Meet Sung Soo Han, the music government behind Okay-Pop stars SEVENTEEN, and founding father of HYBE-owned PLEDIS Leisure

MBW’s World Leaders is a daily sequence wherein we flip the highlight towards a few of the most influential business figures overseeing key worldwide markets. For the primary version of 2024, we converse to South Korea-based music government and producer Sung Soo Han, often known as PLEDIS Leisure’s ‘Grasp Skilled’. He based SEVENTEEN’s label, developed the group, and oversees all inventive processes for the HYBE-owned label’s roster. World Leaders is supported by PPL.

Right here’s some Okay-Pop trivia for you.

Which act at present holds the file for the best-selling album (by way of bodily copies bought) ever globally within the historical past of Okay-pop?

No, it’s not HYBE-signed superstars BTS (although they’re the best-selling Okay-pop act overall).

It’s SEVENTEEN, who’re signed to PLEDIS Leisure, wherein Okay-pop firm HYBE owns a majority stake.

In keeping with South Korea’s Hanteo chart platform, again in April SEVENTEEN’s FML racked up 4.64 million physical preorders worldwide to make it, on the time, essentially the most pre-ordered Okay-Pop album of all time.

(This file was later pipped by JYP-signed Stray Children, whose album 5-STAR surpassed 5.13 million preorders).

SEVENTEEN’s FML then went on to interrupt BTS’ file for the most important gross sales for a person Okay-pop album ever, surpassing 6.2 million bodily copies bought.

That made FML, in accordance with HYBE/PLEDIS, “the best-selling album ever globally within the historical past of Okay-pop”.

SEVENTEEN’s success didn’t cease there final 12 months. Their eleventh EP, SEVENTEENTH HEAVEN, broke Stray Kids’ pre-order record, with gross sales of 5.2 million items.

The 2 albums (FML and SEVENTEENTH HEAVEN) additionally propelled SEVENTEEN to superstardom on this planet’s first and second-largest recorded music markets, the US and Japan.

Within the US, each albums, FML and SEVENTEENTH HEAVEN, debuted at No.2 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart, in Could and November, respectively.

Each albums additionally secured the No.1 spot on the weekly Oricon Albums Chart in Japan, a key marketplace for the group.

“They achieved extraordinary feats [in 2023],” says PLEDIS Leisure’s founder Sung Soo Han, who has performed a pivotal function in elevating SEVENTEEN to their present standing as international stars.

“They now maintain to their title the best-selling album ever in Okay-pop, and over 16 million copies of their albums have been bought in complete within the 12 months 2023 alone,” he provides.

“However extra so than the numbers, what really fills me with pleasure is witnessing their steady progress 9 years since their debut.”

As you may see from the stats above, quite a lot of SEVENTEEN’s success has been achieved with bodily album gross sales.

Commenting on what this tells about listening traits amongst Okay-Pop followers, Sung Soo Han means that “in Okay-pop, the thought of a bodily album transcends being a mere technique of listening to music”.

He provides: “It serves as a medium to convey the messages of artists and producers via each visible and auditory components. Some tracks are solely out there on the bodily album, and inclusions present followers with a personalised strategy to benefit from the artists’ content material.

“In Okay-pop, a bodily album affords a top quality method to appreciating an artist’s work. It’s a mirrored image of a listening development the place audiences don’t cease at listening to music; somewhat, they immerse themselves within the murals by the artists and producers via quite a lot of methods.”

IN Okay-pop, the thought of a bodily album transcends being a mere technique of listening to music.”

Sung Soo Han

Since establishing PLEDIS Leisure in 2010, Sung Soo Han, often known as the label’s ‘Grasp Skilled’, has acted as the manager producer of the label and continues to supervise all inventive processes for the label’s roster that features SEVENTEEN, fromis_9, BAEKHO, HWANG MIN HYUN, NANA, BUMZU, YEHANA and SUNGYEON.

Okay-Pop leisure big HYBE acquired a majority stake in PLEDIS in 2020.

Sung Soo Han tells MBW that the deal “was a fantastic alternative for mutual progress, an opportunity for HYBE (previously BIGHIT Leisure) and PLEDIS Leisure to return collectively, share our expertise and know-how, and synergize”.

He provides: “The extent of ardour and sincerity Chairman Bang has for content material and artists he works with was additionally an vital issue.

The exec and producer additionally explains that PLEDIS Leisure continues to function as an “unbiased label with inventive freedom” and that it “proceed[s] its traditions, whereas additionally benefiting from the help of HYBE’s sources to ship even higher music and content material to the followers globally”.

Right here, within the newest installment of MBW’s World Leaders sequence, Sung Soo Han tells us extra about his profession, his predictions for the enterprise of Okay-pop, and naturally… SEVENTEEN.

