Rain's Sold-Out New York Gig Could Take K-Pop Global

    February 03, 2006 18:56

    “My heart is thumping. Famous big-time songwriters and producers come looking for Rain every night,” a breathless voice on the phone from New York says. It’s the director of JYP Entertainment, the K-pop star’s agency. “The interest in the music industry here shows that Rain has gone way beyond what we could have imagined.” All 11,000 tickets for Rain’s two concerts at Madison Square Garden on Friday and Saturday have sold out.

    The U.S. pop music industry, constantly on the lookout for the next best thing, is hoping Asian pop could be the phenomenon of this decade just as Latino pop led by Ricky Martin was in the late 90s, revitalizing the industry with guaranteed worldwide appeal.


    Not so long ago, Korean dance music was described as not actually music at all, but that no longer seems to matter. BoA blazed a trail when she conquered Japan, where she has sold over 5 million albums since 2001. “If you add the 18 singles and three concert DVDs, you’ve reached 10 million records,” her agency SM Entertainment says. BoA’s 14 Japanese tours have brought in 114,000 fans and generated US$8 million in ticket sales.

    As for Rain, he’s been a hit everywhere in East Asia. His third album “It’s Raining” sold around 1 million copies in a year. In Indonesia, Taiwan and eight other countries, the album topped the charts for between six to eight weeks. During the artist’s 18-concert tour, he brought in 170,000 fans in Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei. Last year Rain raked in $8 million in album sales, $20 million in ticket sales and $7 million in endorsements -- a total of about $35 million, according to JYP Entertainment.

    Then there is hit singer Seven’s latest “Must Listen,” which sold 300,000 units in Thailand, and three singles released in Japan shifted more than 200,000 copies.

    Some hope that is only the beginning. “If we convert the future value of just the three singers Rain, Seven and BoA, they mean at least about W2 trillion for the economy,” Go Jung-min of the Samsung Economic Research Institute said. “These are the figures when we just add up the tangible profits from concerts, album releases and endorsement or commercial deals.”

    K-Pop’s strength is that it has been honed for 20 years where it matters most: on the street. Digesting American styles in their own way, underground break-dance stars called “B-Boys” kicked off popular group dances that K-Pop stars then took over to make dance a driving force in their music.

    At the 18-nation Battle of the Year, a kind of World Cup of street dance, the Korean team took home top honors in 2002, 2004 and 2005 -- and it only started taking part in the dance-off in 2001.

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