To Anyone at YG Entertainment,
I know this may come off as petty. After all, YG has accomplished so much and is a clear leader in the entertainment industry. There’s an age-old adage that reads, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” But can the person who said that fix the countless number of hearts that YG has broken?
Despite YG’s immense success, there’s been a despairing change in attitude over the years. It seems that, as a publicly-traded company, your loyalties lie more with your investors than it does with your fans. I’ll admit that you make very sound investment strategies and business decisions that bolster the financial well-being of the company, but it comes at a cost. There comes a time when morality, ethics, and relationships should come before net earnings.
Don’t forget that your fans are the reason you’re where you are to begin with — the fans who bought into the motto of ‘family’ and formed a loving connection between the artists and the brand. Over time, that connection has strained and it’s beginning to reach a breaking point. Before this dwindling relationship spirals out of hand, please consider these suggestions that will help alleviate many of your ongoing issues.
1) Don’t treat your artists as replaceable.
It’s hard to finger exactly where things started to go south but it certainly reached a low point with the disbandment of 2NE1. The way you managed the group in those last couple of years revealed your motive all along — you never cared to keep the group together. Like what Cube Entertainment did with 4Minute, it just makes financial sense to keep the group’s moneymaker in CL and to discard the members who didn’t project a high enough return on investment. It just makes sense to spend your money on Black Pink and your other new girl group because they’re younger and prettier, and they will likely attract more advertising deals than 2NE1.
What about Nam Taehyun? Was there really nothing you could have done for him? After you went out of your way to vigorously spotlight him via WIN, give him creative control over Winner’s music, and even give him a solo that was a featured single in the group’s latest album, you decided it was better business to let him go and to continue Winner without him. The old YG would have never done that. You didn’t get rid of GD after his marijuana scandal, you didn’t get rid of Daesung after his reckless driving resulted in a fatality, and you didn’t get rid of Seungri after his sex photo scandal. What happened to you, YG? You’ve changed, bro
Stop treating your artists as assets that can be disposed of and replaced. Sure, that may be common practice among other idol companies, but you are not just another idol company. Your fans were drawn to you because you promoted the idea of family, a place where fans can invest their faith (and hard-earned money) without having to suffer the heartbreak of losing one of their favorite group members or an entire group. Instead of letting your financial analysts make the decisions, how about you try listening to what your fans want?
2) Stop playing favorites.
Your artists are like your children and a good parent does not don favoritism onto any one child. This rule mostly applies to members within a group. CL is a primary example where she was clearly favored over the other members and, as a result, the group was eventually deemed as no longer necessary. It’s not hard to see that Winner and iKon are going down the same road, especially with Mino, Bobby, and B.I hogging all the attention from their respective groups.
It’s obvious from reality shows like WIN, Mix & Match, and Show Me the Money that these are your new rap proteges. As much as we like seeing these three talented performers in the spotlight, it comes at the cost of the groups’ lesser known members. With Big Bang, there is certainly favoritism towards GD but it was never so skewed that it came at the neglect of the other members. With iKon, however, there’s such a big discrepancy that it’s hard to get to know the other members. As for Winner, the group’s future is now uncertain with Taehyun gone and it’s hard to say if the other members can take some of the focus away from Mino unless you start promoting each one individually. Can another Seungyoon solo be in the works?
3) Give us more…everything!
This may come off as greedy or entitled but I don’t care. You have such a large roster of talented acts that it’s hard not to want more from each one of them. Perhaps it’s because you’re so large and established that your artists don’t have to promote as frequently in order to remain popular and relevant but, again, I urge you to stop thinking in terms of what’s good business and think more along the lines of what’s good
fan customer service.
Fans don’t want to wait three to four years for a new Big Bang album when most other groups have regular comebacks spaced at most a year apart. That’s what this industry has conditioned fans to expect, which is why it’s so frustrating that you make them wait multiple years for their favorite groups to make a comeback. Is it too much to ask that you line up each of your acts to promote at least once a year? I’m sure your artists would also appreciate the added exposure and the tangible benefits that come with it. I’ve even made a schedule for the remainder of the year which ensures that each artist will have their fair share of promotional time. Tweak as needed just as long as you…
|March||The Boys of Spring||Winner|
|April||The Girls of Spring||New Girl Group|
|June||The Boys of Summer||iKon|
|July||The Girls of Summer||Black Pink|
4) Stop announcing comebacks that get delayed.
