[Herald Interview] Billboard’s Janice Min talks potential and future of K-pop
Published : Oct 6, 2014 - 20:25
Updated : Oct 6, 2014 - 20:25
With the pursuit of using music to connect countries, people and content across geographical boundaries, the annual MU:CON Seoul music conference kicked off on Monday with the opening address of keynote speaker Janice Min, copresident and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Media’s Entertainment Group.

As the copresident and CCO, Min oversees the prestigious American entertainment media publications The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard. In 2010, the former journalist took the reins of The Hollywood Reporter and transformed the daily entertainment newspaper with a circulation of around 300,000 into a glossy weekly magazine with readership now reaching 250,000.

At the beginning of this year, monthly online traffic on The Hollywood Reporter’s website reached 14 million, the highest in the media outlet’s history, and marked a 900 percent in increase in traffic since Min took over four years ago.

At this year’s three-day music conference, held at the Blue Square theater in Hannam-dong, Seoul, the Korean-American entertainment media connoisseur visited Korea for the first time in 30 years to share her insights on the current trend and potential of K-pop music in the U.S. market.

“K-pop is huge. ... K-pop is significant,” Min said in her keynote address, noting that 2014 saw a record number of K-pop albums on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart.

“We cover a lot of Korean content at Billboard, I would say almost obsessively,” she later added.

Needless to say, much of K-pop’s worldwide attention was thanks to Psy and his record-breaking 2012 smash hit “Gangnam Style.” However, according to Min, K-pop acts apart from Psy are still managing to grasp the attention of her Billboard audiences. She mentioned the recent tragic loss of K-pop members EunB and RiSe of Ladies’ Code in a car accident last month, saying, “You have no idea how huge that (news) was in the U.S. It was the top-read story on the Billboard website for days.” 
Janice Min, copresident and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Media’s Entertainment Group, gives the opening keynote address at the 2014 MU:CON music conference held at the Blue Square theater in Hannam-dong, Seoul, Monday. (Yonhap)

“K-pop is the perfect 360-degree expression of entertainment right now,” Min added at a press conference held after her keynote address. “It has dance, singing, fashion, beauty, it’s all packaged so well that it makes it incredibly appealing to anyone in the YouTube generation right now.”

As one of Hollywood’s most influential entertainment media insiders, Min said that despite the trendy international wave that K-pop is surfing at the moment, K-pop would eventually need to diversify to continue its growth and penetration into overseas markets.

One of K-pop’s biggest trademarks is undoubtedly its managing agencies, she noted. From the group members, to concept, to costuming to music, nearly all aspects of a K-pop group are essentially manufactured and created by local entertainment agencies.

Min said one of the biggest pitfalls and weaknesses that K-pop music would likely have in the future, especially with regards to the U.S. audience, is the genre and its artists coming off as overly packaged and lacking in artistic integrity.

“Fans are going to want to feel a sense of authenticity from these performers,” she says. “In America, there was a phenomenon with the boy bands ... but it later felt all too manufactured, there were too many people controlling the groups, all prepackaged, and we weren’t really getting to know the performers.”

Citing the once immensely popular Spice Girls, Nsync and the Backstreet Boys as examples, she said the lack of the artists’ own creativity and factory-like production of the groups eventually led audiences’ interest to fade.

According to Min, the current state of K-pop is prepackaging concepts and ideas of what entertainment managing companies think audiences want, as opposed to giving their artists the freedom to express their own personal style and ideas.

In order for the K-pop industry to gain respect and remain relevant, Min said, it will eventually need to gear its artists toward music that is more independent. She noted that world-famous artist and former Nsync member Justin Timberlake became much more of an authentic music icon and artist once he broke free from his boy band shackles and harnessed his own creativity.

“For authenticity, you need to feel like these artists are passionate about music, that they write their own songs and that it’s true artistic expression,” she said.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)