SM Entertainment creates the musical answer to the Marvel universe


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SM Entertainment CEO Sung Su Lee doesn’t do interviews often.

So when he speaks in public, it is worth listening very carefully to find out what spins the wheels of the K-pop giant he is responsible for, whose roster includes stars like EXO, Girls. Generation and Shinee.

Lee appeared as the keynote speaker at 2021 STARTUP: CON last week and shared a glimpse of SM’s vision for the future of K-pop.

He also announced SM’s ambitious goal of making Seoul, already the cradle of K-Pop and K-culture, “the Mecca of world culture”.

The executive, who joined SM Entertainment in 2005 as part of the A&R team, argued in his speech that K-pop is “not just a genre of music, but a genre of content.”

At the center of SM’s content strategy is the SM Culture Universe (SMCU), which, Lee explained, is a “future universe of entertainment that connects the world through culture with no boundaries between reality and virtual reality.”

SMCU is essentially a character driven universe similar to cinematic universes like those created by comic book giants Marvel or DC.

Explaining the concept around SMCU at the company’s “SM Congress 2021” in June, Sung Su Lee said that it “can be seen as SM’s metaverse, inviting K-pop fans around the world to enjoy. our music and our stories through various platforms ”. .

He added in his speech last week that SMCU “will not only include our original content, but also [content] recreated by fans ”.

This is achieved specifically through the company’s “Pink Blood Project”, a fan engagement platform that supports what it calls “prosumers” – SM fans who create their own content inspired by acts. by SM.


The origins of SMCU, Sung Su Lee told the audience last week, are rooted in SM founder and executive producer Soo-Man Lee’s prediction that “the future will become a world of robots and celebrities, as well as of avatars “.

As such, said Sung Su Lee, SM Entertainment “has prepared for the future [i.e. virtual] the era of content for decades ”.

The company’s great expansion into the growing virtual artist space and the introduction of the SMCU concept came in October of last year with the launch of aespa – a “Metaverse girl group” made up of four human members and of four virtual counterparts.

According to Sung Su Lee, SMCU is a “massive virtual world that begins with the storytelling of aespa”.

The name “espa“Is a combination of” ae “(initials for” avatar “and” experience “) and” aspect “, which, according to SM, represents” the meeting of another self and the experience of a new world “.

The group’s first single Black mamba, released in November 2020, surpassed 21 million views in its first 24 hours. And in May of this year, SM released Episode 1 of aespa’s big-budget comedy film, also known as Black mamba (see below).

Sung Su Lee explained that “the main keyword” of the corporate universe is “KWANGYA”, which he says “has symbolic meaning as it encompasses both the real and virtual worlds”.

“K-Pop fans call KWANGYA our relocated headquarters in Seongsu-Dong and Seoul Forest area,” he explained.

“Our goal is for ‘KWANGYA’, an infinite virtual universe, to expand as a space concept that references our new location and becomes the landmark of SMCU. “



Sung Su Lee’s latest speech came weeks after it was announced that 20% of SM Entertainment was for sale, including more than 18% of the shares held by founder and executive producer Lee Soo Man.

Quoting from “investment banking insiders”, a Korean news site AllKpop reports that it is likely that Kakao Entertainment or CJ Entertainment – the production company behind the Korean hit film Parasite – will rush for participation in the music company.

Citing sources again, AllKpop further reports that CJ is Lee Soo Man’s preferred choice and currently looks like the “strongest buyer candidate.”

If CJ and SM got into business together, it wouldn’t be the first time SM has worked with a titan in the movie world.

Sung Su Lee noted in his speech that in 2010, SM Entertainment and Canadian filmmaker James Cameron – who created box office success Avatar – have teamed up to create 3D content.

“Although it has been a music-based cultural content company for over 20 years, SM has always understood the importance of incorporating the latest technologies of the time such as computing and AI into our content. and has been implementing such (technologies) for over 20 years.

Sung Su Lee, SM Entertainment

“It was way ahead at the time, but when producer James Cameron Avatar swept the world with its 3D content, SM had already completed the associated R&D, which allowed us to establish a consortium with Samsung Electronics and [Cameron] to immediately showcase the Girls’ Generation 3D music video, ”Sung Su Lee explained last week.

He added: “Although it has been a music-based cultural content company for over 20 years, SM has always understood the importance of integrating the latest technologies of the time such as computing and AI in our content and has implemented such [technologies] For more than 20 years.

“Now, in an age where IT, AI and content cross borders and take place in businesses and various content, we as a content company would like to work with and support innovative start-ups. and technological. “


Elsewhere in his speech, Lee said that the SMCU was created “through decades of accumulated killer content and IP expansion” and that it is this “future metaverse-style content that SM is striving for.” to reach “.

As an example of intellectual property expansion, Lee showcased the company’s “remaster project,” which aims to improve the quality of SM’s original music videos as well as remaster the company’s original tracks, which it says him, “are the valuable assets of SM and the history of K-Pop”.

“When you consider the structure of K-POP from the perspective of a global trend called Metaverse in the post-COVID era, K-POP can be seen as a new form of IP cultural content never before seen in the world. existing musical genres. “

Sung Su Lee

Lee continued, “When you look at the structure of K-Pop from the perspective of a global trend called the metaverse in the post-COVID era, K-Pop can be seen as a new form of IP cultural content ever. seen previously in existing genres. of music.

“This is SMCU based on the worldview that we are creating, and we will take it to the next level by creating an expanding universe of metaverse-style IP content that connects the different independent IPs of artists, music, music videos. musical, performance, etc. within SMCU to each other.Music trade around the world

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