Talent is on the meta-verse, and was born there

Isegye Idol, a six-member virtual girl group that debuted in December last year, reached No. 1 on a local music list, exceeding 5.8 million views for its official YouTube music video. [YOUTUBE CAPTURE]

Isegye Idol, a six-member virtual girl group that debuted in December last year, reached No. 1 on a local music list, exceeding 5.8 million views for its official YouTube music video. [YOUTUBE CAPTURE]

Isegye Idol, a virtual girl group, has gone where no other virtual action has gone before: to the top of the music charts.

The most notable Korean cyber singers of the past, such as Adam and Lucia in the 1990s, can barely called one-hit wonders: they disappeared shortly after their creation.

The success of the six members of Isegye Idol shows that the time for cyber star status has come – and that the meta-verse may be transforming into the most promising arena in the entertainment world.

Isegye Idol was formed in August last year by a Korean online personality called Woowakgood, who streams live games on YouTube and Twitch.
He debuted in December 2021 with the single “Rewind”, which reached No. 1 on the local music charts.

The song reached No. 1 on Bugs Music on the day of its release and ranked No. 1 on the Gaon Chart for the number of downloads.
It ranked 36th on the Melon Top 100 list and exceeded 5.8 million views by the end of April.

Woowakgood’s project to create a virtual idol group began in June 2021, and he made it a public show, beginning with auditions for people to sing his songs through an online virtual global platform called VRChat.

Woowakgood auditioned on his YouTube and Twitch channels, and fans were even allowed to vote for the latest members, as on “American Idol” or Mnet’s hit show, “Produce 101.”

Fans were also invited to participate in other parts of the idol-making process, such as songwriting and song events, the kind of involvement they could only feverishly dream of with acts of flesh and blood created by entertainment agencies.

In fact, as auditions suggest, the members of Isegye Idol are not entirely virtual. There is a human talent hidden behind these metaverse pixels: their voices and personalities both come from real artists.

The success of Isegye Idol causes entertainment companies such as SM, JYP, YG and HYBE to invest in the metaverse world.

Last month, HYBE wrote to its shareholders saying they merged Weverse, its K-pop fan community platform, with Naver V Live, Navers live streaming service app, to launch Weverse 2.0 before the end of the year.

Fan community platforms are a type of metaverse platform, and HYBE makes money through its Weverse online store on the platform that sells artist merchandise.

SM and JYP update DearU bubble, a chat room service that connects artists and fans, managed by their subsidiary DearU.

SM Entertainment owns DearU’s largest shareholding, 33.66%, and JYP owns 19.5%.
JYP, HYBE and YG have also invested in Naver Z’s metaverse platform, Zepeto.

According to HYBE, its revenue from intellectual property, licensing and platform activity, which does not directly involve artists, accounted for 58.3% of total sales in 2021. Copyrighted songs, performances and commercials accounted for the rest.

The Weverse Company generated 258.7 billion won ($ 205.6 million) in revenue last year, nearly half of HYBE. Revenue increased 20 times from 14.4 billion won in 2018.

SM’s metaverse platform DearU Bubble recorded a turnover of 40 billion won last year, an increase of 206% year-on-year.

The global metaverse market will grow at an annual rate of 10% to reach 376 trillion won by 2024, according to Mirae Asset Securities.

“For entertainment companies doing business on metaverse platforms, artist lineups and the ability to attract more fans are important,” said Song Beom-yong, a researcher at Mirae Asset Securities. “The industry is able to grow further by hosting hybrid concerts and selling virtual goods.”

BY BAE JUNG-WON, CHO JUNG-WOO [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]

Leave a Comment