Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by J.SCALCO
There’s a storm gathering momentum in the Far East – and it’s gradually taking over the globe quite unlike anything else. Are you a K-pop fan? Or the guy who’s been hearing BTS and other popular K-pop groups everywhere you turn? Regardless, there’s no denying that KPop is currently experiencing unprecedented global recognition. Some might even call it the golden age of K-pop.
So, what is KPop? And more importantly, why is it all the rage these days? South Korea is not short effervescent exports. We can credit the country with amazing skincare routines, Mukbang videos, and emotional TV dramas. However, there’s an even more glistening and dominant export, K pop.
If you somehow missed the memo and you’re still not inducted into the entertainment phenomenon, K pop simply stands for Korean pop. And it’s a force to be reckoned with! The music category embraces several genres, including rock, EDM, R&B, rap, and pop.
What is KPop Music?
Unlike other music categories, K-pop is not all music – it’s more of a way of life. Everything from insane music videos, slick choreography, dazzling artists, a seemingly endless parade of attractive artists, to the top-notch production values all make K-pop an addictive movement. Since the early 1990s, the K-pop has become an influential powerhouse in South Korea and beyond – both in terms of financial and cultural influence.
In a recent survey by Statista, over 63% of 7,500 respondents from 16 countries claimed that K Pop is popular in their country. Its impact on the global music industry is evidenced by several notable milestones, including BLACKPINK performing at the 2019 Coachella, BTS appearing on Saturday Night Live, charting in global charts (the UK and Billboard Hot 100), and even being named as one of Time’s“25 Most Influential People on the Internet.
” The cultural influence of K-pop is seen through the rise of self-proclaimed fan groups such as the dominant BTS ARMY or the BLACKPINK Blink, and collaborations with international artists such as Charlie XCX, Zara Larsson, and Halsey. But it’s not just about shaping the global image of South Korea, K-pop is a significant financial powerhouse!
According to the latest statistics by South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service, the main K-pop companies (SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, Big Hit Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment) collectively earned $1 billion in 2018. Even more impressive, some reports claim that the K-pop group, BTS, injected over $3.6 billion into the South Korean economy and were responsible for almost 8% of foreign tourist visits to the Asian country. These statistics simply show the money-making ability and power of the K-pop industry.
In a nutshell,Hallyu(Korean pop culture) is taking over the global entertainment scene – and at the helm of this wave is a strategized music industry.
Top 5 KPop Companies
Ever wondered why popular Kpop groups such as BTS, BLACKPINK, Girls’ Generations, NCT, and EXO seem to suit every taste and churn musical hits like a vehicle assembly line? And no, it’s not a coincidence. Most of your favorite K pop artists are wrapped in a meticulously-crafted package to reel in droves of adoring fans. Everything from the hairstyle, outfits, public profile, to even relationships are strategically designed to woo you and elevate South Korean pop culture – all courtesy of a coordinated production system.
If there’s a woman behind every successful man, then there’s a Korean entertainment company behind every successful Kpop group. These companies hold auditions and sign K pop artists from as early as 12 years of age, and mold them into the heart-throb K-pop idols that drive their stans crazy. But which are the best Korean entertainment companies? Read on to find out the company that manages your favorites K-pop artists.
- SM Entertainment
SM Entertainment is a K-pop company that has literary stood the test of time. Founded in the late 1980s, it’s one of the pioneering Korean entertainment companies – and it’s still a major player three decades later.
Part of SM Entertainment resilience is its inherent ability to adapt to the ever-changing music industry. Recently the company is focusing on the music streaming market in China and expansion into other industries such as tech, modeling, and sports.
Popular K-pop groups on SM Entertainment’s roaster include Girl’s Generation, NCT, EXO, Red Velvet, TVXQ, SHINee, and BoA. With approximately 21 million YouTube subscribers, 7 million Instagram followers, and a reported profit of $44 million, SM Entertainment is definitely on the right track.
- Big Hit Entertainment
Compared to other top K-pop companies, Big Hit Entertainment is a relatively new player in the South Korean music scene. But this has not stopped them from claiming a significant share of the skyrocketing industry. Interestingly, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2007 – until they struck gold in 2013 with BTS. It may be argued that the success of Big Hit Entertainment came as a result of the widely popular K-pop boys’ group. Recently, they’ve introduced a new idol group dubbed TXT that’s expected to follow in the impressive footsteps of BTS.
