Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is 2011 the year of label conflicts?

2010 was a troublesome year full of tragedy ranging from major bands announcing disbandment to great musicians' passings. This year seemed a little hopeful with the announcements of inactive musicians jumping back into the scene, j-indies bands coming back from hiatus, and exciting news of bands performing overseas. Unfortunately, all this good news has been overshadowed a little by label troubles.

I explained earlier the drama that led to the disbandment of Ayabie (and honestly, I think there's something fishy going on with AYABIE right now). Vidoll also had a little label trouble connecting to their disbandment. It seemed like the announcement was posted on their site before a decision was officially made among the members. This post caused an upset especially with Vidoll's leader and bassist Rame.

Sadly, jrock labels aren't the only ones that have been in the spotlight for label issues, but kpop's strict (and impossible) expectations have spurred some talk.

You'll probably be sick of me saying this, but I'm not completely sure how the kpop industry functions. From observation and a little analyzation, I've noticed that kpop contracts are very demanding and strict. It's basically signing your life away. You have to do things for a certain amount of time, conform to your superior's wishes, and have as little of a personal life when business is complete. Some of these demands and sacrifices come with a small percentage of money.

Unlike America, being involved in a scandal or even the tiniest rumor like dating can be very damaging for an idol. They are expected to be perfect role models for their fans, which I think is a ridiculous demand of their labels. I'm sorry, folks, but your idols are human like you and me. They need to be social, date whoever, and make a few mistakes here and there so they can grow as human beings.

So, what does that have to do with anything? Well, rising stars KARA were victim of mistreatment from their label and four of them threatened to leave, despite their growing success in both Korea and Japan. This decision, from what I heard, had to deal with being overworked and underpaid for their accomplishments, while causing worry among the girls' families. They are still together and fighting. They also have to work on regaining their Japanese fanbase due to that situation.

DBSK was also a victim of mistreatment with their label. Although it caused a divide in the fandom and a Twitter war, both parties are still active in the music scene with two separate groups. I believe they're still on good terms with each other as well.

So, I'm not a fan of KARA or DBSK, but U-KISS was my kpop upset. It was announced not too long ago that Kibum and Alexander left U-KISS, because Kibum wanted to focus on his business with his brother and Xander wanted to get back into studying for school. Truth is the company forced the two to terminate their contract, so they could replace them with more entertaining members. Now someone pointed out if they're planning on replacing everyone then they should do a graduation system like Morning Musume. It's less heartbreaking for the fans and members. I don't understand their reasoning for kicking these two out, especially at the eve of their comeback and international appeal. They've done good so far and hopefully the remaining members don't suffer too much because of this decision and that Kibum and Xander find their own success soon.

It's crazy when the performers don't meet the expectations of their label and it's a pity to see them suffer along with the fans, but sometimes label troubles can lead to better success. A couple examples are kpop idol Rain who left JYP and started his own label J. Tune Entertainment. He continued acting in both Korea and the U.S., produced boy band MBLAQ on his label, started a clothing line, and made a strong solo comeback. Miyavi also left PS Company to start a new life with his music and wife Melody. He toured around the world twice, released some incredible new material, and had two beautiful daughters. With that said, I hope label conflicts will decrease as the year progresses.

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