SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Korea Bizwire) – S.M. Entertainment will continue to tighten its stranglehold on overseas markets, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, its CEO said Monday.
Kim Young-min, who took the helm after founder Lee Soo-man relinquished the post in 2005, attributed the agency’s success to its pioneering spirit.
“S.M. is what coined the terms ‘hallyu,’ ‘K-pop’ and ‘Oricon chart No. 1′ here,” he told Yonhap News Agency in an interview. “S.M. continued the upswing by becoming the first South Korean entertainment company to be listed on the local bourse in 2000 and break the 1 trillion won (US$858 million) mark in market value in 2012.”
S.M. started the first generation of Korean idol groups in the 1990s, with its signature boy band H.O.T. holding its inaugural China concert in 2000. Two years later, teen pop star BoA overtook Japanese music charts and the agency continued its trailblazing journey to France, where it held the first-ever K-pop concert in 2011.
Its annual growth rates averaged 32 percent over the past 20 years, according to S.M.’s regulatory filing. Sales last year reached 287 billion won, with the figure likely to be surpassed in 2015 — the entertainment heavy-weight is expected to finish this year at around 317 billion won.
When asked what caused such growth, Kim said most of the sales came from overseas.
“More than 40 percent of the sales came from abroad,” he said. “Having more concerts outside South Korea helped. If you break it down further, growth has been even among concerts, merchandising, albums and songs.”
Bench marking the Japanese model, S.M. has also made inroads into smaller venues, which allows for closer interactions between fans and artists.
It has also acquired Woollim Entertainment, a South Korean agency that manages boy band INFINITE and indie act Nell, and started Label SJ for boy band Super Junior. S.M. plans to create another label for former H.O.T. member Kangta in China when S.M. China earns corporation status there.
Kim said there were three stages of S.M.’s overseas expansion: exporting, co-producing and localizing. BoA and TVXQ count as the first kind, with international groups such as Super Junior and EXO belonging to the second. The third, localization, will gain traction next year when a music audition program on China’s Hunan TV chooses a winner, who will be produced by the South Korean entertainment giant.’
Regarding recent controversies over boy band dropouts, Kim said, because S.M. is at the frontier of entertainment business, it naturally bears the brunt of negative press.
“Now, these kinds of incidents have become a dime a dozen in this industry,” he said. “People think they predominantly happen at S.M., but being the forerunner in this market, we’re always the first to experience new things. For now, there’s no way to stop people from dropping out, but I’m sure the laws are tightening.”
Three Chinese members of EXO — Kris, Luhan and Tao — have filed lawsuits against S.M. to be allowed to leave the group since last year.
Materialist aspirations aside, Kim said S.M. continues to reach higher in terms of social contribution and enhancing South Korea’s national image.
“Our mission is to contribute to society through culture,” Kim said. “I believe the cultural content we make builds South Korea’s national power. Our first goal is to continue doing so and the second is to become world No. 1 from our current No. 1 position in Asia.”