No other K-pop company is riding the Hallyuglobal wave better than Big Hit. Their audit reports show that the Korean entertainment company recorded an operating profit of $66 million in 2018. Even more impressive, the K-pop company is dominant on the Internet, with 30.5 million YouTube subscribers and 21.5 million Instagram followers. As it stands, Big Hit is shaking up the Korean Entertainment companies’ hierarchy and threatening to top the list.
- JYP Entertainment
JYP Entertainment is the brainchild of the legendary artist, Jin-Young Park – and the yes, the K-pop company’s moniker is his initials. JYP has built a reputation for its practical training system and global audition that bring talented individuals from all over the globe.
As one of the top K-pop companies, JYP Entertainment managed to amass a profit of $24.5 million in 2018, along with 14.5 million subscribers and 3.4 million Instagram followers. Some of the popular K-pop groups by JYP Entertainment include GOT 7, TWICE, Wonder Girls, Stray Kids, Mix Nine, ITZY, and 2PM.
- YG Entertainment
Similar to SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment has consistently produced popular K-pop groups since the 1990s. The KPop company was founded by Yang Hyun-Suk – who is actually a former K-pop artist in the popular Seo Taiji and Boys K-pop group.
Despite managing widely popular K-pop groups such as BLACKPINK, BIG BANG, iKON, WINNER, Treasure 13, MOBB, and 2NE1, YG Entertainment has recently been marred by a chain of scandals. In particular, Big Bang’s Seungri has been accused of multiple cases of sexual assault and drug use at the Burning Sun nightclub. Such was the pressure on YG Entertainment that Yang Hyun-Suk was forced to step down as the CEO of the K-pop company.
Will YG Entertainment record impressive results, including a profit of $9.6 million in 2018, boasting of approximately 5 million YouTube subscribers, and 315,000 Instagram followers this coming year? We’ll have to wait to see.
Top 8 K Pop Groups / Artists
By now, you should be aware that KPop is diverse. Whether you like slow jams to chill at home or energetic club bangers, there something for everyone in K pop. But with such diversity comes a truckload of K-pop artists and groups that will leave you feeling dizzy.
To ease your mind, we have compiled our list of the top KPop groups to grace the airwaves. Please note that this list is based on global popularity, revenue generated, and the latest rankings by popular media outlets and music services such as Spotify and Tumblr.
BTS ARMY, assemble! BTS for life, right? As the most popular K-pop group, BTS (aka Bangtan Boys or Beyond the Scene) is currently the face of the Hallyu. Since 2013 – when they became active – BTS has grown into a global phenomenon. The band, comprised of Jungkook, V, RM, Jimin, Jin, Suga, and J-Hope. Their music is often a blend of EDM, pop, and hip-hop, covering sensitive topics such as mental health issues and relationships.
Did you know that BTS holds 11 Guinness World Records? In less than a decade, they have accumulated over 240 major awards – including the American Music Awards, The Asian Awards’ “Outstanding Achievement in Music,” BBC Radio1 Teen Awards, Billboard Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and even ranking first in the United Nation’s Global Sustainable Future Leaders in 2019.
What do BLACKPINK and Beyoncé have in common? Aside from near cultic following by the Blink (BLACKPINK) and Beyhive (Beyoncé) fan clubs, both churn out hits after hits. The K-pop girls’ group of Rosé, Jisoo, Lisa, and Jennie Kim has effectively cemented their spot as one of the top K-groups to represent South Korean culture.
Since debuting in 2016 with their album “Square One,” BLACKPINK has topped domestic and international charts – including the Billboard’s World Digital Songs, Emerging Artists, and Hot 100. The K-pop group has been nominated for over 100 major awards. Recently on December 8, 2019, the band won the 2019 Tencent Music Awards’ “The Best Korean Artist.” Other achievements include the old Certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for their song, Ddu-Du Ddu-Duand the pole position in Forbes Korea Power Celebrity 2019. Additionally, the Time magazine recently placed the popular K-pop group in their prestigious list of “Time 100 Next.”
