K-Pop, the record company ‘heavies’

Posted on December 7, 2010


You can read the other entries in my “K-Pop Newbie” thread HERE

Today’s one-on-one lesson to all you newbies to this interesting world of K-Pop music, has to be an introduction to 3 of the biggest record companies in the music industry; with links to their websites, company info, and my personal take on each of the record labels and what I recognise them for.

SM Entertainment

SM Entertainment artists


Website(s): www.smtown.com/ (Official Korean Website)

www.youtube.com/user/sment (Youtube Channel)

Established: 1995

CEO: Kim-Young Min however Lee Soo Man, is widely recognised and referred to because he was the company’s founder.

Signed Artists: DBSK (aka TVXQ who are on hiatus), Boa, SNSD (aka Girls’ Generation), Super Junior, Shinee, F(x) and many more.  This entertainment company also have actors , comedians and MC’s  signed up with them.

Company Image: When I think of SM Entertainment, and their artists, they’ve undeniable created a cutesy  yet slightly sexy image for them. But behind the artists, this company have slowly grown tainted by the various controversies that surround them.

Getting signed with SM Entertainment is very tough; the company hold weekly open calls at their headquarters in Seoul and a worldwide (I say worldwide but mostly US, China and Japan-centred) open call at least once a year. If you do manage to get signed up with SM, then you’ll have the luxury of being enrolled in the  “SM Academy” their own entertainment training school which teaches it’s pupils dancing, singing, acting and foreign languages.

In most cases, when you first get into the whole K-Pop thing, it’s most likely that you would have been drawn in by one of SM Entertainments artists; for me it was SNSD who got me into K-Pop, when I saw a YouTube video of them doing a dance-off to a Michael Jackson song- there and then I wished to be reincarnated into a cool all singing and dancing K-Pop girl band ^^

My point here is that SM Entertainment dominates the K-Pop industry because some of the biggest and most popular artists in the industry (such as Boa) are signed under this label. However, this record label isn’t without its negativities; on the surface it seems like a shoo-in if you sign with them (like you’re guaranteed to succeed), but there have been some controversies with this record label. Now I can’t say whether or not they are true (I’ll leave that for you to research and decide for yourself), but recent controversies mainly revolve around the company’s tough work ethic and their ‘slave contracts’ of long hours, lengthy commitments and too little pay. I’ll write more about these controversies in a later post devoted purely to the controversies in the K-Pop industry.

An indication of just how popular and recognised SM Entertainment are in the industry is their expansion and establishment of a headquarters in Japan, which has helped their artists (such as SNSD), gain a foothold in the Japanese music industry. The company continue to grow, despite their controversies, with talk of another headquarters to be established in Hong Kong for the Chinese market. Luckily, for the artists, that they’ve been trained in foreign languages then!

JYP Entertainment

JYP Entertainment

Website(s): www.jype.com (Official website)

www.youtube.com/user/jypentertainment (Youtube Channel)

Online audition website (Year round, open audition website)

Established: 1997

CEO: Park Jin-Young

Signed Artists: 2PM, 2AM, Wonder girls, Miss A and more. They also have actors signed to their label.

Company Image: The supposed ‘secret’ behind each artists success is their ‘brand’ for example 2PM’s ‘beastly’ image and the Wonder girls retro feel. JYP themselves, are probably more recognised for keeping the ‘talent vs looks’ balance in check when signing up potential artists, which is to be expected with their strong-minded CEO .

If I were to be biased and state which record company I’d fight to get signed up with, then it’d be a close call but my choice would probably be JYP Entertainment because, on paper, they have hit many milestones. One of the main competitors in the industry versus SM Entertainment has to be JYP Entertainment who’s artists are as equally as popular. But JYP are more notable because they are slowly making headway in (the artists dream) breaking America- after the group “Wonder Girls” entry in the US Billboard charts and support slot on the Jonas Brother’s US tour. Furthermore  JYP’s 3 headquarters in Korea, China and the US, are testament to their presence in such countries.

JYP Entertainment should also be noted because of the man behind the company, Park Jin-Young is the only CEO in the K-Pop industry I can personally recognise as being actively involved in the progression of his artists. Being a fluent English speaker, he accompanied the Wonder Girls throughout their tour in the US, whilst providing voice overs and mixes for his other artists back at home. Also his training regime of holding back on praise and pushing forward criticism on his artists in order to make them strive to be better, has meant that he helped kick-start the career of the (often known as) ‘world star’ Rain, one of the biggest artists in the industry.

But, like SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment aren’t without controversies either; with recent rumblings about poor treatment of their artists coming to light. However, such controversies, for all these record companies still remain unsettled and questionable!

YG Entertainment


YG Entertainment

Website(s): www.ygfamily.com (Official Website)

www.youtube.com/user/YGEntertainment (Youtube Channel)

Established: 1996

CEO: Yang Hyung Seok

Signed Artists: 2NE1, Big Bang, Gummy, se7en, PSY and numerous Actors and Producers.

Company Image: Giving birth to 2 of the more fiercer artists in the KPop industry (2NE1 and Big Bang) means YG give relief to the sometimes, all too cutesy side of the KPop industry. The company themselves are one which I’ve yet to familiarize myself with and are slightly shrouded in mystery. Unlike their rivals, I’ve yet to hear of any controversies from this record company.

YG Entertainment is one of those companies who have a big presence because of their artists and yet some mystery still surrounds them- maybe it’s just me?

Personally I know of YG for being the record label who have 2NE1 and Big Bang signed on. 2NE1 are pretty new on the scene, having just debuted in 2009, yet their fierce image and songs have made them really stand out against the cutesy backdrop of the KPop scene. Additionally, Big Bang members G-Dragon and Taeyang’s recent solo efforts have further established the record label’s cool factor. It all makes sense when you read the ol’ Wikipedia entry on the record label; this cool factor is accounted for the fact that YG Entertainment are one of the first record labels to have brought Hip Hop and RnB sounds to South Korea.

Much like their rivals, YG Entertainment are making their presence felt through their expansion outside of Korea, with partnerships and headquarters in China, Japan, Thailand, the Philipines and a planned expansion to the US coming soon. So, whilst YG Entertainment might have fewer artists under their belt compared to SM and JYP- they are one of the understated heavyweights in the industry.

Company Appeal

It’s clear to see that each of these 3 big record labels in the Korean Pop Industry have a distinct feel to them and the artists that they create; SM Entertainment favour the cutesy teenage market, JYP the more multi-faceted, universal market and YG the hip-hop, RnB side of things.

In terms of training- no one record label wins hands down over the other; all of these record labels spend a lot of time and money perfecting their artists. But in terms of talent, each record company is slightly different.

With this in mind and the ever-growing presence of controversies surrounding each of these record labels- there is a lot to take into consideration if you want to audition and sign up with them isn’t there?

Source: Wikipedia, smtown.com, jype.com and ygfamily.com
Posted in: K-Pop, K-Pop Newbie