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Friday, November 6, 2015

Idol promo teams go off the record and spill all

Article: 'Agencies have a lot to say too' off the record with the promo teams of the music industry

Source: TV Report via Naver + Naver

Candid interview with some anonymous promotional teams for music agencies. Random bits I found interesting:

Q: As a working member of this industry, don't you get tons of requests from friends and family since they assume you're close with the celebrities you work with?

A: Things like autographs don't cost anything so I can get it for them but I've never once accepted requests asking if they can grab a meal with the stars. ... Autographs for the artists I manage is alright but when I get requests for artists from SM and JYP, it's embarrassing for me. I rarely do it unless I'm super close with the person.

A: I hate requests like that. Even if I'm working with celebrities, it's still my job and they're still my co-workers. It's so immature of people when they ask me, "How's so and so? Do you have their contact?" I only know them if I've worked with them.

Q: What about autograph CDs?

A: I rarely take those requests. Especially from relatives. It's like if I asked an uncle who works at an electronics company to sneak me a TV. It's the same thing. CDs are still a product of our company, as well as concert and showcase tickets.

Q: Everyone assumes that when a scandal erupts, the employees of that agency know all about it already. Is that true?

A: Honestly, I mostly do. Even if the members don't tell me directly, I'll always keep up to date with the CEO so there's a lot more that I do know.

A: It's different according to agencies, and how many years you've been working there as well. Obviously the smaller the company, the closer you are with the celebrities, whereas the bigger the company, the less closer you are. ...

A: I used to think that I knew everything about the kids that I manage but as they grew older and broadened their promotional activities, they started getting a lot more secrets. They'll share what they want but obviously a wall will start to form eventually. I trust that they're honest with me for as much as they can but we'll never know unless they tell us.

Q: Are they usually honest with you?

A: They will tell us for important things that can lead to scandals, as well as unfounded rumors so that we can handle it immediately. There are so many malicious blind items and rumors that go around that we'll share them and have a laugh over it and even investigate into why these rumors came about.

Q: Did any of those rumors become true for you? How did they respond.

A: Some rumors were true. Most of the rumors have a bit of truth to them with some exaggeration going on. I've never seen a rumor that was just the flat out truth. The stars will usually ask us, "How'd they found out? Who told them?" Haha.

Q: Nowadays, the trend is to just confirm relationship scandals as they happen.

A: I'm against going public with relationships. It's a huge detriment for female artists. Unless it's a situation that's undeniable, we persuade them not to go public with it, and we say it as the best option for their life. Times have changed but dating scandals still negatively impact female celebrities moreso than males. For the kids that I manage, I go even harder with the denial because the response is usually like, "Why would you date someone like that?"

A: Idols dating... I allow them to date, as long as they don't go crazy and get caught. It's cruel to ask them not to date at all. Especially for freshly debuted rookies, I'm grateful if they don't get into relationships since it's important that they focus on their schedules. Most kids usually know in such situations not to date since the kids who lose themselves to relationships at a time where they should be working hard don't end up successful. But of course, I'm not working with them for 24 hours so maybe their managers know more than I do.

Q: Is it obvious when they get into relationships?

A: They'll be on their cellphones a lot more or take calls by stepping outside of the room privately. The kids that get cellphones are on Kakao Talk all day and will even reject calls if I'm in the room. They're people too so they're like anyone else when it comes to dating. It's not like we take calls going "Honey~" while we're working in the office either.

A: Once they declare that they are getting a car, we pretty much assume that they're declaring that they're in a relationship. They also start to complain more about having to live in a dorm since they obviously want to live alone so that they can date more freely.

Q: They'll deny it if they get caught, right?

A: They usually end up denying it without knowing what's going on because they're either already broken up or even they don't know if they're in an actual relationship or not. Sometimes they really are just close friends and are hanging out in groups with other friends when they have an actual boyfriend somewhere else.

Q: How fast do they break up?

A: A lot of the kids are naive when it comes to relationships. I believe that it'll help their creative process in the long run.

Q: What about dating within the company?

A: That's dangerous. Too much can happen. This is not a topic that I can touch on, actually.

Q: But isn't dating within the company better? Especially on handling it from the company's perspective.

A: There are a lot of agencies that prefer dating within the company. They feel that they can handle it better since they don't know what can happen with another kid they have no management over. Many prefer that they just another artist that the agency knows. After all, the agency is the one that chose the artist so we should know them better than anyone else.

