The current buzz word in the Korean music industry is “overflow” – too many companies fighting over a market limited in scope.
Some of these companies, one insider told the allkpop website, “lack professionalism” and simply believe all they have to do is assemble idol groups and send them off into the world.
But even the larger, more experienced talent agencies keep churning out the same sort of artists with no consideration given to other forms of popular music. Even “traditional bands” that play their own instruments, such as CNBlue and F.T. Island, are being pushed as “idol bands” to compete alongside boy bands and girl groups.
The consequence is that TV music programs, still the main promotional means for pop music in South Korea, are booked up to more than three months in advance. That means new songs, especially those by rookie groups, have almost no chance of making an immediate impression.
Usually, what happens in this case is that the group is forced to go overseas – thus, the word “overflow” – just to have something to do. The strategy is that, since K-pop is considered automatically popular in China and Southeast Asia (also Japan, but that market is even more saturated than Korea’s because it has its own idol contingent), a new act can gain fans and experience that will help it crack Korea.
But now many groups find they’re being booked into smaller and smaller venues that have no discernible effect on their career opportunities.
Essentially, the so-called first generation of K-pop acts will continue to dominate at the expense of newer acts that may be more innovative or even more talented.
“The Korean music world is literally gnawing away at its own skin,” says allkpop.