How can mid-small company groups even compete nowadays?

  • This past week there has been multiple girl groups debuts and one of them that caught my eye was RESCENE. I was trying to find content about them but so far they've only performed on Music Bank.

    I can't help but compare their situation to ILLIT who not only performed 2 songs on music shows, but they even got their own debut show where they peformed their whole album. Before debut, they went to Paris Fashion Week. They got invited on popular programs like MMTG, Idol Human Theater. And they even got CFs with Acne Studios and KT, despite just debuting.

    When groups from big companies just come out and dominate, there seems to be no place for small comany groups. Like ILLIT's debut album outsold STAYC who has been active for 3+ years. Or BabyMonster who sold more than Kiss Of Life's latest album in one day.

    How can small groups even compete when they're unable to get the simplest of exposure, like appearing on music shows?

  • not as much as before

    But sth like IVE could still work but they have arguably two of the most popular memebers of survival shows ever

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  • Yes. Fifty Fifty. But the company has to work hard and go through 1000s of songs.


    Ive is not a mid-size company. They are backed my Kakao whose market cap is even bigger than Hybe and they basically own Melon and "own" social media in Korea. i.e. Karina shot to #1 only after Kakao bought control of SM.

    Edited 2 times, last by K-PL ().

  • Better than before.


    I remember very well the enormous hostility towards BTS because they broke the Big3 hegemony.


    Nowadays people are way more chill with a group from non-Big4 doing well.


    Look at 50/50. They messed it up themselves, but getting into Hot 100 like that as a new group was impossible not all that long ago.


    The easiest road to this is Tiktok and then they need to not mess it up.

  • It's more and more difficult every year, given the growing number of groups started by the BIG4 and the fact that popular groups from the older generation are still active.


    The few groups that still manage to survive and grow a little are those that :


    - A “brand image” : MVs more worked than the average of the other small groups, better thought out outfits, developed a little content and with subtitles to put it differently we have to somehow "hide" the fact that they come from a small agency. They must manage to create “false luxury”.


    - Consistency : Having a bad comeback in Kpop is very dangerous for a group, but for a group that doesn't come from BIG4 it's almost guaranteed death. Error is not or hardly allowed. It's this consistency that allows a group like (G)I-DLE to stay on top, they manage to have a song that is popular with each comeback. Once you have the public's attention, you don't have the right to lose it. Conversely, a group like Weekly which lost it is now in difficulty.


    - Luck : Everyone needs a little bit of luck and no matter the field to reach the top but it has become a necessity for many groups outside of BIG4, we saw it with Brave Girls and Fifty Fifty recently but the best way to achieve success remains the "viral moment". There is also a more controllable part which is that of the timing, which includes the start date of the group, the comeback period. If you have a very good comeback but the attention is focused on a viral song of the moment, it will become very difficult to attract attention. The same as if you have a comeback at the same time as a big group. In 2022 we had the example of IVE's comeback "Love Dive" which is a very popular song in Korea today but remember the first week the song received very little attention because the day after IVE's comeback is release 'Still Life' by BIGBANG which attracted all the attention to them, we had to wait weeks before seeing the song "I AM" gain attention and we are talking here about IVE which is popular imagine the same thing with a group which is not.



    If they want to become a TOP group they need these 3.

  • bts fans gotta insert them in every conversation ever

  • they still can tho!


    1st mentioned by you mid-small companies have much less 'working force' by that I mean not so many people are there in company building

    meanwhile those moguls, conglomerates, chaebol like big companies have tons of people working in offices, tons of groups to feed, and tons of security and all that,


    at the end of the day it's just about pure revenue

    HighUp example is good here, and S2 is good as well

    why is that?


    First because HighUp has Black Eyed Pilseung is obviously bigger and Kakao is shareholder there too...

    meanwhile S2 is smaller but was created by former CUBE CEO and he already made mistake with debuting Hot Issue and disbanding them after a year or two, can't even remember well that. But still he and Haein managed to debut Kiss of Life, make them go viral, perform on award and end year shows, get some of those awards, and even get interest from fashion brands


    the other small/new companies can just learn


    ah and there is Modhaus too, after all tripleS won MAMA Rookie Award, and they've released multiple quality MV's, and both LOVElution, and EVOLution albums are amazing, and great to listen to


    to wrap things up, HYBE is now what SM was 5 or more years back, debuting in HYBE guarantees you shockingly good results from the start, therefore we shouldn't even try to compare new companies to HYBE, let those small ones be there and build themselves and work on their own

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  • They can't. It's going to be dam hard.


