When asked about his ambition for KPOP UNITED, CEO Richard Choo said; “We are looking at every point of disruption in the K-pop industry and aim to leverage many of the exciting opportunities that we are seeing.” He believes that by helping stamp Korea on the map as a purveyor of the best of modern pop culture through K-pop he is also increasing the brand power of Korea as a nation. With four cash-flow positive business lines centered around bridging K-pop stars to their fans around the world, the company is taking this ambition seriously.
Choo is no stranger to paving the way for K-pop on the international stage. In 2011, he created and produced the biggest ever K-pop concert in the United States, the “Billboard K-Pop Masters” presented by the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The event attracted some of the biggest acts in K-Pop and was a landmark in the globalization of K-pop which brought together powerhouse brands in entertainment to the most legendary stage in Las Vegas.
K-Pop is all the rage these days, with millions of fans around the world, yet none of agencies working with the stars have identified the most effective approach towards meeting the scope and scale of the international K-Pop market’s demands. KPOP UNITED and others such as Drama Fever aim to change this. “As the demand for global hallyu content grows, global connector companies that act as the cultural conduit like Drama Fever and KPOP UNITED will thrive,” stated Hyun Park, a VP at Drama Fever.
While KPOP UNITED boasts seven business lines, their K-Pop concert crowd-funding platform, Krowdpop, is their crowning jewel. In describing the solution Choo explained that his company is setting up a crowd sourced platform to take the stars to places, often off the beaten track, where they actually have a fan base. He said that “It’s great for fans, because they can see their idols in their home city. It’s also a risk mitigation tool for the promoters and the stars themselves, because we only take them to locations where we already know in advance there is an established and fanatical fan base,” and he confidently spoke of his organization as being the “primary platform to assist K-Pop stars in reaching global fans”.
Krowdpop is based on a burgeoning social media storm around up and coming, as well as established, K-pop acts and uses fan-generated data on social media to pin-point where in the world the acts are most popular. Armed with this data, KPOP UNITED are able to assist Korean agencies in planning and rolling out successful live events in those places. Crowd-funding is a proven model, as Kickstarter and IndieGogo have proven. New companies such as WeDemand have had limited regional success and scored millions in funding. Krowdpop distinguishes itself both in its international ambition and its go-to-market focus on the hungry K-Pop market, and is confident that by leveraging the strength of the crowd they can help further the success of K-pop globally,
While their primary market is the US, they are now building brand presence across the Americas and beyond and are able to effectively determine new markets for Korean bands as a result of their crowd sourced market data..
Having grown up in the heart of Silicon Valley, Richard Choo, believes that his roots have helped to equip him with the global perspectives and experience to build a robust business model around assisting K-pop artists and their managers connect much more effectively with their fans around the world. And while Choo is focusing his attentions on the K-pop industry for now, he believes that the global marketing and customer discovery methods he uses for Korean stars could equally be put to use by Korean startups wishing to enter the global market. He stated that “The biggest problem for Korean startups is that they don’t know how to expand globally.” Choo believes that in the future KPOP UNITED will deal with other startups in the tech space. On this long-term ambition he stated that while now his organization is “a strategy agency that connects the world to Korea, through K-pop, this can equally be expanded to include other startups as well.”
He went on to explain that these pains are also a reality for even the bigger entertainment agencies in Korea and that for many Korean companies the global marketing managers are just people who speak English. They often have limited global marketing experience, and as a result don’t understand their customers overseas. To target overseas opportunities effectively you have to be able to think like your target customers and understand their unique behaviors and desires, Choo explained. This is simply not possible at the deeper level for marketing managers who have spent their whole life in Korea. Choo believes that his team, made up mainly of foreign nationals, offers a truly global perspective from actually being based in the locations where the fans are and coming into the business with a fresh, and non-Korean perspective.” In conclusion of our discussion he stated that “as long as K-Pop can keep growing, the “KOREA BRAND” becomes sexier and sexier. Samsung is banking on a big market share push, but if you look at soft power, a lot of the time it comes from music, and that is what we are pushing.”
When did it all start?
KPOP UNITED was incorporated in 2010, at a time when Choo was consulting in Palo Alto. He was approached by JYJ, which was the biggest K-POP band in the world at the time and he was asked to help with their US Marketing strategy. At around this time there was rapid growth in K-pop, with bands attracting large communities of overseas fans. Choo spotted an opportunity and realized that for K-pop stars to get closer to their global fans he would need to get closer to the stars and their agencies. Shortly after this he moved his operations to Seoul. While the industry was growing, it was still very disjointed and he wanted to solve this problem, through a large affiliate network of event producers that he has built up around the world.