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Forbes: How Much Does It Cost To Debut A K-Pop Star? Zanybros CEO Discusses AleXa’s Debut



With the glitz and glam of K-pop leveling up each year, it’s clear that there is major money being invested into that sector of the South Korean entertainment world. Hundreds of young talents undergo formal “debuts” each year, releasing their first formal song or album as a way to greet the world, and there are often wide scale marketing and impressive audio-visual contents associated with K-pop debut eras as a way of gaining immediate traction for an artist or act.

AleXa, also known as Alex Christine, grew up in Oklahoma and eventually began to pursue a career in South Korea after competing and taking the top place in an online K-pop talent competition in 2017. During a brief appearance on 2018’s Produce 48 show, it was revealed that she was signed as a trainee to ZB Label, a subsidiary of Zanybros, one of the most prominent video production teams associated with the K-pop world. Last year, she released the dynamic “Bomb” on Oct. 21, announcing her debut to the K-pop world with a powerful song paired with captivating sci-fi aesthetics in a music video, giving the first glimpse of what AleXa has to offer the world as a soloist.

Kim Junhong, CEO and co-founder of Zanybros, opened up about the costs of launching AleXa’s career, sharing some insight into the immense financial investment that South Korean entertainment companies put into the official K-pop debuts of burgeoning talent.

Tamar Herman: How much was the total cost spent on Alexa's debut?

Kim Junhong: The total cost spent on AleXa's debut was around $300,000 USD.

Herman: How much was the expected cost?

Kim: The expected costs had been around $200,000 USD.

Herman: What was the cost breakdown?

Kim: Overall, this analysis shows that the highest costs when making an album go into the music video production and the cost of promoting the artist and the music. This may vary slightly depending on the genre of the artist's music or the size of the agency, but this breakdown is quite typical in the production of a debut album in the K-pop industry.

The breakdown of AleXa’s debut under ZB Label is as follows:

2% planning (A&R, recording planning, data survey)

10% song creation (composing, lyrics, recording, mixing, mastering, chorus, producing of recording)

10% dance (choreography, choreography training, practice room rental, dancer payment)

40% music video (directing and art team, filming and lighting equipment rentals, special effects such as fire, water, smoke, etc., location rental, props, costume production/rental, hair, make-up, stylist teams, editing, color grading, FX, CG, and sound effects)

3% album (character design, album and logo design, photoshoot, CD production costs)

30% promotions & marketing (domestic PR manager and agencies labor costs, international marketing labor costs, international online advertising costs, promotional merchandise production, promotional video content production, purchase and rental of outfits for music show and press appearances, hair, makeup, and stylist teams for music shows and press appearances)

5% miscellaneous, such as lodging, food, medical care for artist, car rentals, parking, gas, etc.


Herman: Were there any unexpected costs?

Kim: As music videos are one of the most important parts for a K-Pop idol's career, we spent more on the music video than expected, as well as on domestic and global marketing.

Herman: Was there any cost cutting involved?

Kim: While we did end up spending more on the music video than planned, we were able to keep the costs comparatively low thanks to Zanybros being a music video production company, as we could use both in-house facilities and manpower. Thanks to the company and its crew's network we were able to were able to save a lot of costs related to the casting of AleXa for music shows. Overall, we were able to reduce costs at various points of the process by using in-house staff.

Herman: How does this compare, based on your knowledge of the industry, to the average debut of a soloist?

Kim: While the cost spent on a soloist's debut varies greatly depending on the company's scale, I think AleXa's debut cost were fairly high compared to other debuts from small to mid sized companies. Of course, we didn't spend a lot compared to big companies but considering the fact that AleXa is from a very new and small company, the debut costs were quite high. But I think the higher cost also lead to a bigger effect.

Herman: Is there anything else you think our readers would be interested to hear about investing in a K-pop star’s debut?

Kim: Different from, say, manufacturing companies and factories, the entertainment industry doesn't have a strict form by which to measure exactly how much impact the invested money has, as the results are not always and not only profit. For example, if investing into the production of high quality contents to gain the interest of more fans actually reaches its goal and the number of fans rises, then the investments were not just spendings but can be seen as an increase in profits. It's true that it takes time until there is actual profit in the entertainment industry; there is a lot of waiting. But we are investing into this industry in the end to create something that can reach people all around the world – this is the special charm of entertainment. In addition, creating our own intellectual property will allow us to later branch out into other business areas and thereby continue to develop.

South Korea's entertainment industry is expanding and very competitive, but I am convinced that by understanding and trying the needs of global K-Pop fans we can develop marketing strategies using new media with which to win the market and establish a blue ocean market.

Sources: @Forbes | forbes.com
Tags: debut, interview, nugu, produce 101 alumni
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