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The Mount Rushmore of K-pop

The four companies responsible for K-pop's global success.

HYBE

K-popAmong the legendary ‘Big 3’ K-pop labels , HYBE (Formerly BigHit Entertainment) has surpassed the earnings of the other three labels due to the skyrocketing worldwide success of BTS. Having sold 33 million million albums domestically,  the group has brought in more than $4 billion to the Korean economy. HYBE’s headliners became the first K-pop act to win a Grammy in 2021, as many around the world were discovering the group for the first time. BTS’s success at the Grammys cemented K-pop’s reach outside of Asia and Korea, and now has become an influential group on the world stage.

K-pop
Bang Si-hyuk

A lot of the credit for K-pop reaching the world mainstream market goes to BigHit (HYBE) Entertainment’s CEO, Bang Si-hyuk. He has long been credited with paving the way for K-pop acts to break into international markets by establishing a firm footing in South Korea and Asia. Initially, with only a small roster of talent and a handful of hits to stay relevant, Big Hit held auditions to find idols for a boy group and by 2013 BTS eventually was formed.

 

In June of 2021, Big Hit was estimated to be worth around USD 8 billion. Far from the small company that almost had to file for bankruptcy in 2007,  90% of BigHit’s revenue results directly from BTS with the remaining revenue coming from 10 other groups. By aggressively expanding into non-traditional markets including Japan, China, and Europe, Bang Si-hyuk ensured that K-pop’s influence was no longer limited to Asia.

In 2022, Hybe (BigHit) has already surpassed the earnings of the other three labels due to BTS’ incredible worldwide success.  Recently HYBE announced a bombshell that caused the publicly-traded company shares to fall by nearly 25%, erasing close to 1.5 billion from the company’s market cap value by announcing that BTS would take a hiatus to focus on solo projects going forward. Although this announcement for many investors’ signaled  uncertainty going forward, many speculate that pursuing solo careers may just be the next step to propel this K-pop goliath even further.

HYBE presently holds the pole position in the K-pop industry, but K-pop is a $5 billion global industry with other competitors eager to capitalize on the genre’s worldwide appeal. Although HYBE is a pillar of the industry once known as K-pop’s big 3, the other 3 companies on this list represent the legacy of K-pop and help form the backbone of the industry.

Artist: BTS, TOMORROW X TOGETHER, Lee Hyun, ENHYPEN, Nana, Bumzu, Baekho, Hwang Min Hyun, SEVENTEEN, Yehana, Sungyeon, FROMIS_9, Zico, Dvwn, LE SSERAFIM

Twitter 3.5M Followers  YouTube 67.3M Followers   Instagram 2.3M Followers

SM Entertainment

K-popOnce the largest K-pop entertainment company in the world, for the past two decades SM Entertainment has consistently produced some of K-pop’s most popular acts (NCT 127, Girl’s Generation, EXO, and Super Junior).  After a partnership deal with Chinese giant Tencent Music Entertainment for music distribution and marketing in the Chinese music market, SM Entertainment’s influence has taken a giant leap outside of Korea.

K-popChina is the fastest-growing music streaming market worldwide, and Tencent Music Entertainment has industry-leading platforms. According to statistics from global research firm Euromonitor International, Tencent Music Entertainment has over 900 million monthly users on four of the top music service platforms in China. Through the partnership, SM Entertainment’s music and videos were made available through QQ Music, KUGOU Music, and KUWO Music.  This strategic partnership has also become the launching pad for the Chinese boy band WayV signed under the label. Tencent’s social media channels (including Weibo) actively distribute SM’s creative content, resulting in close to 90% of SM Entertainment’s subscribers residing outside of Korea. 

Artist: Aespa, S.E.S., TVXQ, Girl’s Generation, Super Junior, SuperM, Shinee, f(x), EXO, Red Velvet, NCT, BoA, Kangta, J-Min, Sunday, Taemin, Dana, Amber, Taeyeon, Luna, Victoria, Lay, Yoona, Yuri, Key, Onew, Chen, U-Know, Sulli, Baekyun.

Twitter 3.5M Followers  YouTube 67.3M Followers   Instagram 2.3M Followers

JYP Entertainment

K-popIn 2020 JYP Entertainment entered into a strategic partnership with Republic Records, which is owned by Universal Music Group – solely to capitalize on the international expansion of girl group TWICE.  In 2021 JYP earned 58.4 billion KRW, or 48.5 million USD in revenue. Now this partnership has grown to include the groups Stray Kids and ITZY, as the plan for promotion outside of South Korea continues. Republic Records, which is quite familiar with worldwide acts, is home to several A-list musicians, including Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, and more. JYP also has a strategic partnership with Sony Music Entertainment’s The Orchard for global digital and physical distribution.

K-pop
TWICE

In April 2022, it was reported that the market cap of JYP had soared from 1.33 trillion KRW (1 billion USD) in the previous year to 2.24 trillion KRW (1.7billon), an increase of 1 trillion KRW in the first three months of 2022. The Korea Exchange reported that the company’s stock prices soared to 66,200 KRW on April 8, breaking its record and marking the first time that JYP Entertainment has entered the 60,000 KRW($46 dollars) share range since its listing in August 2001.

Artists:  2PM, TWICE, GOT7, DAY6, 15&, Stray Kids, JJ Project, NiziU, Jus2, 3Racha, ITZY, J.Y. Park, and Yubin.

Twitter 4.9 M Followers  YouTube 23.3M Followers   Instagram 4.2M Followers

YG Entertainment

K-popCredited by some to be responsible for the first big wave in K-pop, YG Entertainment has been one of the big three since 1996.  YG Entertainment is still home to some of the biggest acts in the world netting them 77.2 billion KRW or 64.2 million USD in earnings last year.  Many got their introduction to K-pop through PSY and the worldwide hit Gangnam style. In addition to PSY, super groups BigBang and 2NE1 were influential in creating a giant regional fan base. 

K-pop
BLACKPINK

In 2018, the label’s all-girl group BLACKPINK partnered with Interscope Records and Warner Music Worldwide to launch the group outside of Asia. Currently, BLACKPINK is the largest K-pop group of all time. After reaching 1.5 billion views on youtube for their hit  ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’, they became the first among all K-pop male and female groups to reach such milestones. Among the videos released by BLACKPINK so far, 32 videos have recorded over a billion views on YouTube, a cumulative number that has exceeded 22.3 billion. As a company YG is poised to make a comeback as super group Big Bang members return from their military service. A few years removed from the company’s Seungri (Big Bang) scandal involving allegations of drug and sexual assault the company has replaced the leadership at the top and is now in position for another run at the top.

Artists: Jinusean, Sechs Kies, Big Bang, Akdong Musician, Winner, iKon, BLACKPINK, Treasure, Hi Suhyun, MOBB, Treasure, Magnum, Eun Ji-won, G-Dragon, T.O.P., Taeyang, D-Lite, CL, Dara, Lee Hi, Yoon, Mino, Jinu, Bobby, and Jennie.

Twitter 8.3 M Followers  YouTube 6.55M Followers   Instagram 2M Followers

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