You have never seen the work of Ms. Hadam Sung and her sexy dance cover group from Korea, Bambino. She is a “nugu” to you (I’ll explain that one later). On the Internet, however, she is a record-breaking superstar whose talents are cherished throughout Asia. Thanks to broadband, they are exported worldwide. Broadband and innovation, the golden combo, have made it happen for her. Not to mention her hard work and her talent.
Before leaving for the ICF Summit, I had dinner in New York’s Koreatown. As we walked through the lively streets, jammed with young people, I saw a sign calling for open auditions for anyone who wanted to become a KPOP star. In Korea that is the equivalent of becoming a movie star. KPOP is the national pop music. Successful young performers, like EXO and Girls Generation, are big stars. As you can imagine, there are a lot of dreamers trying to become KPOP-ers. The odds of success are long. Very. But fame is alluring.
So is export revenue. KPOP is a major cultural export and a $6 billion industry. It is called the hallyu, or Korean Wave. The Bank of Korea says that the Wave is central to the “massive rise” of cultural exports the country has shipped during the past two decades. It is an addictive form of entertainment and unique to Korean culture and mores. Its bouncy blend of singing, cover dances, English and Korean language phrases take youth music from rap to ballads and blend it. It is wildly popular in China and Vietnam, as well as in Japan. Its top stars, like Psy (remember “Gangnam Style”?) have millions of views on YouTube. In Psy’s case 1.5 billion! It is even a weapon. In 2010, South Korea responded to the North Korean sinking of a navy ship by broadcasting a newly released single of KPOP girl group across the Korean Demilitarized Zone. In response, North Korea promised to "destroy" any speakers set up along the border!
As tough as North Korea is to deal with, the KPOP establishment is even tougher. The story of my favorite innovator, Hadam, is one that many entrepreneurs in our Top7 cities will be familiar with. Much of the industry is controlled by a handful of wealthy management companies. Like their corporations, they scoop-up talent, invest millions in their training and promotion and put them out into the mass media market in highly conformist roles. They fit a model, which is formulaic and often not that interesting. This traditionally leaves smaller groups, such as Hadam’s talented dance group, working for small management companies and, for a long time, income crumbs. Her group seemed doomed to low-rent fame and her management company to limited income. This was not their intention.
So they got creative. Unable to afford to produce an expensive MV (music video), they hooked-up with a 360 VR vendor who taped the group while it was rehearsing its first song. Few had seen 360 VR at that point and only small groups had seen Bambino. You can watch the result below:
The high-tech, low-budget video and its technology got instant traction. Nearly 8 million views on YouTube – now heading toward 9 million! Suddenly, they were on radar screens. Next, they continued on their tours to universities and trade schools – whoever would have them – and invited the audience to record their sexy dancing on the phones and post it to YouTube. This was the birth of the fancam in KPOP. The response to the fancams exploded them into popularity. Like one other group, whose fancam had brought its sinking star back to the limelight with 19 million views, Hadam and her group were hitting the six-digit mark without a sweat and going over a million frequently. Songs like “I’m So Sexy,” which tells a story about a pretty woman finally able to show her beauty, became even more popular. Crowds were bigger and noisier and the calls were coming in for appearances in China and Taiwan. I assume their fees increased too – and Hadam reported on her Instagram page that they fly first class now.
In an industry that launches over 120 new girl groups per year, Bambino had become the “fancam queens.” They were suddenly on top and appearing in major venues. As seasoned professionals and, according to dance experts, innovative dancers, their mix is magic. Today, they are credited with helping to change the game and few have yet had the ability to challenge them.
The initial resistance to their work was understandable. Resistance to change is the biggest obstacle to innovation. But as you will learn this week in Columbus from our Top7, combining broadband, the technology tools you need and thinking differently about things, you can become your own Bambino group!
Good luck to the Top7, who have danced themselves onto the big stage Thursday night!