Can we begin at first of your profession – How did you first get into the music enterprise and who have been a few of your early mentors?

With a background in arts myself, I at all times had an curiosity in popular culture. I used to be significantly fascinated by instances of Korean content material reaching international audiences, by its potential to resonate with such a variety of individuals.

I turned part of the crew at SM Leisure then, and discovered so much from the expertise.

“I at all times had an curiosity in popular culture.”

What struck me most was how they considered ‘the market.’ They have been trying past Korea, perceiving the whole lot of Asia as our target market, and I believe such a perspective laid the muse for our capability to create globally interesting content material at the moment. It’s gratifying to witness the belief of ours and our predecessors’ desires at the moment.

You based PLEDIS Leisure in 2010. In what state was the music business in South Korea at the moment and what are your ideas on its evolution since then?

The concept of Okay-pop has been round for fairly a while, but it surely was within the 2010s that it started to captivate an excellent broader international viewers. With the looks of many famend artists over time, Okay-pop advanced and located floor as a cultural power that resonates with audiences globally, characterised by an intricate stability of relatability and distinctive artistry.

“Whereas Okay-pop has develop into a dynamic power on a world stage, there may be at all times demand for one thing new and completely different, and therefore room for additional progress.”

Whereas Okay-pop has develop into a dynamic power on a world stage, there may be at all times demand for one thing new and completely different, and therefore room for additional progress. And enlargement of the market requires better range in each the artistry and the methods concerned.

For Okay-pop to proceed its upward trajectory, we have to determine the right way to additional push the boundaries of the sector, and the openness to simply accept better range will play an vital function within the course of.

We’re additionally making ready to introduce a brand new boy group at PLEDIS Leisure. And on the core of our method to the artist is the objective of including new layers to what defines Okay-pop, which makes it much more essential that we spotlight the appeal that’s distinct to the artist.

What have been your ambitions or unique objectives for the corporate?

From the start, PLEDIS’ objective has at all times been to find younger expertise and assist them unlock their potential to the fullest. Really understanding every expertise to develop and outline their identification as an artist has been on the heart of our mission as an leisure firm, and this precept stays unchanged.

“From the start, PLEDIS’ objective has at all times been to find younger expertise and assist them unlock their potential to the fullest.”

As an illustration, SEVENTEEN has grown to be an artist that delivers their trustworthy ideas and emotions in their very own methods, and I imagine such sincerity was a key issue behind all of the love they’re receiving at the moment. We’re striving to assist the members of our new boy group do the identical—to search out the colour and the ways in which greatest swimsuit them themselves. They possess completely different charms from their ‘older brother,’ SEVENTEEN, they’ve this high quality to them that reminds you of boyhood.

They carry spirits for these round them simply being who they’re, you’d need to be round them, and be snug round on a regular basis. Our crew at PLEDIS is investing quite a lot of time into drawing out their full potential within the ways in which greatest swimsuit them, and it’s a mission that fills me with each a heavy sense of duty and pleasure.


How is PLEDIS positioned inside HYBE at the moment?

Every label at HYBE operates beneath a unique inventive route and works with artists of various flairs, every contributing to the variety of music and content material produced beneath HYBE Labels as an entire. PLEDIS additionally performs its half in diversifying that pool.

I imagine the synergy between PLEDIS’ drive to give attention to every expertise’s individuality and HYBE’s infrastructure, community in addition to sources, is yielding nice outcomes.

How is HYBE positioned within the international music enterprise at the moment in your view?

HYBE is a ‘multi-label’ firm, which ensures the inventive independence of every label that shares HYBE’s infrastructure and community.

The method has made its share of contribution to Okay-pop business’s progress, primarily based on the system’s capability to intensify the standard and broaden the spectrum of content material we create.

“I imagine HYBE and PLEDIS will proceed to paved the way in Okay-pop, enabling Okay-pop to additional lengthen its attain.”

The business of artwork and tradition thrives on the variety of its content material.

I imagine HYBE and PLEDIS will proceed to paved the way in Okay-pop, enabling Okay-pop to additional lengthen its attain, and finally push the boundaries of the worldwide music scene itself.

Inform us about the way you first found the members of Seventeen and their journey to their present famous person standing?

The members went via numerous rounds of evaluations for each themselves and us to actually perceive every expertise.

Our function within the course of was to information them in nurturing their expertise as artists and collaboratively refine their imaginative and prescient as an artist. The coaching program additionally helps every individual’s journey in the direction of changing into well-rounded and wholesome people.

The identical rules apply to album manufacturing and present manufacturing. For SEVENTEEN particularly, the 13 members have at all times been deeply invested in conveying their genuine selves and feelings via music and performances since debut.

