The early stages of K-pop's foray into the international arena was dominated by idol groups, backed by strategic, long-term corporate planning and funds. The dominance was such that the term "K-pop" mistakenly come to be equated to "idol pop," despite the fact that "K-pop" plainly stands for "Korean pop music." Ignorance of the deep history and the broad range of Korean pop music, and focusing only on the internationally visible part of it, caused many prognosticators to make their prediction only on the continued viability of idol groups outside of Korea.
Then Gangnam Style came along and changed everything. From the domestic perspective, Gangnam Style is not a major break from the history of Korean pop music. PSY was a known quantity in Korea for more than a decade; his music, though evolved over time, retained the same character throughout his career. But internationally, Gangnam Style broke new ground for K-pop. That a goofy song, almost entirely in Korean, sung by a chubby rapper doing a funny dance, would be one of the greatest worldwide pop culture phenomena, is the last thing that those who only focused on idol pop could have expected.
The lesson: the next phase of K-pop will not be the continuation of Korean pop music that is internationally visible today. Rather, it will be a sudden explosion of K-pop's as-yet unexplored potential--vibrant and dynamic within Korea, but not yet widely available outside of Korea. In short, it will be the international introduction to Korea's indie scene, with its highly sophisticated line-up of hip hop and modern rock standing ready to make their marks.
Which brings us to South by Southwest (SXSW) 2014. SXSW is a pop music conference held in Austin, Texas since 1987. Almost since its beginning, it has been a reliable gauge on the worldwide trend in pop music. More to the point--SXSW 2014 will bring more Korean indie musicians to America than any other occasion before. The lineup so far includes 13 Korean artists, including such luminaries as Crying Nut, Nell, Jambinai and Kiha & the Faces, as well as the up-and-coming bands like Glen Check and Idiotape. If you want to see the future of international K-pop, there is no better place to be.
Now, the question is...
Normally, the Korean would simply travel with the Korean Wife in blissful anonymity, and all will be well. But SXSW 2014, which happens March 11-16, unfortunately conflicts with the Korean Wife's own performance schedule. (Sadly, SXSW 2014 was not interested in opera and classical music.)
So: who's coming with me? The Korean will be honest: SXSW is a huge, week-long event with more than 30,000 attendees. Travel will not be cheap, and neither is the ticket. Right now, the "Music Badge" is $725--ultimately a deal considering the number of artists making an appearance, but a steep amount nonetheless. As of now, the Korean is not even certain that he can make this trip next year given the constraints of time and budget; but it will make his decision a lot easier if he knew he would meet some cool people along the way.
Consider this as a public gauging-of-interest. Who wants to come to Austin, attend SXSW 2014, witness the future of K-pop, and hang out with the writer of this humble blog? If you are interested, please do NOT leave a comment--instead, SEND AN EMAIL directly to the Korean, with a short introduction of yourself. If it looks like we will have a party going, the Korean will update further.
The website for SXSW 2014 is here. The preview for Korean talents appearing at SXSW 2014 can be found here at koreanindie.com. Let's make this happen.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.