Since modern K-pop culture started in the 1990s, the market has seen exponential growth in global popularity in what is known as the “Korean Wave”. Today, artists like BIGBANG, BTS and Twice are not only popular in South Korea, but in Japan, East Asia and Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, North Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa, the Middle East and in the Western world, too.
“The future is about being a first mover,” Lee began. “K-pop has become a genre. It’s funny for me to say this, but we know K-pop is a comprehensive art content, upgraded based on innovation, so to talk about the future against this backdrop I think the metaverse that everyone is talking about is the future.”
Lee, who is also a business executive and record producer known in his country as the “president of culture”, continued to say that SM Entertainment has the very first metaverse girl band, Aespa.
“We created SM Culture Universe and are establishing a new metaverse world. SM Entertainment is building “play-to-create” where people can discover their creative side in the metaverse,” said Lee, before explaining that it will be a place where normal people will be able to become artists in their own right, create dance moves, design clothes and much more.
“It can provide creative capacity and enable people to learn by themselves,” Lee went on.
It’s clear that SM Entertainment has some exciting things up its sleeve for the metaverse, particularly in the area of “play-to-create”, where Lee has admitted that it is there that his company’s future lies.
CNBC’s host Kang then asked Lee that at such an early stage there are always concerns, highlighting the girl band Aespa and the “dehumanization” of pop. Kang put the question to Lee as Aespa is made up of four physical members and four virtual members.
“At SM Entertainment we value tenacity and character, this is very important. We value humanity. We follow three key principles to uphold our humanity. Be humble. Be kind. Be the love,” said Lee.
Lee commented that without humanity the connection is lost because it would “lead to a world that feels like a machine”.
Is Aespa the shape of things to come, not only for K-pop but for the wider music world? And how much of an impact will the metaverse really have on the entertainment industry in general? These are questions waiting to be answered.