With the K-Pop scene becoming increasingly saturated, pre-debut promotions are essential in securing a fruitful début, through establishing a core fanbase. Some companies reveal trainees through music video appearances or use them as backup dancers to keep them under a veil of mystery, ensuring that teasers are the first official introduction to members of a group. Presently, a growing trend in K-Pop is the use of pre-debut promotion ranging from Instagram posts to dance practices. This change in trainee promotion raises the question of “which is the best method?”
What are they?:
Survival shows are no longer new to the K-Pop scene as YG, JYP and Jellyfish have used them to create their now iconic boy groups. The premise remains the same, a select number of trainees battle it out to début in the final group.
Produce 101, Mix and Match, Win: Who is Next, Sixteen
Everyone loves a good survival show. Its combination of a variety and reality show format captures the highs and lows of the contestants. Audience participation via voting gives the fans more power and a reason to tune into the next broadcast, hoping their bias made it. From a business perspective, companies can test out various concepts and check what member combinations are the most popular. Recently Mnet’s Produce 101 has changed the nature of survival shows by casting trainees from other companies to take part in it. This gave small companies and individual trainees a chance to shine.
Despite the benefits they bring, survival shows are becoming incredibly overused and need to offer something innovative to stand out. Creating a survival show is also quite expensive so they’re often restricted to mid to large tier companies. Shows like Produce 101 can help elevate trainees from companies who do not have the resources available to host their own show. However, when trainees do return to their respective companies they’ll have a large disparity in popularity between the members, resulting in a growth in individual fans who do not wholly support the group.
What is it?:
Using social media and other media outlets to promote a group of trainees likely to début. Can include dance practices, pictures and more.
SM Rookies, W Project, Cube Tree
In comparison to survival shows, online exposure offers a much cheaper option to promote a group of trainees. Uploading pictures on various social media sites allows fans to check on upcoming talents from their favourite agencies. It also fosters a stable fanbase as fans become invested at an early stage and are more likely to support the group when they début. The use of social media sites is effective as it increases the scope of a group’s potential fanbase by attracting more international and casual fans.
SM has taken this method a step further with the creation of SM Rookies, a brand that promotes trainees through conventional music video appearances alongside releasing OST’s and becoming MC’s for music programs. The popularity of this promotion method can be seen through the millions of views on dance practices featuring SM Rookies, as well as through the several trainee showcases organised by SM in both Bangkok and Seoul.
Promotion online has to be consistent or fans will grow tired. Survival shows happen over a set period of time and keep audience interest through harsh missions and eliminations. Whilst revealing pictures of trainees every so often can create hype. There is also no guarantee that any of the promoted trainees will début in a group as they are free to leave evidenced by departures from SM Rookies project.
What is it?:
Usually, focused on following a group pre-debut showing the work behind the scenes or very closely after the debut. They are often filmed in a variety or documentary style format.
Seventeen Project, Real Got7, 2017 WoollimPICK
If a group has only been promoted through minor methods such as music video appearances or had no predebut promotions at all, they allow members to showcase their personalities thus, allowing them to garner a stronger fanbase. Whilst survival shows focus on a variety of trainees, reality shows have the benefit of only focusing on the final group. This allows for individual members to receive spotlight rather than screentime being split to encourage tension. As reality shows are more lighthearted than survival shows they can be more fun to watch for audiences.
A major disadvantage is that reality shows lack the hype that survival shows have due to their climatic structure. As the line-up has already been decided, non-fans have less of an incentive to check out the group.
What is it?:
With K-Pop constantly evolving to the tune of new trends, music video appearances and simple mediaplay are no longer enough. In this cutthroat industry, companies have to come with innovative new ways to stand out from the crowd.
Loona is an upcoming girl group formed out of pre-debut project team. Each month reveals a new member alongside a single album with the project reaching completion in October 2016. In total, they revealed a number of twelve girls.
This type of promotion is effective as it is unique in comparison to other methods used by companies, allowing them to stand out in the sea of Kpop debuts. Despite, Loona’s company Blockberry Creative demonstrating that they have the funds to pull off a project as large as this, they were virtually unknown at the time of announcing the project. Yet, with a new member and different style of song being released each month they are able to attract more fans with the aim of turning them into a loyal fanbase.
In addition, each solo song also gets a physical release allowing for fansign opportunities which help to foster a strong domestic fanbase. However, international fans are not let out as short reality show-esque clips dubbed ‘’Loona TV’’ act as a means for fans to get a personal look at the members and due to the provision of english subtitles.
Such a unique and large project comes at a hefty price. Depending on the number of members in a group, projects like these can cost the same or more than survival shows. With that mind, promotion methods like these remain untested. Loona has yet to make their full début, therefore there is no evidence to suggest that the project worked. Despite this, Loona’s releases whilst failing to chart have been increasing in physical sales. Along with a steady increase in Youtube views. The variety of different genres explored under the project is beneficial in ensnaring new fans. It can also lead to a sharp increase in individual fans. Who may only support one member/concept and the final group.
What are your favourite and less favourite predebut promotion methods? Comment down below on what you think future promotions will look like.
Leave a Reply