Q: So how do idols end up getting into relationships anyway? I'm sure there's not a lot of opportunities for dating and such.

A: They're young, what more can I say. Girl groups and boy groups will always watch over each other's activities. If a girl group debuts, boy groups are already spreading rumors like "So and so is mine" and "So and so is pretty in that group". Stylists will also help out and play the middle man, saying, "She likes you. She's always watching your videos." Even the ones without cellphones will have Kakao Talk installed on their iPads and keep in contact that way.

A: On shows like 'Music Bank', there are times where they go around exchanging CDs. When their crush comes, they'll slip a special little note for them with it. One time, an idol took that note and tattled to the agency and caused a huge fuss (laughter).

Q: Are there any stars that you personally think should be more popular but people aren't aware of?

A: I find member E from girl group D great. In elementary school, she wrote that she wanted to be a celebrity as her future dream. She's a celebrity to the bone, and although she isn't that pretty, she's got great potential. She gets criticized for her visuals but she's doing alright now. She's young but talented and I wish more kids like her would end up well.

A: I think F. They're a team that loves singing and music and works together well. They're not that handsome but are great people in terms of character and effort. It's sad that not many people are interested in them. I've seen them perform three times and enjoyed myself each time. Their tickets just don't sell, unfortunately. All it takes is the audience to hear one line from them to go "whoaaaa" but anyone who hasn't heard of them don't know how talented they are.

A: Two teams for me. G are great kids and so nice. They're so nice that sometimes I wonder if that's what's holding them back considering how harsh the industry is. Unfortunately, something happened to one of the members and they ended up bawling.

Q: What is the worst sasaeng fan you've come across?

A: It depends on the agency. Some agencies go all out on cutting sasaengs off while other agencies don't really care. If you don't care, the sasaengs eventually end up causing problems, which cause the regular fans to get angry and accuse us of doing nothing about the oppa's stalkers.

A: I's ajumma fans are no joke. ... They also support the group financially as well, though. They'll call the company and ask if the kids need anything in their homes, offer to install air conditioners, etc. Ajumma fans have a lot more financial freedom so the gifts the kids get aren't things like candies and paper cranes but useful things like watches. When I was managing J, they had an ajumma fandom too and they're really powerful and important to have. They'll also gift things like ginseng and other herbal medicines and vitamins.

A: I once had someone sneak into K girl group's international hotel room. No one had used the shower yet but there was a bunch of water in it, as well as foot prints on the bed when no one had slept yet. The kids were so shocked that they just slept together in one room. Another times, people will try to get close with their parents to eventually get to the idols. It's dangerous for extreme fans like these to go wrong because they'll start spreading false rumors once they get upset. Most of the celebrities have given up on them. There's not much you can do about it.

Q: Fans usually want to believe that idol groups are all close with one another.

A: It might not seem like that on the outside but there's a lot of discord on the inside. There's a lot of tension surrounding who gets to stand center on stage, who gets which parts, who gets to wear the prettiest outfit...

A: There was once where we had a group with six members. The original plan was to dress two of them in fur coats since any more would make the stage look stuffy but everyone wanted to wear the prettiest outfit and we ended up with four members wearing fur coats, completely filling up the stage. They refused to share. They were like, "I'm going to wear this so tell her to take it off."

Q: What about discord from income distribution?

A: Dividing income is the biggest problem, especially groups where one member makes the majority. Member M from L group don't run into this problem because they'll talk about it openly with each other, but they're a rare case. The rest of the groups put a lot of pressure on the company and refuse to do schedules unless they get paid more. Group N is probably the worst case. Member O had gone through a long debut process which required hefty investments, which P had to pay for with his activities. Their relationship isn't that close as a result of it.

Q: What's the worst scandal you've had to deal with?

A: Car accidents from time crunches. For singers, probably plagiarism scandals. Those are the worst. Every word counts when you're writing a response statement since you have to check everything with the composer. Plagiarism scandals make me the most nervous than any other scandal. Once your image gets branded as a plagiarism singer, there's no turning back.

A: Any moment where the police get involved. Any scandal where it's out of our hands and the police take over from there. It's fine if we can do something before they get pulled in but in emergency situations where we can't reach them for contact, there's just nothing we can do.

Q: So what's the standard for group debuts? So much money is being invested, how are you so sure that these members are the best choice?