    Look at KissOfLife. They are quite talked about in this forum. And even XG.


    But success wise, they are still far from many top tier groups. Heck even Baemon seem to be doing better than them success wise even though it looks like not many people like them

    This brings an important distinction.


    Do groups from smaller/mid size companies NEED to be a so called "top group" or do they just need to be successful in comparison to where they started, enough to be profitable for label and members? Theres always going to be the top dogs, but it doesn't mean other groups aren't successful.


    I would argue XG is doing VERY well in their own right. About to World Tour and it sounds like getting tickets to their opening shows in Japan is going to be brutal. Their merch drops sell out very quickly. They are heavily backed in Japan. They have some decent collabs/cf's in Japan, including just recently Tamagotchi.


    Kiss Of Life also seem to be doing well "for their station". Are they a "top group"? No. Are they successful? I would say so, considering they are getting good recognition and exposure, strong showings at end of year awards shows last year, Natty going decently viral (I still havent figured out if the Natty CK stuff was her just playing or if she really is doing something with CK).


    I also look to Dreamcatcher. Were they ever a top group? No, never. But they are successful. Big enough to go on multiple world tours. To get invited to some decently large festivals. Get some smaller brand deals. Successful enough for the girls to feel comfortable re-signing. For people that follow the members closely enough, obviously they are doing well enough because a few years back, their clothes were more or less just clothes. Now most of the girls sport designer clothing and expensive brand names when out and about. Again, not a "Top group". Not "on top". But they've done well. I would say well enough that many of us would still love to be where they are.


    The thing with groups from bigger companies is theres more money behind them, but also bigger overheads and expectations for what a measure of "success" is. There are more "mouths to feed" and those are greedy, greedy mouths.


    This all kind of leads back to this fandom idea of Kpop as a bloodsport. That there can be only one. You're either at the top or you're "ended" and might as well just be taken out the back and put out of your misery. But it's not a sport. It's not an absolute race to the top, premiere league, winner takes all.

  • Thing is, from our perspective we see "oh they are known they look like they are earning and making some coin" but deep down we don't know that.


    We don't know if those tours are earning them money, or is it bleeding them dry.


    Unlike say top groups, we obviously know they are bringing in huge amounts of money.


    I guess it depends on how we quantify success.

  • Illit debut wasn't expected to do that numbers it's doing, but only way to survival is the use of SNS tools to promote the artist music. If possible get brought out by the big 4, CJ E&M, Cube, Kakao M becoming sub-labels.

  • They can't. It's going to be dam hard.


    Look at KissOfLife. They are quite talked about in this forum. And even XG.


    But success wise, they are still far from many top tier groups. Heck even Baemon seem to be doing better than them success wise even though it looks like not many people like them

    THIS ^

    It really takes a lot of luck, the right song and the right timing to break through as a group from a small company.

    And even then, chance is that the hype will be over before they know it.


    Take a look at StayC. Debuted and were one of the top groups. After a few comebacks, the international gp turned on them and now they appear in the media occassionally (internationally). Before that, they were everywhere.

  • You know the right answer, but you are all hypocrites here on this subject.

    Not sure if agreeing or snarkily disagreeing with me


    :pepe-tinfoil-hat:



    Theres a meme going around these days on TikTok, "I won't tell anyone if I win the lottery but there will be signs". For some groups and idols, there are subtle signs that they aren't desperately clipping coupons for cheap spam just to eat each week. Again, to go back to Dreamcatcher, seeing members wearing Celine and sporting bags that cost a few months pay for a layperson when a few years ago they definitely were NOT sporting that. Theres money now they hadnt had before.

    For touring, I would expect if touring wasn't profitable, they wouldn't keep at it. But groups like DC are touring a lot since the world reopened, and their tours are getting bigger, with more locations (except Australia boo hiss). Again, if it wasn't bringing in money, if it was bleeding them dry, they would have stopped.


    Also, with top groups, bringing in huge amounts of money may also not equal profitable if the overhead is much higher to start with. Profit expectations for say JYP are MUCH different than for S2 Entertainment, and there are many more stakeholders to answer to.


    I personally think that the biggest danger signs that group is just no longer profitable or successful is when they fade from view entirely. Groups that barely even get discussed here anymore.

  • This is simply not true ;(


    Even before there were groups who were so popular their companies were in talks for replacing big 3. Like FNC and Cube were in talks for replacing JYP.


    It is much more rare to see group outside of big4 succeeding than before. Nowadays they either need big4 or survival show aka produce backing. It is much harder for small company artists to be successful.

  • This is simply not true ;(


    Even before there were groups who were so popular their companies were in talks for replacing big 3. Like FNC and Cube were in talks for replacing JYP.


    It is much more rare to see group outside of big4 succeeding than before. Nowadays they either need big4 or survival show aka produce backing. It is much harder for small company artists to be successful.

    And yet they didn't replace BIG3. Talk was just talk.

    BTS made their company BIG4. Very different story.


    Tell me what group did what 50/50 did before.

    Even BTS didn't. They struggled for years to get big.


    Also, (G)I-dle is doing extremely well.

  • Not sure if agreeing or snarkily disagreeing with me


    :pepe-tinfoil-hat:

    I'm agree, but I'm just denouncing the double standard. If i tell you "Dreamcatcher/KoL are successful for group that started from nothing" you'll agree.


    But now if i said the same thing with MMM/OMG/Gfriend it's not the same they're "flop" "nugu" "no one care of them" "disbanded".


    I won't even talk about the treatment that (G)I-DLE got on this forum. We suddenly discovered a lot of fans on this forum after "Tomboy" :clown:

  • What I think is helping groups now, is how much stronger social media has become.


    Once upon a time, you needed to be played on radios.

    If not for the internet, Kpop would never have made it out of Korea and perhaps just barely have reached Japan or South East Asia.

    No radio would simply have played it in most other countries and only people from non-Asian countries who studied abroad in Korea (and there were very few of those) would have been likely to find out that Kpop even existed. Then when they returned home, they would not have been able to buy anything unless get it specifically ordered etc.


    Now, some random Tiktokker with a large following can decide they like your song and it gets a huge audience. In that sense, the chance that people discover your music as a nugu is much bigger than it ever was.


    I can go right now on spotify, type in "Nugu kpop", get some playlists and discover new music. This was not possible before the internet, even for music from the biggest Korean labels. In that sense, all Kpop was not just nugu but completely unaccessible before the internet in many other countries.


    In the 2000s, more Kpop was being made accessible, but it was still mostly that from the bigger companies that was shared or recommended. There was no Spotify yet or Instagrams to follow less famous artists.


    There was still a strong element of "who gets invited to..." and that means people with power in the music industry still had a lot of decision making power over whose music was being made accessible. This has lessened more and more over the last decade especially, due to people all having access to the most nugu of groups. Now, many don't bother and will still play what they get into contact with without much trying to search for anything else. So big company groups have lots of advantages.

    Not just in resources, but also in interest (be it positive or negative). Example: Baemon hasn't done stellar so far, but yet many people still talk about them, as they are YG and the first gg following the hugely famous BP, so that causes interest.


    However, the option to find more Nugus is there and that wasn't the case before.
    And the chance that even nugu rookies music gets picked up and goes instant viral even in Western countries amongst GP is also there, and that wasn't there even in 3rd gen.

    Edited 2 times, last by Fansamy ().

  • They didn't because JYP had Bae Suzy and then Twice. JYP pulled this in last moment lol


    What exactly did 5050 do? They had one viral hit, got tons of antis and company and members which didn't agree with one another and didn't know how to capitalize on their success.


    Before we had companies companies outside of big 3 with all successful acts. Before companies like Cube had more than one successful act.


    Before there was just more space for idols from smaller companies. How can groups from smaller companies find success when huge companies like Hybe are debuting new group every few months? How can idols from small companies find success when nowadays it is rare to see idols from bigger and smaller companies mingling together? Before they used to do shows together. It is true that there is just less space for groups from smaller companies, but this doesn't deny that possibility that yet another miraculous story won't happen.


    Bts and hybe success won't be any less impressive if armys and hybe stans admit this. Hybe/bts/big hit success didn't change a game for small company idols.

  • I'm agree, but I'm just denouncing the double standard. If i tell you "Dreamcatcher/KoL are successful for group that started from nothing" you'll agree.


    But now if i said the same thing with MMM/OMG/Gfriend it's not the same they're "flop" "nugu" "no one care of them" "disbanded".


    I won't even talk about the treatment that (G)I-DLE got on this forum. We suddenly discovered a lot of fans on this forum after "Tomboy" :clown:

    I don't know enough about MMM/OMG/Gfriend to REALLY comment, but from what I do know, I'd wager they are still successful enough, probably by some measurability more so than Dreamcatcher. MMM has left a legacy and that one chucklehead will tell you how their last tour in the US still sold out. They had a 3rd gen It girl. OMG still seems to have done very well for themselves. Again, maybe not worldbreakers, but they still get work right? The lights are still being kept on. Plus... Arin


    I was a G-Idle fan BEFORE Tomboy haha. Tomboy was kind of where I lost interest on them



    Bu yet again it all boils down to this... rather immature... all or nothing view of success and popularity that many kpop fans hold. Something I don't really see in many of industries except sporting teams.


    Like gaming... not all games are going to be GTA and Call of Duty and Forkknife. Not all games come from AAA companies. Smaller companies can have successful games taht do very well by that companies standards and expectations, even if said game isn't anywhere as big as the huge name AAA game from a big name studio.

  • I already said 50/50 messed it up themselves. What they did do was get a viral hit and massive opportunties with Barbie, that they spoiled themselves.

    Now tell me, which nugu rookie group made it to the Hot 100 before and got those opportunities? Still waiting.


    Your first sentence is even confirmation that Big3 was dominant, so you are arguing against yourself at this point.


    Your last sentence makes it clear you have some agenda and immediately try to make it about "ARMYS" because of me being ARMY. This while I am constantly on this forum supporting people's less famous faves and asking for recs about nugu groups.


    There are many groups that can continue to exist now even when we consider them mid or 'semi-nugu', because Kpop can now sell and tour globally and they have dedicated fans that will keep them afloat.



    Also, since when is (G)I-dle BIG4? They're very successful and aren't BIG4.

    Edited 4 times, last by Fansamy ().

  • In one word, they can't.


    Their days are now over.


    CSR's win, won by Music Bank's strange system (which has been revised to prevent disaster like that), will be the only win from a minor company in the 4th gen.

  • Maybe not in Korea because its corrupt and the culture is weird.


    But Fifty Fifty is the perfect example and that was only last year. Also StrayKids and Twice has shown you can flop in Korea and be a massive success globally.

  • I think a big concern is that smaller groups aren't getting the airplay that they used too.


    Combine that with the sales explosion not really trickling down and they're fighting for smaller and smaller pieces of the pie.



    In order to break even and make a profit, purely on physical sales, an act needs to sell at minimum 70k, but on average they need to sell 100k albums.



    Now take a look at the latest sales of everybody beneath the big 5 and the previous big 3 (Separating both collection of girl groups cause they'll always do numbers)


    The next in line are


    Itzy - 568,622

    Nmixx - 759,888

    StayC - 379,573



    Now these are all excellent numbers, all three of these groups could survive pretty much forever off of numbers like this....


    But then you have to consider. StayC, despite having the best digital performance in this group is firmly in 3rd place physical sales wise.



    Going down a big more


    Fromis9 - 190,594

    Dreamcatcher - 126,507

    Kep1er - 141,529


    We're effectively out of the girl groups that chart realm and the drop off in sales is very very clear. These groups are making a profit, but they're making a profit almost entirely on physical sales and concert performances



    Now look at everybody else


    Billlie - 91,143

    Kiss of Life - 59,092

    H1-Key - 77,524

    TripleS - 29,078

    Purple Kiss - 17,058



    Of these groups, only H1-key has managed to chart. And sales wise only H1-Key and Billlie manage to be outside the red zone

  • This is why I don’t feel bad the big4 even the ones “flopping” are much more successful than 90% of kpop groups. Is Baemon breaking the charts ? No but they’ll last in the long run.

  • using unpromoted groups of sublabels of conglomerates that aren't major players in the industry will always be the most dumbass thing kpop fans do.



    No Billlie does not get the same kinda promotion and marketing a proper SM group does


    And a Kakao sublabel like IST does not have the zeitgeist factor like from JYP or YG

  • just like in life one has more opportunities in bigger companies than smaller ones


    the most basic thing besides the addition resources a large company has opportunity!!!


    in life having more money might not necessarily get you everything but it sure as hell gives one more opportunities to get such things and that's the same situation in larger companies


    If a group from a larger (big4???) companies flops or doesn't succeed then have cb and cb and cb to succeed

    if you're from a smaller less successful or even nugu company if you don't do well - well you're gonna disband!!! lol

  • First, the obsession with success has screwed many brains. For example, with nmixx, when i look about nmixx in social media i always find alteast one fan desperately wishing Nmixx to be bigger. Is like they dont fully enjoy a group if is not as big as the top groups and thats fucked up.
    Second, Kpop audience is bigger than ever. I believe small kpop groups have better chances now than in the past. Rescene just start and already sold like 30k albums, in the past that would be impossible for a very small group.
    Thrid, even if you are really worry about this, the most likely is you will not be able to change the situation, so, why worry in the first place?

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