What Makes SM Entertainment So Powerful? Music Performance And Fandoms Are The Secret To Success
By Staff Writer | July 21, 2013 11:56 PM EDT
Since the first wave of K-Pop idols in the 1990's, SM Entertainment has always been on top of the Korean music industry. Nearly two decades later, what continues to make them so successful?
SM Entertainment is home to some of the biggest and universally known acts in K-Pop, a distinction they have held since the first generation of pop idols with H.O.T, S.E.S, and a short while later, Shinhwa.
The agency now represents mega-groups Super Junior and Girls' Generation as well as EXO, f(x), TVXQ, and SHINee, among others.
Part of what sets the company apart from the others in the industry is that their artists perform in the SMP genre - a style of music that is unique to SM Entertainment acts. A term coined by the company in the mid-90's with H.O.T, SMP combines rock and R&B with hip-hop beats allowing for very strong dance performances.
The SMP genre is not only to be heard - rather, songs by SM artists are to be experienced. With precise choreography, flawless staging, and over-the-top visuals, any SM artist is sure to amaze their audience.
Additionally, particularly with the male groups under the label, the songs tend to add in criticism of today's society. When they are not making poignant social commentary, SM artists' songs are getting stuck in people's heads with their catchy beats and sometimes very ridiculous lyrics (see Super Junior's "Sorry Sorry," SHINee's "Ring Ding Dong" or EXO's "Wolf").
The music videos themselves are enough to make a person's head spin with insane dance routines, and more sparkly bells-and-whistles fanfare than you even imagine.
Music and performances aside, what really distinguishes SM artists from their peers on other labels is the fan culture.
From the label's very early idol beginnings, dedicated fans, who sometimes go to very extreme lengths, can be credited with the success of the singers.
A recent High Cut article breaking down the agency's staying power insists that SM Entertainment "belongs to the fans, for the fans, because of the fans," and judging by the revenue produced by selling albums, merchandise and tickets, this assessment is all too true.
The various idol group fandoms are basically throwing money at the company, and in many circles are referred to as "SM slaves." That is not necessarily a bad thing, either.
Because of the strong fan base the singers have, SM Entertainment caters to their needs, producing music, shows, and products the fans push for.
An intimidating bunch, certain fandoms have a tendency to get out of hand from time to time, particularly when up against other groups' supporters or when one of their favorite idols is criticized in the media.
Popular act TVXQ maintained their fans even after a heated legal battle that resulted in the original five-member group being cut down to a duo. EXO may be the newbies on the scene, but thanks to their dynamic SMP-infused debut were able to build up a large fandom in a relatively short amount of time, pushing them ahead of many veteran groups in music charts and record sales. Even Shinhwa, who left the agency in 2003, have maintained their success as a group in large part due to their incredible fan base that originated with their debut under SM in 1998.
Dedicated fans and music focused on performance are what sets SM apart from the other Korean record labels and continues to make them such a strong company with some of the most popular and highest-earning groups in the industry.
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