SXSW 2018: How K-Pop Grew Beyond Niche

While K-pop isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, you must admit that you had hummed it before, whether it was PSY’s Gangnam Style or 2NE1’s I am the Best. Those two examples have been heard on the radio, played at parties and clubs, and in the background of commercials of our favourite phones or promos for sports teams. A couple of short years ago, not many people knew that K-pop was a genre that existed. Now, not lonely do we see it as an option on our Spotify discovered lists, but it has begun breaking major records in the US, which is a notoriously difficult market to break into. It started breaking records in not only the US but worldwide. 
    Many have attributed its worldwide success to it being known for its style and beauty in the mainstream. While I agree, I feel that it's more because of the fans. During the convention, panellist Greg Fish, Director of Business for YG Entertainment USA, commented that “All pop fans care about their pop.” I can attest that the fandoms are very powerful. During SXSW I had the chance to see the very well known, Jay Park, former boy band member turned solo rap artist perform. The audience energy was infectious, and Park returned the energy by passing water out to the crowd as they were dancing and chanting, taking as many pictures with as many fans as he could, and entertaining the crowd before his set. This is something that I have rarely seen from an American artist. I believe that it is that exchange of intense appreciation and energy that makes k-pop different.
To bring this all back home, as the Program Director of WRAS Album 88, one of my jobs is to help create and start different shows. Recently before going to SXSW, I had a DJ express interest in creating a Korean music show. I knew a bit about different artist and thought that it would be a great idea, complementing our Latin music show and Japanese music show. This convention helped me to understand why the music was so infectious and why it sits perfectly between niche and almost mainstream.