A: Out of our best trainees, they have to be able to work together well. We choose according to chemistry. We don't look at individual appeal but how they feel as a whole group. It doesn't matter if they're all pretty and handsome or lack skill, we need them to harmonize as a group first and foremost.

A: They need to be young. It's hard to pick a trainee no matter how talented if they're older.

Q: What's the age limit for debut?

A: It's getting younger and younger for each agency. Any age over 20 starts to get excluded. The true cut off is 23~24 years old, even younger for girl groups. Most companies only pick teens for girls. They want to debut them while they're still in high school so they pick trainees as young as elementary school.

A: The cut off for us is probably 22~23 years old. For girls, we consider 21 to be old. Kids start training so young nowadays that we can take our pick so there's not a lot of times where we have to kick a member for being too old.

A: As for me, I'm fine no matter how old as long as they're talented. But idols require a certain level of stamina so their careers aren't that long lived. Girl group careers span between 23~34 years of age. The public has a different perception of what's old compared to us.

Q: What about looks? How important is that?

A: We of course consider looks. But nowadays, it's not just how handsome or ugly you are, it's whether you're likable or not. You don't have to be handsome as long as you have a favorable impression because there are some who are handsome but give a negative impression.

Q: What about trainees who you think have no hope for a debut?

A: There are so many of those. Some who are just completely lost cases. I feel bad that they're holding on to something that I know won't work out so I act coldly to them on purpose. I have to step up and give it to them straight instead of giving them hopeful torture by saying "It'll work out as long as you work hard." I might be wrong but I haven't seen a kid that I've told that to debut yet.

Q: The issue of army service must be huge for boy groups. They usually have to leave to serve at the height of their fame.

A: No one honestly wants to serve. They get stressed out and delay it as much as possible. For any male singer in their twenties, the army is probably their biggest concern. You don't get popular right after debut. It's even harder for male idols since they're considered old as soon as they hit their mid-twenties.

A: The age of debut is so young nowadays that the army sounds like something far off in the future. It's not like in the past where kids debuted in their twenties. They debut in their teens now and have a good 10 years of activities before working about the army. Normal contracts last for 7 years so they might not even be under our agency by the time they have to serve. Of course, we make sure to check their draft notices as often as possible since missing any of them might force them to serve at the height of fame and that's a huge loss for us.

Q: Why do stars go to college when they get hate from test takers and barely attend class?

A: That's why it's the trend lately to pass on college or take online classes where they can attend regularly.

A: It's case by case. Some stars work hard as students and others just attend for special events.

Q: What's the most frustrating thing about working as a promotional team?

A: When the company doesn't give us as much power as they think we have. When a scandal happens, they blame us saying, "You guys weren't able to block this? You sit with journalists all day and you couldn't even block this?"

A: That's true. It doesn't matter how close we are with journalists, we're still working separate jobs. Just because I don't write an article about something doesn't mean another agency won't too.

A: For me, it's when we're writing PR material and the singers make requests about including key words like 'singer songwriter', 'the king of ballad', 'impressive', 'superior vocal talent', etc. We usually end up ignoring them, although that's harder for the newer recruits. People end up laughing when they see articles with those key words.

A: When agencies care only about immediate profit instead of the image of the artist in the long run. When stars only choose dramas or movies based on how much they're going to be paid and then demanding that we fix it when the work doesn't end up doing well. It's impossible.

Q: Fans get super critical about outfits and concepts, right? Why their oppa's hair style is like this, their clothes are bad, the concept is bad...

A: Honestly, in those cases, it's usually because their oppa wanted to wear that clothes so badly. They usually say they refuse to get up on stage unless they're allowed to wear it ㅋㅋㅋㅋ We think that it looks ugly too.

A: There are some kids who get greedy when they see that a special brand has released a limited edition and some star overseas has worn it so they want to wear it too not because it matches them but they just want to. Fans will demand that we change their clothes but their star is already too obsessed with the brand to care. They'll wear anything as long as it's from the brand.

A: The outfit production team works under different circumstances than the rest of the company. They obviously work under different time and financial pressures and come up with what they can given the restraints. Fans obviously don't know all of that and criticize them. For example, company E demanded that their outfit team come up with outfit concepts two weeks before the album's release and never even gave them a budget to pay for it.

