Posted by : KPopRanter July 07, 2013

It should be a well-known fact that modern day K-Pop was at its peak during the year of 2012. PSY's revolutionary Gangnam Style was released, almost all top-tier idol groups came back with songs and albums that were decent at the very least, and of course, there were numerous unraveled scandals and American debuts that were beyond any of our wildest dreams. Now, in just one year, the Hallyu Wave has noticeably (or at least to me) began to either decline, slow growth or halt its growth, less and less people caring about K-Pop and more and more finding relief through other types of music, proving the Hallyu will probably end sooner than we all think.

Why: It's inevitable that Korean Pop will end, and similar to the common belief, I see the Hallyu Wave lasting around two to four more years (starting from 2012-2013) before dying out, the second year (2013-2014) starting its withdrawal and then the fourth year (2016-2017) losing all of the hype it once got. The reasons why I believe this will happen so soon are:

The Korean Pop music itself has been starting to suck, Korean Pop groups releasing basically garbage since their peak in 2012.
     •Top-tier groups now are getting closer and closer to disbandment and (look at number 3)
     •being that there's way too many groups debuting now, in which people are already starting to care less and less about, when the older groups retire, there won't be many if any at all to replace them because... they don't know them.
     •Apparently, one of the main reasons why Hallyu is going down is because the content is extremely generic and typical. 
     •What K-Pop needs to keep them afloat is the international crowd (duh, the Hallyu Wave is the international appeal), especially from Japan which contributes most of the money that Korean Pop gets, today. However, now that Japan is becoming more and more anti-Hallyu by limiting Korean broadcast on shows and such, who knows what will happen between K-Pop in Japan in the future? Not to mention, Korean Pop hasn't gotten that amazingly far in other places like America or China that can support the music like Japan does... while even many Korean citizens and media themselves are caring less about Korean Pop and more about K-Indie groups like Busker Busker, all this adding up and making it seem likely that the only one who's truly going to be worrying about K-Pop Idols, their future and their money... are themselves.

How can it be stoppedThere's nothing you and I can do alone to prolong the Hallyu, 
himchamhowever, there are precautions companies can take themselves to do so:

•Release audible songs. No more trash, please.
•Try harder with your newer groups. If you release trashier songs, more and more people won't think twice to disregarding them no matter which company you're from. Give them at least decent sounding songs and maybe try to make them... well, talented. Ever heard of that word?
•Since standardized content is supposedly a big issue, maybe try moving away from the norm. Songs about love, sex, empowerment where they sing and dance in boxes... all cliche ideas but if an entertainer was to release maybe... a song about societal issues with a bad ass music video, it could possibly get the attention it was looking for.
•Arguably, K-Pop could actually make it in places internationally and expand the Hallyu however, probably only if K-Pop companies tried hard enough--which is something they're not willing to do. With all those years of training, you would expect people to be Christina Aguilera's when it comes to singing, Michael Jackson's when it comes to dancing and U-Kiss Alexander's when it comes to languages however, they aren't. It's because companies just don't try to go passed the norm--they want to appeal to the Korean market and the anti-Hallyu Japanese market, yet, barely even attempt to understand how to appeal to non-typical markets like the American market or the European market and continue to use their shitty methods towards unresponsive industries that could give a rat's ass about them.

In a nutshell, the Hallyu Wave, no matter how much we try to deny it, is already starting to slow down. Although K-Pop itself won't completely disappear, there'll definitely be a turning of tables in a few years, whether it's with less groups debuting as there were in the years 2012 and 2013, or maybe, less production of K-Pop music, merchandise and many more goodies overall.

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{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I think 'K-pop' as a genre will still be relevant in Korea for the foreseeable future (but with fewer companies in the market). However, I believe the “Hallyu Wave” (the international interest in Korean media), has probably already seen its peak.

    Here is a Google Trends chart showing the international interest (by search terms) in both K-pop and J-pop over time:

    Notice that J-pop was quite a bit more popular than K-pop only 5 years ago. Then, around 2009, K-pop's popularity took off like a rocket.

    You could argue that K-pop is simply going to plateau and stay at some high level of popularity. But the gradual downward-sloping J-pop chart shows another (perhaps more likely) projection. K-pop's rise was so fast and steep that it seems almost self-evident that there will be a “correction”. That K-pop chart looks too much like stock and housing market bubbles of years past that eventually “popped”. What goes up must come down.

    As far as the domestic K-pop market goes, I think it's safe to say that only a minority of groups are turning a profit today. This is party due to the high overhead of supporting an idol group and partly because there is so much competition in the market. Even one of the big companies, JYP, operated at a loss for several of the past few years.

    The domestic Korean “pie” isn't large enough to feed all these companies. So, unless they expand the size of that pie by finding more ways to make money overseas, it goes without saying that the unprofitable companies/groups will starve.

    I have enjoyed all the activity during this boom period and think some of the best stuff lately has come from lower-tier groups and nugus. But my personal opinion is that K-pop's high point, quality-wise (not popularity-wise), was around 2010.

    So, maybe when things cool down these companies (who have spread themselves too thin chasing international opportunities and debuting new groups every quarter) can start focusing on quality vs quantity. Who knows - it could end up being a net positive for K-pop fans.

  2. Interesting chart!

    To be honest, with K-Pop I think it'll end up just like J-Pop. It, reaching its peak sometime in the 90s to early 2000s and then getting replaced by the 'newest thing'.

    Of course, the music will always stay--music just doesn't disappear however, the Hallyu Wave which is keeping K-Pop afloat (Japan's specifically) is going down and has been since it passed what seems like its peak in 2012.

    "The domestic Korean “pie” isn't large enough to feed all these companies. So, unless they expand the size of that pie by finding more ways to make money overseas, it goes without saying that the unprofitable companies/groups will starve." - There couldn't be a better way to explain this.

    Exactly! It's high point in quality was in 2010 and I think the Hallyu Wave really started to launch around that time, in 2009 to around 2010. Not only were most if not all of the modern day K-Pop groups active, but they also released decent and non-gagworthy songs, that story not staying true for long because of course, the songs today are blegh.

    I think companies will start realizing that when sales start to diminish (SM should be starting to realize that being that IGAB was even outsold by less popular acts like Miss A and Lee Hi... however, EXO won #1 with Wolf, so...) but even then, the chances it'll end well, to me, are very slim whether or not they boost the quality.

  3. Popularity of idol groups in particular seems to be a cyclical thing.

    Looking at the Wikipedia articles for "boy bands" and "girl groups" you can see periods usually once every decade or so where they seem to rise in popularity followed by a decline.

    In Korea, though, the last few years can more accurately be described as an "idol craze". It was bound to cool down sooner or later.


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