Here’s what I don’t get. Why announce a comeback when you’re not yet sure when it’s going to happen? Big Bang’s entire MADE album was such a headache because fans believed that they were getting a full album in 2015. However, that turned into four single albums released over four consecutive months. Then it was announced that the full album would contain more songs but fans would have to wait well over a year before it came out. Essentially, this was the most vicious repackaging scheme of all time as I’m sure diehard fans bought physical copies of each singles album and the full album just so you can get the biggest bang for your buck before the group goes on another long hiatus.
And enough with the cryptic teasers. I’m sure fans breath a sigh of relief just knowing that a comeback is actually going to happen and not get delayed or dragged out for over a year. They shouldn’t have to solve a brain teaser just to get that confirmation. Who’s next? Try Honesty and Accountability.
5) Get your independent sub-labels off the ground.
One of the most interesting announcements to come out of YG in recent years was the launch of independent sub-labels which promised to hand over more creative control to the artists chosen to lead them. The most highly anticipated of which was the formation of HIGHGRND. Under the direction of Tablo, the sub-label made an immediate impact by signing indie acts Hyukoh, Code Kunst, and The Black Skirts among others. I like how the sub-label focuses on rising indie artists though more can be done to draw attention to them. The collaboration between The Solutions and Kei of Lovelyz is a good example of how indie can cross-market into something more mainstream.
Another promising venture is the formation of The Black Label by longtime YG producers Teddy Park and Kush. The sub-label made an immediate splash by signing prominent artist and producer Zion.T. With all this production talent under one roof, it’s surprising to hear that they’re working on debuting a boy group. With Winner and iKon having debuted not too long ago and having yet to gain a ton of traction, would debuting another boy group under the YG tag really be a good idea? How about using some of this talent to work with non-YG artists who could truly benefit from such top notch musical production?
With the recently commissioned PSYG, headed by Psy, being YG’s third independent sub-label, there is a world of possibilities in the type of music these artist-driven projects can produce. But so far we’ve only seen a small glimpse of what’s to come. The sluggish pace of getting these projects up and running means that you’re not focusing enough on diversifying the YG brand. These sub-labels have the potential to transform the future of YG, allowing for musical growth and evolution — a trait that’s benefited the company ever since its humble beginnings as a ‘hip hop label.’ Although my other recommendations may not make the most financial sense, this one may help sustain the long-term musical and financial growth of the company.
6) Hire cultural sensitivity consultants.
In order to become a truly international brand, you have to stop offending your international fans and potential business partners with culturally insensitive elements in the name of creating ‘authentic hip hop.’ Not only is this issue prevalent in your MVs, live stages, and album covers, but it’s also being perpetuated by your artists out of their own volition. This shows that the problem has become institutionalized and outside help needs to be called in to educate your staff on the negative effects of fetishizing black culture.
This isn’t just an act of courtesy to your fans; it’s also good business because this problem is singlehandedly holding back the international reputation of your brand. If you truly want your artists to break out of the K-pop mold, then you have to hire cultural sensitivity consultants to oversee the work and actions of your artists and creative teams. The ‘culture consultant’ is really the next logical step in cultural technology. If an idol has trouble hitting high notes, you have him see his vocal instructor. If he posts a photo of himself as a racist caricature, you have him see his cultural sensitivity coach.
7) Act like you give a damn.
There’s a growing sense that YG is better than everyone and that it doesn’t have to play by the same rules. This is demonstrated by your artists’ lack of comebacks, their limited promotions on weekly music shows, and their general non-participation in year-end festivals and awards shows. YG usually makes its biggest year-end appearance on MAMA but you even pulled out of that this year. What’s the deal?
Fans tend to cheer for the underdog that makes it big due to hard work and determination. That ideal is manifested by how hard an artist works to get your attention. Remember the days when 2NE1 was still coming up and they promoted heavily on music shows with comeback after comeback? That constant exposure is what your fans miss. To be fair, however, you did quite a job with promoting Black Pink and giving them appropriate levels of exposure. But that’s the type of exposure fans want with all your groups because they’re all so damn good!
As I’ve been trying to explain, the problem you have isn’t with finances or your business model. It’s wondrous how you’ve done things outside of the box for so many years and how it’s rewarded your investors and stockholders handsomely. But what about your fans, the people whose money determine the very livelihood of the company? Shouldn’t they also have a say in how the company is run? Please take this chance to reflect on what’s really important and, for once, try listening to your fans.
Who’s next? Drop us suggestions in the comments below.
(Nate, Images via YG Entertainment)