While YG Entertainment is defined by its electronic, hip hop beats with a side of sass and attitude, SM Entertainment is defined by its pop, dance tunes with a helping of fan service and love. Though they couldn’t be anymore different, as the largest companies in an industry that is slowly but surely exploding into a global phenomenon, they are often compared alongside each other. But after YG Entertainment surpassed SM Entertainment in the mid-year’s profits for 2011, some of you may be eager to arrive with fanfare, festivity, and praise for YG Entertainment while some of you may be eager to depart with support, comfort, and defense for SM Entertainment.
So which is it? SM or YG?
Round 1: Talent
YG Entertainment is the home of Big Bang, 2NE1, Gu Hye Sun, Kang Hye Jeong, and Teddy. From 2NE1’s charismatic stage presence to Go Hye Sun’s versatility of skill to Teddy’s mastery of composition, YG maintains talent within its ranks—talent that goes above and beyond. These artists have dazzled critics and fans with their talent, earning them the respect and love that has mounted them onto the face of Kpop.
SM Entertainment is the home of BoA, Dong Bang Shin Ki, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, SHINee, f(x), and Yoo Young Jin. From BoA’s physical rhythm and movement, to Dong Bang Shin Ki’s multiple part harmonies, to SHINee’s energetic performances, SM Entertainment has cultivated its talents—talents that have won achievement after achievement, beaten record after record, and have championed Kpop on their home shores and across the world.
While there are wrenches in both agencies, both companies have amazing talents in their agencies, talents that we all love, adore, and even, respect.
Round 2: Management
Both SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment has given their artists everything and anything to conquer every and any superlative in the Kpop world. They have received years upon years of training, access to the best producers, venues, and outlets, and all the resources Kpop can provide. But at what cost?
This is a very tricky area. Much of who did what and who said what is based on hearsay and at the end of the day, no one really knows what happens on the inside of any of these companies.
And while hearsay and rumors do not deserve to be acknowledged, the fact that four members of SM Entertainment have terminated their contracts cannot be ignored.
Winner: YG Entertainment
Round 3: Marketing
As the largest companies in Kpop, they have been bringing in bank like no other. And with Hallyu growing each and every day, marketing is becoming that much more important.
A core part of their marketing strategies stems from the internet and riding the Hallyu Wave and both have found a good deal of success via these venues.
YG Entertainment has been utilizing the internet to reach out to fans and finding new fans. By using things like me2day and the YG family website, YG has been keeping fans in the loop with selcas, in studio recordings, and the like. Fans are always finding ways to connect to their favorite artists and remain connected. But at the same time, YG has been utilizing Youtube, using the media giant to spread their brand to the world, finding new fans each and every day. It was reported just the other day that 2NE1 averages 14 million views on their Youtube videos.
And while these achievements are impressive, they pale in comparison to SM. While 2NE1 may average 14 million views on Youtube, SM Entertainment’ Girls’ Generation boasts the largest amount of views of any Kpop video to my knowledge. And while SM artists do not utilize social media like their YG counterparts, SM is leading the Hallyu Wave, no exception. From BoA, to Dong Bang Shin Ki, to Girls’ Generation, SM has made their claim in Japan and is showing their prowess beyond with their SM Town Concerts. Sure Ludacris and Will.I.Am, may be barking up YG’s tree but as of right now, SM is winning this race.
Winner: SM Entertainment
Round 4: Brand
While most of Kpop is composed by pop, electronic tunes, YG Entertainment is known for playing the more urban, street game. While their music still maintains the electric sounds that makes Kpop catchy, entertaining, and addictive, YG has added a distinct flavor to this mix that gives their brand originality in the given context. In the world of Kpop, if you’re looking for something like Big Bang or 2NE1, songs like “Tonight” and “Go Away,” YG Entertainment is the place. And while this is respectable, the YG’s brand and what it has to offer Kpop and the rest of the world are complicated. After 2NE1’s first mini album, YG has all looked and sounded the same. There is a difference between brand maintenance and brand overload and where exactly YG falls is not completely clear. And on top of that, although YG may be original in the context that is Kpop, is it in the world beyond?
On the other side of the spectrum, SM Entertainment has perfected the art of Kpop to a “T.” “Gee,” “Sorry, Sorry,” Girls’ Generation, and Dong Bang Shin Ki—SM has the songs, the dance, the faces, and everything in between that has come to define Kpop. And while they adhere to traditional forms in Kpop, they have done so with a unique SM flavor. From uniforms to suits and from “ID; Peace B” to “Lucifer,” SM has come up with some interesting, albeit gimmicky, songs, concepts, and idols. SM is the model, Kpop brand that exemplifies traditional practices and executes them with excellent accuracy. And while YG has problems standing out within its own company, its own groups, and perhaps the world at large, despite SM’s success with implementing Kpop as we know it, SM has not done much else.
While both companies have respectable aspects in regards to their brand and image, as of right now, both companies are stuck in a limbo. They have both discovered what they’re good at but instead of growing above and beyond, they are both choosing to remain where they are comfortable
Comparing these two companies was very admittedly very difficult. While they are not beyond comparison, they are both pretty different and thus comes the adage of apples and oranges.
While I do not think there is a winner in this showdown, this is how I look at it:
SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment are two very successful companies. SM Entertainment is all about everything we love about Kpop. From the number members in a group to the catchy song and dance moves to the bombastic blast of entertainment, SM, like Tiffany once said about Kpop as a whole, is “very entertaining.” YG is all about the exotic fashions and music that wow and delight us while providing a burst of pleasure and fun. But at the end of the day, we look to both of these companies for a serving of fast and easy entertainment. They have their strengths and their weaknesses and while one might have a leg up on another in a particular category, the other trails behind by a negligible number.
All I can say is cheers, SM & YG. Thank you for bringing us some of the best Kpop.