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    Bands & Brands @ Digital Music 2.0/Sonar Festival

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    10 learnings from Seoul

    seoul_iancoWhen writing this, it’s Buddhas birthday here in Seoul. The temples are full of people bowing, eating, and celebrating. I did not know much about the city (or South Korea for that matter) before Ian Kwon from the Google-AdWords-like music service fanatic.fm invited me to talk about music branding at a seminar and workshop. 48 hours later and here are my 10 learnings from Seoul.

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts and ideas. The future is yours, definitely!

    1. Music is hugely important in peoples lives, and most people consume it as mp3s, from domestic download stores such as MelOn. iTunes music store is not available in Korea…

    2. The music market seems to be quite commercialised and characterised by homogeneity. The major music players and media companies almost seem to dictate the overall music taste.

    3. Social media is huge and Twitter seems to get extremely popular here. However, Facebook isn’t as successful as in other countries around the world (South Korea already had a similar service launched many years ago). A lot of Foursquare users getting on board can also be spotted.

    4. The live music scene is flourishing, with most international bands holding concerts. But I also got the opportunity to experience some local music, on the “Green Plug Festival”. A festival that took place in a beautiful park on top of the hills overseeing the city. The area used to be a waste ground, but luckily the government turned it into a flourishing park.

    5. South Korea is one of the countries in the world with the fastest and most well equipped Internet infrastructure. As someone told me, it takes about 5 seconds to download a full movie over here.

    6. iPhone was launched only six months ago, but has already been sold in more than 500 000 copies. It’s hugely popular and people are now longing for the iPad release.

    7. There is an underground South Korean indie music scene, but it has trouble in reaching out, mostly because of the South Korean media concentration, the commercialised top-driven music industry and relative homogeneity in music taste. Social media should be able to change this and give South Korean indie musicians a chance to find careers outside of the country.

    8. Music branding is something very new in South Korea, and visitors of our seminar/workshop at the Gana Art Centre the other day is the real pioneers. A lot is expected to change in the near future (thanks for coming by everyone!)…

    9. Electronic music seems to grow in importance. Club and lounge music is being played by the many design and fashion stores in the trendy districts of central Seoul. The perfect soundtrack of a young nation (well, that depends on how you look at it, of course…) full of energy, heading for the future?

    10. South Korean people seem extremely friendly, sincere and curious. The people I met were very interested in sharing their opinions of the development in South Korea, and I could sense a great deal of national pride. One South Korean guy told me that ’speaking to foreigners gives us an opportunity to reflect upon ourselves, and share thoughts and feelings that we perhaps otherwise wouldn’t share’.

    One other thing that struck me was that media in Europe write a lot about South Korean electronic brands such as Samsung and LG, as well as Korean car brands Hyundai and Kia. And, South Korea has been extremely successful in exporting these type of ‘hard values’ and products, but, what about South Korean culture and the more ’soft’ side of things? When will people outside South Korea start to see more South Korean fashion and design brands, and when will people in the west start to become fans of South Korean indie bands?

    It will be interesting to see if South Korea will be as successful in exporting those things, and adapting to the new marketing paradigm of the 21st century, through: emotions, engagement, experiences and exclusivity. Spending 48 hours in this dynamic city, something tells me that South Koreans will…

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