Q. There's a lot of talk about manipulating the digital charts. Most companies say they've received offers but no one admits to doing it. What's going on?

A: We do get offers but it's expensive. It costs more than $100~200,000, and even more if you want the song in the top 10. I haven't done it so I don't know how it works.

A: Why would anyone admit to it? Some might do it without the CEO knowing and only a minority of the company knowing about it so the company is oblivious to the sajaegi under their own nose. There are suspicious digital rankings but no proof. When our own company put out team F and they didn't do well on the digital rankings, we finally understood why others resorted to sajaegi.

Q: It's hard to trust the charts nowadays since we don't know if the rankings are real or not.

A: We say that as well. But if not the charts, how can we gouge the public's reaction to a song? There's nothing else. It's a problem that the only way for us to gouge the public is in a mess like this.

A: No one can really trust the charts. But still, there's nothing more powerful than a high ranking song still. Even if you're unpopular, getting the title of a #1 ranking singer changes your status and gets you in the headlines. There's more to promote them with.

Q: What's your opinion on SNS?

A: It's a necessary evil. I wish more celebrities would just keep their accounts official because so many scandals happen from SNS. I don't really see it as a tool to communicate with fans. It's all crazy. It's too easy to have a scandal happen from it. I see it more as an attention seeking tool

Q: Do you have anything you'd like to say to the fans?

A: That it's because your oppas aren't 'the trend' that they're not able to get on variety shows and music shows. It's not because the company can't get them on it but because their content hasn't reached that status yet. It's us the company that gets hit when the group fails. We're working hard considering how much we've invested into them. We're the hardest workers out of anyone but we can't make the impossible happen.

A: That's true. Fans think that their oppas are of a certain status but their status might be different within the actual industry. Fans think, "How dare they put our oppas at a low status event like this?" and get angry but there's a difference in understanding of status.

Q: Fans also start to spread conspiracy theories whenever a big scandal erupts.

A: Yeah. Whenever a dating rumor pops up, people start to think the government is hiding something and the scandal was purposely timed to hide it. We don't have that type of power to control the timing of scandals. Fans are always on our case about why we chose to release a scandal at a certain time. When S's dating scandal exploded, kids were so busy crying during testing season and refused to study. We got so many calls from teachers and parents asking us why we put out that scandal when we didn't even choose to put it out in the first place.

A: There are also fans who complain to us about their unnis and oppas being tired but having too many schedules. They think we're overworking them. Those kids are everything we have, we think of them more preciously than anyone else. Honestly, they're making all of the money and there's no guarantee that their fame is going to last forever. We think it's important to be working while they're wanted. This industry is short, even five years is considered a long career in here.

A: Sometimes singers will promote rookies from other companies and fans blame us for using them to promote rookies. What in the world! Nowadays, kids don't even listen to us and do what they want. Stuff like that happens from their own free will!

Q: Fans also complain a lot about companies responding late to rumors or not clarifying certain rumors.

A: It's a waste of energy to respond to every single rumor that happens. There are some rumors that are simply not true but we can't back up with factual evidence and responding to those type of rumors usually end up making the issue bigger than it should be so we end up staying quiet.

A: Everyone has problems. It's easy for people to hate from the outside but they don't know what's going on on the inside. I want people to understand that we're not idiots, we all have our reasons as to why we had to make certain decisions. We know! We hear you! The song suck the outfits suck, the hair styles are weird... we have eyes too. We have experts. But sometimes there's just nothing we can do about it. It's not like we can give you the complete details of our company's inner workings.


1. [+189, -23] This entire thing reads like they're deflecting the blame and saying they have no fault in any of the issues ㅋㅋㅋ Then what are their jobs for? Why would there be a promotional team if not to handle these issues?

2. [+65, -7] This entire thing is so whiny... like "we have no faults, it's all the company's fault, it's all the stupid fangirls' fault" whine whine whine

3. [+56, -5] Seems like they don't know what their jobs are. If everything depends on the star's talent, then what are their jobs for?

4. [+40, -2] I read the whole thing and it just sounds like they take the credit if their groups do well and blame "your oppa's" if the group doesn't do well.

5. [+36, -0] I think we should get some celebrities to do these candid interviews anonymously. I'm sure they'll have a lot to say too.

6. [+33, -0] They deflect the blame too much ㅋㅋㅋ

7. [+31, -2] What exactly do they do if all of the blame goes to the company and the fans?? ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ



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