Bubbly, bad boy, cute – Exo has tried it all. The K-pop group of 9 initially made their debut in 2012 with 12 members, divided into two subgroups (EXO-K and EXO-M) based on their dominant language. The current members include Kai, D.O., Sehun, Xiumin, Chanyeol, Chen, Lay, Suho, and Baekhyun.
Their debut EP “Mama” and album “XOXO” set the band on a path of unprecedented success, including over 150 awards from 250 nominations. The most notable achievement by EXO is the Guinness World Record for the “Most Daesang (Grand Prize) awards won at the Mnet Asian Music Awards.” They’ve also featured in the top 10 of Forbes Korea Power Celebrity for 6 years in a row from 2014.
- MONSTA X
Unlike most of the popular K-pop groups on this list, Monsta X is not managed by the ‘Big 4’ Korean entertainment companies. Instead, they are under the guiding hand of Starship Entertainment – and true to the label name, their popularity has skyrocketed since their debut in 2015. The group consists of I.M (rapper), Jooheon (rapper) Kihyun (main vocalist), Minhyuk (vocalist), Wonho (vocalist), Hyungwon (vocalist), and Shownu (vocalist).
Every Monsta X stan and Monbebe (fan club) must recognize the band from the hit TV show, “No.Mercy” – where they met. After releasing their first album “Trespass,” the KPop band gradually expanded to the international stage by claiming the top spot in Billboard’s World Albums with the full-length album, “The Clan.” The catchy and addictive tunes have even been incorporated in mobile games and Korean TV dramas.
NCT (Neo Culture Technology) is arguably the largest popular K-pop group with a whopping 21-member team – good luck accommodating all their posters on your bedroom walls. The band has been active for a mere 3 years – but they’ve won over 30 major awards and accolades, including a commendation by South Korea’s Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
It’s important to note that the group is divided into subgroups depending on their content. This includes WayV (based in China), NCT Dream, NCT U, and the most popular NCT127 (Seoul-based). The group is characterized by their outstanding videos and powerful songs that leave you NCT-ed.
- Red Velvet
Yeri, Joy, Wendy, Seulgi, and Irene – these five girls make up one of the most popular K-pop girls’ bands in the world. The group is a delicate mix of sexiness, sparkle, and boldness that will soon be your favorite drug.
Red Velvet made their debut 5 years ago in 2014 with their hit single “Happiness.” In 2019, the won several awards, including the Teen Choice Awards, The Fact Music Awards, Korean Entertainment Arts Awards, “Song of the Year” in Asia Artist Awards, and the Soribada Best K-Music Awards. They have also appeared in popular TV programs such as the “2019 Idol Star Athletics Championships – Chuseok Special” and the “Level Up Project!” between 2017 and 2018.
With K-pop artists from Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States of America, Got7 defines the very philosophy of JYP Entertainment. The group comprising of Jackson, Jinyoung, Youngjae, BamBam, Yugyeom, Mark, and JB debuted in 2014 after their parent Korean entertainment company held global auditions.
The first mini-album, “Got It?” hit the ground running, earning them a place as one of the top KPop groups. Got7 have a reputation for their electrifying stage performances that incorporate elements of martial arts and street dancing to rile up spectators. As at the end of 2019, the group has accumulated over 45 domestic and international awards from more than 100 nominations.
In the wise words of Beyoncé, “Who runs the world? Girls!” TWICE is a 9-member K-pop girl group of Tzuyu, Nayeon, Dahyunand, Chaeyoung, Mina, Jihyo, Jeongyeon, Sana, and Momo. They rapidly rose to fame after featuring on the 2015 reality show “Sixteen” and later releasing their single “Cheer Up” – a track that charted at the top of the Gaon Digital Chart.
The K-pop band’s trophy cabinet is christened by awards such as Mnet Asian Music Awards “Song of the Year” award, 8 Golden Disc Awards, Seoul Music Awards, Japan Golden Disc Awards, and even the “HallyuCulture Grand Prize” by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. They’ve also featured in Billboard’s “21 Under 21 2017: Music’s Next Generation” and Forbes Korea Power Celebrity ranking.
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