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The Wonder Girls caused me to reflect on pop music as a business. We are so used to manufactured pop music artists by the likes of Tom Watkins, Stock | Aitken | Waterman and more recently Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment. Some of these groups like Wham, Kylie Minogue and Take That had international success. We have gotten used to the dominance of western international recording artists.
Wonder Girls Korean fan site.
It is this heritage that makes the Wonder Girls phenomena: a Korean girl-band managed by a Korean team getting a Billboard top 100 hit all the more remarkable.
Wonder Girls MySpace page
That kind of success takes more than talent and good looks – the world music industry is littered with talented beautiful failures. The Wonder Girls are creatures of the internet age, they started off conventionally enough in South Korea and then used their South Korean fan base to spring board into the US marketplace.
There were two parts in this story which made a great use of social media:
- Live web chats and Where in the world are the Wonder Girls videos provided Korean and western fans with a regular update on their activities. This allowed the Wonder Girls to spend time building a new fan base in the US through touring without neglecting their Korean fan base
- Crowdsourcing fan calls-to-action: They encouraged Korean fans to sign up to western social networks MySpace and Facebook to provide a body of ‘friends’ and help build an online bridgehead into the US. (The Korean fan network is the Daum portal). Later when they became successful they encouraged Korean and western fans to request their track Nobody via Radio Disney’s website
You could argue that they are a part of the ongoing Korean Wave: a rise in popularity of Korean music, television and film culture which has swept Asia and started to gain popularity in the west like the Japanese film, manga and anime industries before it.
Wonder Girls Facebook page
However where the group breaks rank with the Korean Wave is in the proactive targeted nature of their marketing; which is more reminiscent of aggression and entrepreneurship of the Japanese car, camera and consumer electronics industries which shook things up in the 1960s and 1970s. More related content here.