For us to assist them achieve this, it has at all times been paramount that we all know who they’re and proceed conversations to remain aligned on what they want to obtain from a inventive perspective. They’ve such highly effective power and skills.

As a producer, it’s an enormous blessing to have met such gifted artists. To at the present time, SEVENTEEN is an artist that persistently surprises me with recent views.

PLEDIS and Seventeen had a very profitable 12 months in 2023. What drove this success?

As a producer, I imagine the truth that SEVENTEEN continued being true to who they’re of their artistry is what drove them to the place they’re at the moment.

SEVENTEEN has at all times been an artist with a remarkably sturdy connection to their followers. Going past large-scale excursions, they’re actively concerned in offering experiences for the followers and the members themselves to take pleasure in collectively, exemplified by occasions like ‘SEVENTEEN STREET’ and ‘THE CITY.’

“SEVENTEEN has at all times been an artist with a remarkably sturdy connection to their followers.”

From releasing solo mixtapes that manifest every member’s musical world to showcasing unit dynamics like with BSS, the members are perpetually working, considering, and evolving to pave their very own paths as artists.

This relentless dedication is the rationale why I proceed to be excited to see what the longer term holds for SEVENTEEN.

Seventeen have a powerful fanbase in Japan. Inform us the expansion you’re seeing on this market, your actions out there, and likewise the way you deliberate ‘THE CITY’ marketing campaign in response to the fanbase in Japan?

It’s one of many best delights to attend your favourite artist’s live performance. Upon leaving the venue although, the extraordinary feelings of the live performance linger on however emotions of vacancy additionally observe. ‘THE CITY’ challenge amplifies the thrill from the live performance venue to on a regular basis locations and moments.

Throughout SEVENTEEN’s dome tour in Japan [in 2023] — which spanned 5 cities and 12 reveals—we had the pleasure of attending to see the followers take pleasure in ‘THE CITY’ like a pageant. Main landmarks in every metropolis have been wrapped in photos of SEVENTEEN, whereas picture exhibitions and SEVENTEEN-themed cafes opened their doorways to the followers, offering them with the expertise of witnessing their environment rework right into a ‘live performance park’ in time for his or her favourite artist’s present.

“Followers spend weeks, even months ready in anticipation for live shows, they usually make investments quite a lot of time and sources to make it to the reveals.”

Final 12 months, we collaborated with 25 firms and organizations throughout three cities for ‘THE CITY’ round SEVENTEEN’s ‘BE THE SUN’ tour, and it recorded over 250,000 guests. [In 2023], we’re collaborating with over 30 firms to handle over 70 completely different spots concerned in this system throughout 5 cities, which in flip can be contributing to boosting native companies. Followers spend weeks, even months ready in anticipation for live shows, they usually make investments quite a lot of time and sources to make it to the reveals. Including in components of enjoyable within the days previous to the present and the times that observe, we need to be sure that the wait is worth it.

The band lately delivered a speech and efficiency on the UNESCO Youth Discussion board earlier this 12 months. Are you able to inform us about this?

Similar to how the members of SEVENTEEN got here collectively, it was endearing to see every member’s story come collectively to finish the speech. I heard many members of our workers have been moved by it as nicely, the workers on-site from PLEDIS, workers from UNESCO, and even the trainees at PLEDIS.

The members put in an amazing quantity of effort into the speech. They thought so much concerning the message they’re in a position to ship, what would actually assist these listening, which phrases to make use of to ship the message, and diligently rehearsed each phrase till they stepped onto the stage.

Their trustworthy and heartfelt tales, coupled with a passionate efficiency that had everybody on the discussion board dancing, have been the right illustration of who they’re as artists.

What are your predictions for the influence that Okay-Pop could have on the worldwide music enterprise in years to return?

Okay-pop is an business always in pursuit of change, which means the avenues via which the sector can affect others are additionally boundless.

On that be aware, Okay-pop has additionally been proposing new enterprise fashions that contact upon many various facets of our on a regular basis lives together with trend, magnificence, and meals. The extent of its affect will develop to be much more related to our life-style as an entire.

If there was one factor you could possibly change concerning the music enterprise, what wouldn’t it be and why?

I do at all times hope {that a} tradition of openness might be extra widespread. Openness to the unexplored and recent, new types will permit for better range, open up new alternatives for artists, and finally contribute to additional progress of the business as an entire.

World Leaders is supported by PPL, a leading international neighbouring rights collector, with best-in-class operations that help performers and recording rightsholders around the world maximise their royalties. Founded in 1934, PPL collects money from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. It has collected over £500 million internationally for its members since 2006.Music Enterprise Worldwide

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