As you stroll through YouTube, listening to various songs, watching various videos, you may be in the mood for an angsty, bubble gum pop princess anthem and decide to listen to SNSD’s “The Boys.” Or perhaps you’re in the mood for nuclear wasteland, hoodlum jam and listen to Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby.” While you’re watching these videos, you may be rethinking your life decisions and your eyes may wander to the side bar. In bold, big letters, you observe that a number of videos are titled “COVER CONTEST.”
Curious, you may click on one of these videos and start clicking on a bunch of other videos and before you know it, you’ve watched a plethora of videos where either an individual or a group of individuals are putting forth their skills for all the world to see, hoping that they will be selected as the winner and gain special recognition in the ever growing K-pop fanscape.
Musical releases in Korean Pop are pretty uniform: concept photos, music video teaser, album, music video, and performances. Reaction to these releases has also been rather uniform: spazz, spazz, and spazz. But with the advent of YouTube and other media platforms and social media networks that equalize the playing field of content generation, fans have become more pro-active in their fanship (Seoulbeats, anyone?) and fan covers are definitely amongst these efforts. And these efforts range. From piano covers, to freestyle dance covers, to beatbox covers, fans are putting out a range of material that deserves its own canonization. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of work that gets me pressing the skip button but there’s also a lot of great work out there as well. Some of may favorite songs have been made better by some of my favorite YouTube remixers; some of my least favorite songs have been made favorite songs by talented YouTube pianists and guitarists. And with all these company sanctioned cover contests, they’re definitely beginning to catch on.
Recently, all sorts of companies have started supplementing the assembly line of material with the announcement of cover contests. Ranging from song, dance, and recently, remix contexts, companies are encouraging fan-made submissions. Recently, 2PM recently joined forces with Coway for a cover contest for their Coway Song, this cover contest joins the rank of many others—SHINee’s “Sherlock” cover contest, the “Fantastic Baby” dance cover contest, “The Boys” song, dance, and remix contest, 2NE1’s “Lonely” cover contest, and a gamut of others.
Not only is this a way for companies to officially encourage and in a way, legitimize these fan initiatives and covers, it is also a way for them to cooperate with their biggest asset towards spreading the Hallyu Love. By making cover contests, companies are adding incentive to make covers and when covers are made, they create reference points that refer back to the original. And the more reference points there are, the more hits the original will then receive. Think about it this way: you are more likely to know the parents of family, if you know the children. Bad metaphors aside, they can become their own marketing devices. Companies want to bring in new fans and if you’re a stranger to K-pop, you’re more likely to find K-pop if there are texts and also paratexts to access. Companies do a good job of spreading word but fans do an even better job.
So expect to be see more covers out there because if this is something that has its advantages, which it does in fact have, then K-pop will for sure spam it to the max.
But it’s not as if we’re being used as pawns in the grandmaster plan of Hallyu. Well, okay, we are but this marketing strategy has its benefits for both the company and the fan. First, there are those fabulous prizes that come along with winning the contest. Then, there’s the opportunity to be creative and proactive with your interests, which is definitely healthier than other demonstrations of fanship. And if you’re going along with the company’s logic, you’re helping your group out by bringing in more views and possibly, more fans. But above all, you become a part of something.
These covers have grown in such prominence, that they’re works in their own right. That remixer may not be Teddy or Yoo Young-jin but he has just as much space on your iPod and damn it, that’s special. And if your cover can do the same or something similar, then perhaps, you’re special too.
At the end of the day, companies may be encouraging fans to carry on with these covers for their own benefit but this undoubtedly something that has its own benefits as well and I definitely look forward to seeing all the cover contests that come out in the future and all the works the fans can put out.
Here are some gems from my personal collection of favorites: