Kpop and British Radio: Would Kpop be successful?

Continuing on from the previous post, looking at if Kpop would even have a listening market in the UK is an important factor to think about. But why would British stations be against playing Kpop? I guess you have to see it from a marketing point of view. At the moment in the UK, is there enough national interest to warrant playing Kpop? I know a lot of stations are very much behind discovering new music, but mainly they want to find new music from within the country, and want to be sure there’ll be a market for it. What percent of people in the UK would actually want to listen to Kpop?

Looking at the UK music charts this week, there is a wide range of music genres, from Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris at the top, to Pixie Lott only a little further down the chart. This shows that the British do have a taste for different types of music, and that generally there is a market for different styles. However, is the style and appeal of Kpop just too different for tastes over here? Does Kpop only appeal to a certain niche of people in the UK, or have people not been given the chance to hear and learn about it? There difference between these two is important in figuring out whether Kpop would be successful if played on the radio over here.

In Korea, many of the bands are manufactured by entertainment companies. Their style, songs, and much else about them is carefully managed by their parent company. I’ve heard a lot of talk on the issue of manufactured groups along the lines that ‘real groups’ form naturally and write their own songs, play their own instruments and so on, and that programs such as The X-Factor don’t encourage originality. However, the popularity of shows such as the X-Factor, and the fact that many of the contestants do achieve some success afterwords (One Direction are in the charts this week) shows that the manufactured side of Kpop shouldn’t be an issue here. Also, it’s not as though there are no groups in Korea who haven’t formed by themselves, for example 10cm, who’s CDs have even been spotted in HMV in London!

One big issue that Kpop has that would pose a problem for being played on the radio is the fact that the songs are in another language. Although there are English versions of Korean songs, currently there aren’t enough to justify pushing this type of music through onto our airwaves. If Girl’s Generation is successful in their first ever English Album release in the USA, this may encourage other companies to try the same tactic. Could this be a key in getting Kpop played here? However, I’m sure many people, including myself, feel that Korean bands shouldn’t have to sing in another language to try to gain recognition.

It’s common practice for Korean entertainment companies, when advancing into Japan, to re-release songs in Japanese to encourage new fans. However, sometimes this is a bit hit or miss as the new lyrics may not fit the original music score, and having to learn a new language and be able to pronounce it is a tough task. So would we really want English versions of our favourite tunes? English ‘Gee’ or ‘Bonamana’? I can’t see this working out well on many of the original Korean songs. Although some songs can be written into another language and re-released to a good standard, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. For instance, SHINee’s Lucifer is an amazing song, but the Japanese version…. not so much.

Japanese Lucifer just doesn’t match up to the original, though I do love Taemin’s Dunce hat
Listening to songs in a different language does to some extent alienate the listener. British people love to be able to sing along and join in when they listen to music and there is a lot of emphasis put on the meaning of lyrics with song writers often held in high regard. Many British artists don’t play on their image, fashion or dancing to the extent that Kpop does, but reach out to the audience through their lyrics. Take Adele for example. Her song writing has shot her into fame, and her lyrics have a personal tone that can resonate with many people, making her songs have more significance to the listener. If a listener can’t understand the words and meaning behind a song, will they feel a connection to it? Although to those who already enjoy Kpop but don’t understand what the lyrics mean (like me) are happy to enjoy the songs regardless, to those who’ve never come across it before, this could be a huge barrier.

The image of many Korean bands is also very foreign when compared to British bands. Especially for the boy groups, their images and concepts when compared with our own bands seems very different. Whenever I’ve shown my friends clips of Kpop male groups I’ve been met with comments such as “I’m sorry to tell you this, but they’re all obviously gay”, “What the f*** are they wearing”, and my favourite “Is that a woman?”. Ah, Taemin, you’ll look manly one day. Maybe.

So what’s the future regarding Kpop and radio? For the moment, it seems the big radio stations aren’t receptive to playing Kpop. However, with the growing trend for Korean music in the UK, seen by HMV expanding and selling Kpop CDs, nothing can be ruled out for the future. I believe it’s a case of finding the right band and song, and finding the right time and place to play it, then any number of doorways could be opened for Kpop and British radio.

First part of post HERE.


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