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Is K-Pop Failing to Connect With Australians?

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.

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he 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.

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Photo Credit: kccuk

9 thoughts on “Is K-Pop Failing to Connect With Australians?”

    1. You never know. Perhaps one day Australians will look beyond the flashy K-pop dances and poppy music and think about how relevant Korean culture is Down Under today.

  1. 2012 KPRS Charity Concert was also organized by complete frauds who pretended to be who they weren’t and lied to artists and their managers.

    Aus2one said the concert was canceled because of poor ticket sales but really, they had to cancel because they got caught lying and all the groups started pulling out. Hell, even the chairman of KRPS (not KPRS btw) said pulled out of the event when he found out the “charity” concert was being planned to make a nice little profit for the guys organizing it.

    Once KRPS was out, how could there be a KRPS Charity Concert? lol

    That isn’t a failure of K-Pop as much as a group of charlatans being caught doing something completely immoral and probably illegal.

    1. Thanks so much for this Jeffrey, much appreciated. I’m not too sure if the concert was cancelled because the KRPS organisers were planning to make a tidy profit from it. It might have been so, it might not have been so. No one has come out saying anything about lying. Even if they did, they’re keeping it very quiet.

      Perhaps it’s because the group lacked the professionalism and planning skills needed to put together a large scale event.

  2. Theres nothing wrong with niche jazz is niche country is niche goth rock is niche…….. I have found lots of the kpop and jpop and other asian countries pop n rock fans that are on the facebook pages are Caucasians that are free from the wall of the language barrier the korean band CNBlue pulled alot of people to thier concert in sydney and did another concert in melbourne after concert tickets sold well I myself is caucasian and not a teenie bopper from Asia born here in Aus and only speaks english but 85% of the music i listen too and link are Asian music video’s

  3. Sorry but I have to point out an inaccuracy in this article – SBS PopAsia plays ASIAN pop not just KOREAN pop despite it being the most dominant genre on the show. PopAsia also plays Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian music
    Apart from that, this is a very informative article

  4. They should make the concerts at a better time frame; Holidays?
    Have they not seen the Australian holidays?!
    And, I might think it’s because of Julia Gillard! (End of 2012 when she said the world’s going to end and K-POP is going to take over… :/)

  5. I’m an indonesian who will start studying in unimelb this march.. Being in indonesia, I was always bombarded with kpop concerts. But now I start to wonder whether my kpop craze will last in australia. I’ve visited aussie several times before, and found many kpop stores here. But the thoughts of not being able to attend kpop concerts here, to be honest, scare me. I am personally a fan of super junior. I heard that supershow4 in sydney was canceled due to the health of the promotor. But I also heard that it was a fake reason to cover the low sales of the concert. Now with that experience, I doubt that they’ll try to visit aussie again.

    On the other hand, I heard that cnblue visited sydney and melbourne last year. This can be seen as a gate to kpop entry to australia. So, I really really hope that australians will slowly accept kpop, feel the happiness that kpop gives, and feel the excitement of having kpop artists here.

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