“We can’t shake off the thought that Avex was using the three of us as tools to make more profits instead of treating us as artists.” – J.Y.J
Now if that scenario sounds familiar, it should, as it’s eerily similar to the one played out with SM Entertainment a little over a year ago.
Both times that J.Y.J came under fire from their companies, fans quickly came to their rescue and defended their actions in overwhelming numbers, proving that the international K-pop community is well anchored on the side of the idol trio.
Despite the seemingly unanimous disdain for SM’s and Avex’s respective roles in this controversy, I have to step back from all the emotional reactions, and reflect on whether the two companies actually deserve these horrifying depictions.
After all, it’s easy for fans to paint their idols as martyrs in the cut-throat world of the music business, but it’s just as easy for them to lose their rational thought process.
The biggest argument against the companies, particularly SM, is that they stuck TVXQ with “unfair” 13-year contracts, that they worked TVXQ to exhaustion without adequate compensation, and that the companies didn’t listen to contract requests.
I suppose to the layman, those things do sound ridiculous, but by and large, I think it depends on the vantage point.
In my opinion, it’s important to remember that these companies invest hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, as well as precious time, to develop and train these idol groups. As a result, in order to secure a return, they must come up with contracts that assure their potential profit margin. Consequently, a lengthy contract and a large share of the group’s profitability are what they need to take in order to guarantee a return for themselves and their shareholders.
Everybody focuses on the underdog stories, but remember that the company still has to eat all the costs of training and promoting even if the group bombs; their risk is always significantly higher, so why shouldn’t their rewards also be high when they have a hit? And it’s not like these companies only shell out the money for trainees: even for successful groups, the companies pay for everything. Plane fare, meals, hotels, car rentals, promotions, recording, writers, producers, drivers – whatever the group needs, they’re paying for it.
When it was announced that Avex would continue to sell J.Y.J products after they dropped the trio, it just reinforced to fans that Avex was doing this because they are money hungry, or “stealing profit”.
Again though, it’s not as if J.Y.J are just about the music. After all, they originally wanted to renegotiate their contracts after they filed the original lawsuit against SM, so in essence, they were just looking for the best deal, like any company would.
While the story of the admirable trio who stood up for themselves against the big, bad, evil corporation is a good tale, I’m not sure the disparity in perception deserves to be as wide as it is.
It’s also absurd to me how fans believe that their favorite singers would be successful without these companies. After all, who would they be if not for the companies that trained and recruited them? The Korean music market is extremely saturated, and indie artists don’t find the same financial success that they would in a more expansive music culture like America. Without SM, and to a lesser extent, Avex, who would TVXQ and J.Y.J be? Anybody at all? Probably not, and that goes without saying for a great majority of idols.
A consistent reaction from J.Y.J to the legal proceedings and dropped promotions is an attempt to rake in sympathy from their fans. The key for them is to spin the situation into a woeful story in which it always appears that a greedy company is forcing the poor, innocent talents to do things that they don’t want to to do. They want everybody to believe that their only goal in life is to please the fans and to make music for the art of it. For example, J.Y.J demanded 2.5 million dollars from the lawsuit, even though they said they were worth 10 million. Why the lesser amount? Again, it’s to create the perception that although they were demanding a lot of money, they weren’t being greedy, because they only demanded 25% of what they thought they deserved.
So why do they utilize this spin? Because it works.
While both sides are partially at fault for this mess, there has been overwhelming blame placed at the feet of SM Entertainment and Avex.
The cold, hard reality though, is that people do seek to gain financial profitability. Companies are not run by heartless machines hell-bent on destroying the dreams of young idols; they are run by motives of self-interest, both for themselves and their shareholders.
Additionally, idols are not ‘perfect angels’, despite what fans may believe. Like the corporations, but on a small scale, they do have their own interests, their own success, and their own money at heart. J.Y.J, despite the image they attempt to play up, are also humans who desire monetary returns for their work. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but both sides are essentially trying to accomplish similar goals, so why the vastly different reactions?
I expect the response to this article to be negative, mainly because it takes the opposite stance of what most fans of K-pop want to hear. After all, this isn’t a stance specifically about J.Y.J, it’s really about all artists (especially idol groups) and the reality of their situations.
I know people will cry out in anger about bias and other commonly made excuses, but the point of this entire article is to get people to even consider both sides, and that both sides can make mistakes. Because presently? Fans are treating both the companies and the idols as if they are non-human entities fighting a war of good and evil – but the reality is that they are both a collection of humans looking out for themselves.
The word of idols is not the word of God. They are not flawless, and their intentions are not always pure. In that same vein, all companies are not evil machines hell-bent on preventing your favorite artists from becoming rich and successful. I’m not asking fans to side with SM and start becoming antis, I’m just asking for rational thought. I’m asking to remember that J.Y.J and other idols are also human, something that I think a lot of fans lose sight of.