city, and then gone to the live performance when he came to our city. So he continues to make money. He composes, produces, and showcases his own work. Makes his own money, has his own studio. The man is now past 50!!

      Like you, I don’t know enough about the local Korean entertainment scene to gage how well ‘older’ artists fare. I recall on POPSEOUL there was an article that talked about the monetary value of various artists names – Shinwa and DBSK were up there around the 40M USD figure. I did my own conversions, so I may not be 100% accurate, but I don’t think I was off that much. BOA was a bit higher around 100M USD, and a couple others were actors. But the biggest name value on there coming in at around 150M USD, was Seo Taiji ( hope I’m getting the spelling correct). He is definitely older, but most important, he does his own thing, therefore is making his own money. No big advertising or huge TV promos, but his fanbase is still there.

      As long as the industry leaders can control the message, they, and not the artists will make the money. So, if you want to control the industry, you make the rules – fairness has nothing to with it – don’t let anyone take any of your space. This is why they are scared S***LESS about the outcome of this lawsuit.

      A bit OT – how did SME come up with the magical number 13 to determine it takes that long to ‘breakout’ into the international market? Could it be that #13 puts these artists in their early 30s. ” Oh, you’re back from you’re military service, sorry, you’re too old now.” 13 years, BS! No offense to others in Asia, but it takes 13 years to conquer Asia? The little they dab in the US and Europe does not constitute hitting it internationally. There is no intention on having them make it REALLY BIG in the US or Europe. If there was, they would have them training in English from day one in those training years. I don’t buy it.

      Okay, I’m done now. I feel better. 🙂 Apologize for the long rant.

    • I’ve been wondering that, too: what are the companies that handle the non-idol-group bands/musicians, and what are their contracts like? Just from talk show stuff, I suspect places like SM have divisions that manage older ballad singers, but would like to know if that’s true or common.

      “the idea that keeps getting pushed that the boys’ career would be over at 30, which seems so blatantly false to me”

      Yeah! One reason I’m keeping an eye on Shinhwa. Eric returned to acting almost immediately after his military stint. Dongwan just got out. IIRC Junjin will be out early this year. I honestly can’t imagine them simply disappearing.

      • I was wondering how Shinhwa was selling but then I remembered that they haven’t actually been available at the same time since they left SME. 😀

    • You have hit the nail on the head! *applause*

      What you are asking after, live music scenes, indie record companies, etc. were all largely destroyed by two successive military dictatorships in the 70s and 80s. Korea had a thriving live rock music scene in the 60s but it was largely demolished by the 70s. Now these things are slowly coming back…live clubs and stages in Hongdae…FLuxus, the big indie music label (home to Clazziquai and Winterplay)…but the continual growth and influence of the big entertainment companies is no doubt strangling their potential.

      JYP and YG though seem to be dabbling in the idea of signing on indie/underground singers to diversify beyond producing idols. SM, of course, is too uncreative for this.

      • I’ve heard of Winterplay now I have a label to check out.

        But is this label still an exclusive, we take care of everything and you just show up at the gigs when we say arrangement, or is it closer to the agent system that JYJ are trying to introduce? Could they already be living the magic compromise that everybody is looking for and can’t seem to see? These questions are more rhetorical than anything else and I’m grateful you were able to answer some of them, Jimmie.

        I’m hoping that JYJ’s fight will bring more of the smaller labels to the forefront. I did notice that JYJ has the support of the Young Producers Association. Which just by its name seems an interesting organization and something worth looking into.

    • “Part of this is prompted by the idea that keeps getting pushed that the boys’ career would be over at 30, which seems so blatantly false to me, but no one has ever called anybody on it.” – YOU’VE SAID IT. /claps

      I’ve always thought it was kind of BS when the idols/young artists kept saying they might have to retire after 30, as if the big 30 signalled the end to their talent. I had a feeling this was what trigger JYJ’s fight in the first place, because they didn’t want a huge chunk of their youth to end up being used for something they are not happy with. Imagine being 30 and looking back at the past 13 years of your life being worked to your bone and getting something so little in return. /shivers

      And as an Asian, I could somehow tie this idea to the cultural connotation of age and responsibility. In most Asian countries, there were things that you;re expected to do and not do when you’ve reached a certain age – like you shouldn’t dance and behave like ‘kids’ when you’re in your 30s, even if you can. You’re expected to behave like a wise man/woman, start a family, and make money to ‘normal’ way. I’m making a sweeping generalization here, because we know there are Asian artists out there who still had a huge fanbase even when they’re way past the 30 y/o mark. Seo Taiji, SMAP, The Gospeller are among the famous ones I could think on top my head. But these people were not ‘idols’, their fans are much more reserved and would not do something like comparingtheir oppa’s awesomeness with the others’ oppas.

