, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 255-272

Organizing K-Pop: Emergence and Market Making of Large Korean Entertainment Houses, 1980–2010

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This paper studies the connection between the emergence and market making activities of the large Korean entertainment houses and the global level success of “K-pop,” an increasingly popular type of Korean popular music. We review a set of conventional explanations, respectively pointing to cultural factors, government support, and technological development as core factors that led to the global success of K-pop. We find all three explanations unsatisfactory and, alternatively, building on studies of market intermediaries, argue that the roles of three large entertainment houses—SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment—have been the most crucial in the development and success of K-pop. Through combining data from Korean music charts, newspaper articles, and revenue data, we trace the increasingly systematic musical production strategies of the entertainment houses and the macro-consequences of their organizational activities.