There are speculative reasons as to why many Australians are not warming towards K-pop. Perhaps the colourful, sometimes ridiculous outfits worn by K-pop artists – looking immaculately beautiful is part of this industry – turn some away, especially those who are avid fans of music.
The K-pop wave has been fiercely lashing Australian shores over the past few years. Today, national digital radio channel SBS PopAsia plays the latest Korean music hits all day. There is an hour of Korean music videos on free-to-air weekend television here. However, there are signs pointing to the notion that Korean music is failing to connect with the majority of Australians and this suggests any local love-affair with K-Pop will eventually dwindle.
K-pop is a rather niche market in Australia, appealing to a small demographic of the population, in particular (Asian) high schoolers who follow Korea’s entertainment scene as opposed to other (Caucasian) Australians who do not.
This is evident in light of the recent cancellations of K-pop concerts in Australia. The Melbourne leg of the 2012 KPRS Charity Concert, touted as one of the biggest K-pop fundraising concerts of the year featuring a slew of popular Korean performers, was slated to go ahead in July. It was postponed until the end of the year before being cancelled due to poor ticket sales. The fact that this concert was organsied during a time when many students – K-pop fans – are occupied with end-of-year exams arguably contributed to such dismissal ticket sales. It goes to show support for K-pop from working professionals with cash to flash, especially those who like attending music concerts, is scarce.
Local groups have shied away from supporting these K-pop concerts Down Under. Small non-profit Asian entertainment companies with limited resources such as Sydney-based Aus2One have solely bore the brunt of coordinating these events. Aus2One alone struggled to bring popular Korean bands Son Dam Bi and Brown Eyed Girls all the way from Seoul for the 2013 K-Pop Heart Concert in Sydney which has been postponed indefinitely. Nearly zilch backing from local financially profitable companies towards Korean entertainment events means considerably less publicity for K-pop here, so less Australians will pay attention to this kind of music.
Although K-pop music is played daily on SBS PopAsia and easily available to purchase online, few Korean songs have struck a chord with Australian audiences. Only Psy’s Gangnam Style has captivated the attention of a considerable number of Australians, reaching number one on local charts. Interestingly enough, there is hardly any interest in the rest of Psy’s music repertoire and Gangnam Style has not sparked Aussie curiosity towards other K-pop songs and Korean entertainers on the same scale as Psy.
There are speculative reasons as to why many Australians are not warming towards K-pop. Perhaps the colourful, sometimes ridiculous outfits worn by K-pop artists – looking immaculately beautiful is part of this industry – turn some away, especially those who are avid fans of music. Flashy fashion does not interest everyone and K-pop music videos almost always embody fashion spectacles, distracting from the message and meanings behind songs.
Moreover, many K-pop songs boast repetitive beats and funky dances and so a “teeny-bopper feel” surrounds this genre of music, often obscuring the meaningful messages that artists advocate in their craft. Looking past the bevy of scantily clad dancers in the Gangnam Style music video, it is evident Psy is sharing a story about the lavish lifestyles within the Gangnam district of Seoul. Perhaps most of the time many Australians perceive K-pop as “fluff” at face value and pay no heed to it. Or at the very least pay attention to it for a second before directing their focus to the next catchy “fad” which may not be Korean at all, for instance the Harlem Shake.
It is a shame most Australians are not wholly engaging with K-pop given that it is a reasonable avenue of fostering multiculturalism Down Under. If more K-pop events were organised and K-pop artists were depicted in the media as serious performers working hard to share their passion for music instead of money-making machines, chances are Australians will sit up. Chances are more Australians will congregate at K-pop events to enjoy K-pop and interact with their fellow Australians of different races who take a liking to this music, even making new friends and learning about new cultures.
Only time will tell whether K-pop will be more than just a fad in Australia.
Photo Credit: kccuk