      Internet is a ‘young thing’ and controlled by the young, or at least the young at heart. And it’s powerful in dictating what’s in and not. I imagine that as we grow older, this new generation of fandom would be too, and we could see the fight for our fandom’s ‘relevance’ continue until we’re in our 30s and 40s. Idols could easily be ‘worshipped’ way past their ‘used-by’ date as the management companies had stated. This change is what SME is incapable of grasping, because to them, idol market is limited – you won’t get a cent from these kids when they reach 30 so you should milk them good and dry.

      SME needs to start embracing changes, and not use their age-old philosophy to trap young minds into thinking that they are living with a time bomb attached to their heads. JYJ fight for survival, and even when SME continuously threaten to press the button and destroy them, the boys and their fans show time and time again that we could rise from the ashes.

  4. I think their arrogance and greed has created this barrier where they make the rules and they ignore legal rights, their own government as well.

  5. When I see j-pop, their artist have long carrier even they grow old, I mean they look stable with their fans, I am just wonder how about K-pop? Some drama artist like BYJ and JDG have their own fans, but I dont know about idols, I think if I see some idols with their age around 35 year still dancing sexy, it feel weird,
    I mean JYJ have their talent, but how about some idols maybe girls idols, I think if K-pop not change some idols will lost the game with new young and fresh idols,

  6. I agree! The majority of Japanese artists are loyal to the fair and reasonable conditions of the contracts signed.
    It’s an A+ for the Japanese media companies and entertainment agencies that have done sufficient protection to meet the needs under the law of the humane relationships which shared between the company and their artists.
    Koreans need to protect their children from SME vicious and outrageous behavior in the exploitation of their young dream for SME top executive’s money. Lee soo Man has built his wealth on the most vulnerable members of the Korean society with their slave and unjust contract.
    SME needs to rewrite JYJ’s contract. Koreans need to find solutions for prevent SME from using its money to get away with impunity.
    The Korean Judicial system has seen the unfair contract in TVXQ (JYJ) but somehow a bit slow when dealing with SME especially in the case of SME violated the court verdict by interfering JYJ’s activity back in November 2010 and again in January 18, 2011 where SME’s tactic was delaying the court day with no show up witness from their company. It ponders the judicial confidence in law enforcement. Will it erode the job of the good justice?
    Too many schemes and lies from SME since the lawsuit started and there were no transparency in the company’s financial statement over the last 15 years, which didn’t help much for a quick solution because many ugly bad top-managers don’t want to get caught. Every bad guy runs to cover their wrong doing. Is that the reason why SME keeps asking for more time in TVXQ (JYJ) case?
    It’s also sad to see SME continue to gather their own idols and the people who get paid from them to neglect their unjust contract. (Kepa, KFPcai, heechul, boa, kangta, HoMin etc….)
    Instead of seeing the problem, SME is denying their slave contract with their minors and idols.
    Will SME go to the extreme of falsifying financial disclosure forms? Looking at giving bonuses to their executives in the year of negative operation profits 2008, everything is in question.
    With power comes the abuse of power.

  7. I have a question…Did Rock ever reach South Korea? I mean I read somewhere Rock did reach there but it was banned by the government. Is it true? Its so rare to find underground music in SKorea which this are scattered all over the place in other country. Even a small country where I live have underground music and play a big roll as a college/university music. We have stuff like Battle of the Band, gigs and stuff. As an international fans it feel as if we been feed with all this superficial music made by those prominent company in K-ent. I would love to listen to more underground and of course Korea rock music. I get to know Standing Egg…owh the music they produce is so sexy~~~

    • and another question…what kind of music did guys in Korea listen to? dont tell me they only listen to SNSD etc/shivers. Do you guys know Sungha Jung? His a well-known guitar prodigy.

    • There was a huge rock revival in the late 50s and throughout the 60s but it was largely suppressed by the government in the 70s…luckily, indie and underground music has been coming back in the past 20 years, mostly around Hongik University (Hongdae)…that’s where famous Korean punk/rock bands like Jaurim, Crying Nut and Cherry Filter got their starts.

    • OMG Jimmie!!!! I like Jaurim and finally I find the original singer of La la la the song that DBSK sing as a remake in a Happy campaign (where they do all this stupid comercial dancing hahaha). OMG I love it when JJ sang that song but the original….DBSK version is no where near to the original. I love the singer instantly like a flash! OMO~~~

  8. SME have to change. Seriously SME, the more they dragged it, the more they looked like a stupid company. Why don’t they realized that ? Can’t they just moved on and start new instead dragged it on on and on …………..

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