Is There Room for Another BTS? UMG, Big Hit Are Creating a ‘New Global K-Pop Boy Group’

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Universal Music Group and Big Hit Entertainment have teamed up to create “a new global K-pop boy group” in the United States – in addition to establishing a record label for this as-yet-unformed act – as part of an “expanded strategic partnership.”

The Big Three record label and the BTS agency recently unveiled their bolstered partnership – Universal Music and Big Hit revealed about one week back that they would coordinate to launch a livestreaming platform called “VenewLive” – in a formal release. This more all-encompassing joint initiative’s broader goals, however, are “to increase opportunities for artists through innovation and technology” and to expand “the global reach of K-pop music and culture around the world,” per the release.

Building upon the points, Universal Music acts “will explore enhanced ‘direct to fan’ communications” via Big Hit’s WeVerse, according to the text. The Seoul-headquartered entertainment company launched the app in June of 2019, and a $63 million investment that Big Hit made in competing K-pop agency YG Entertainment in January encompassed an expansion to WeVerse’s livestreaming capabilities.

UMG artists including Gracie Abrams and Alexander 23 have already utilized WeVerse, the message relays, and “Parents” creator Yungblud is part of “the next wave of talent joining Weverse in the coming months.”

Furthermore, UMG and Geffen Records intend to form a (currently unnamed) joint-venture label with Big Hit. This Los Angeles-based label “will work closely alongside teams from” UMG/Geffen and Big Hit to “successfully launch” the aforementioned K-pop boy band.

It’s unclear how many members will be part of the latter – for reference, though, the industry-leading BTS encompasses seven performers, to nine current performers for Exo – but “a global audition program” is set to begin airing sometime in 2022, and the text specifies that UMG and Big Hit have “a major U.S. media partner” in place.

Lastly, Big Hit will “lead the discovery” process, training and developing the K-pop group’s members (in an effort to replicate the massive commercial success of BTS, needless to say) and handling artist-to-fan communications via WeVerse. Geffen team members, in turn, “will leverage their extensive industry network and partners to oversee the music production, marketing and global distribution operations.”

In a statement, Big Hit’s CEO of Global & Business, Lenzo Yoon, noted that UMG and his company will look to replicate the formula that propelled BTS to international fame.

“We will strive to secure competitive platform leadership and develop a top group of artists through the close partnership between our two companies, enabling K-pop to transcend all borders and languages,” said Yoon. “This project is especially significant as it will apply Big Hit’s ‘success formula’ established over the past 16 years to the U.S., the center of the global music market.”

Given BTS’s decidedly substantial presence in K-pop, it’ll be interesting to see whether UMG and Big Hit can in fact create a new boy band that resonates with fans around the globe — while also expanding the genre’s reach in the States, particularly given the much-promoted “global audition program.”

Also worth noting in this regard is that the South Korean government granted BTS’s oldest member, Jin, a military deferment in December — though the 28-year-old will still have to begin the roughly 18-month-long service period by the time he turns 30.

In spite of the UMG partnership announcement, Big Hit’s stock (352820 on the Korea Exchange) dipped 3.01 percent during today’s trading hours, to $217.69 (241,500 KRW) per share. Universal Music itself is set to arrive on the public market by 2021’s end.