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Is the end of the planned idol era coming to an end?

1996 is a very important year for K-pop history. That year, Seo Tai-ji and Boys, who were called the “President of Culture,” retired. And in the same year, the group HOT appeared. It was the first group to match the modifier “IDOL” in the modern sense.

HOT was different from the existing group. It is the same as Seo Tai-ji and Boys that have wowed the younger generation, but the biggest difference is that it is a “planned” group. Under the direction of the agency called SM Entertainment, five members of their respective purposes appeared in public after harsh training.

And in 2020, 24 years later, our music industry is once again at a crossroads of transformation. Just as the factory prints “idols make money,” boy groups and girl groups are produced and there are no differences except a few. Against this backdrop, groups trying to remove the “planned” label, which has continued since HOT, are drawing attention. Instead, groups with the name tag “Self-made” are creating a new trend. How will the game of idols change in the future?

Remember this name!

For those who like K-pop, and those who are worried about the K-pop future, they need to remember the names of the two groups. Stray Kids and (G)I-DLE. Both groups, which debuted in 2018 and have been in their third year, are called “self-produced idols.”

In the meantime, some members of the group have participated in composing or writing lyrics. But strictly speaking, this was nothing more than a publicity stunt, except for a few truly talented people. In addition, those who did not have the foundation participated in producing the album, but rather undermined the quality of the album and damaged the group’s image in the long run.

However, the self-production capabilities of Stray Kids and (G)I-DLE are unrivaled. In the case of Stray Kids, they released their own mix tapes that they wrote and composed even before their debut. It is not a structure that relies on some people with production skills, but rather Bang Chan, Chang Bin, and Han are leading the writing and writing of all the songs in the album.

Stray Kids has a separate production team called “3RACHA” within the group. Most of the title songs released by Stray Kids have been their works. It means it’s no coincidence that they won four rookie awards in their first year of debut.

(G)I-DLE is a self-produced idol led by leader Soyeon, who is known as a “monster.” Unlike most girl groups who challenge to write and write lyrics after building awareness with the songs of famous producers, (G)I-DLE has written their own songs from their debut songs “LATATA” and “HAN.” The title of their second mini album was “I made,” or “I made it.” Soyeon has already been recognized for her ability in the industry as a whole, to the point where she has already given songs to other groups.

In the case of the recently released third mini-album “I Trust,” Soyeon was in charge of producing the entire song. Regarding So-yeon, who has been pioneering areas that no girl group member has stepped on, the members said, “She is charismatic on stage, but she is playful and funny in everyday life,” adding, “There were many moments when I felt charisma as a professional whenever I recorded.” Whenever I felt down or tired, I played around with my sister, so I did it comfortably without any pressure,” she said.

Stray Kids and (G)I-DLE, which are self-produced idols, have different status in foreign countries. Last year, 3RACHA wrote and composed the song “Wo De Si Dai,” which was released last year by famous Taiwanese singer Na Ji-sang (Show Lo). The news was also introduced through major local media outlets in Taiwan.

(G)I-dle recently joined hands with Universal Music Group’s record label Republic Records to announce its entry into the U.S. market. Avery Lipman, COO and co-founder of Republic Records, said, “We are happy to work with the girl group (G)I-dle, who has various talents, by entering the U.S. market and entering the North American market. 2020 will be the biggest and most daring year for GI-dle.”

Stray Kids-(G)I-DLE, 'Self-produced idol' is the trend.

Will it be the future of K-pop?

Many predict that the self-produced idol will become a new growth engine that will lead the K-pop market in the future. In particular, it is worth noting what Jeff Benjamin, a K-pop columnist at the U.S. Billboard, said.

Jeff Benjamin, who was selected as the winner of the stepping-stone bridge award at the “2020 Korea Image Awards 2020” held in January, said in a press meeting for “Korea’s Competitive K-MUSIC” that “the future K-pop is expected to be less highlighted.” “Artists should focus on their capabilities,” he said. “If artists have sincerity and originality, they can get enough attention and grow.”

In addition to Stray Kids and (G)I-DLE, he chose ATEEZ, who is considered to be another self-produced idol. He noted ATEEZ, which was introduced by KQ Entertainment, which produced Block B. “Strong messages and excellent performances are the best,” he said. “In the case of (G)I-DLE, the members write and compose their own songs, and (G)I-DLE’s strength is that they can express their stories with music.”

Looking back at the K-pop market, one can see that a group with self-sustaining capabilities has long lived. Big Bang led by G-Dragon, Block B led by Zico, and Beast (currently Highlight) endured by Yong Joon-hyung. Icon’s B.I. also left the group after being embroiled in an unsavory affair, but his “Love Scenario” and others quickly made the icon a top idol. Their characteristics have something in common that they stand out not only in group activities but also in individual activities. This means that it is possible to stand alone.

Its own production idol is also expected to break the so-called “seven-year jinx” and result in extending the K-pop group’s vitality. Groups leaning on the agency’s planning power will be turned down when they leave the agency with the group’s trademark rights and leading producers. This is one of the reasons why most groups are taking steps to disband after the first seven years of contract. However, if they have their own production skills, they can stand alone even if they leave their agency. In the end, they can raise their voices at the negotiating table with their agencies, draw additional contracts on more favorable terms and keep the group afloat.

An official in the music industry said, “It is difficult for idol singers who make their debut in their early 20s to have better capabilities than professional producers. “In the end, planned idols centered on their agencies will continue to be supplied,” he said. “However, the need for self-produced idols has grown recently, and the proportion of self-produced idols will also increase in the future as a number of talented newcomers who have developed such capabilities since childhood.”

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