Boy band RIIZE signs with major U.S. label RCA pre-debut

2023.09.08 10:54:02 | 2023.09.08 12:30:33

K-pop boy band RIIZE. [Courtesy of SM Entertainment]이미지 확대

K-pop boy band RIIZE. [Courtesy of SM Entertainment]

K-pop boy band RIIZE is readying its debut by signing a record contract with one of the largest U.S. music labels, New York-based RCA Records, in a move that showcases K-pop’s growing prominence and influence in the global music scene.

RCA Records is part of Sony Music Entertainment and the second-oldest music label in the United States, known for its work with major artists such as Doja Cat, Justin Timberlake, and Khalid. K-pop superstars including BTS and Black Pink have also successfully entered the U.S. market after signing with local labels. However, RIIZE is the first K-pop band to sign a contract with a major U.S. record label before making an official debut at home.

Industry insiders note that the network of the band’s Korean label, SM Entertainment Co., likely helped secure the contract, especially considering the cooperation between the music label and its parent company, Kakao Entertainment Corp. In March, Kakao Entertainment acquired a 40 percent stake in the music label and announced the launch of its North American arm in August following a merger between Kakao Entertainment America and SM USA. While the the merger is still being wrapped up, the new entity set up an office in Los Angeles to support its artists’ North American ventures.

“We are looking forward to working with RCA Records and creating history together,” Joseph Chang, who heads the North American arm of the Kakao Entertainment-SM collaboration, said. John Fleckenstein, chief operating officer at RCA Records, also laid out his expectations for the cooperation and RIIZE, anticipating the boy band to break new ground in global pop music.

More Kakao-SM artists are scheduled to enter the global music scene sometime during the second half of 2023. SM’s Aespa started its solo concert tour in mid-August, which will take place in 14 cities across North America, South America, and Europe by September. The girl band released a new song, “Better Things,” in mid-August. Another girl band, IVE, from Starship Entertainment Co. which is part of Kakao Entertainment, plans to embark on its first world tour after releasing a new album in October. Aespa has worked with with Warner Records, while IVE collaborates with Columbia Records, owned by Sony Music Entertainment, for global music distribution and marketing beyond the North American market. The Kakao-SM North America branch is also planning to explore music and artist intellectual property (IP) on top of making strategic investments in the local market.

The synergy from Kakao Entertainment’s acquisition of SM is already apparent in terms of revenue and performance. As of the second quarter, Kakao’s content music division saw a 16 percent increase in revenue year-on-year to hit 242.2 billion won ($181.3 million). When adding SM’s revenue, the content music division’s total revenue increased to 480.7 billion won, or a 130 percent growth year-on-year.

With its acquisition of SM, Kakao Entertainment manages the largest number of K-pop artists in Korea. It is rapidly solidifying its multi production center label while the number of artist performances, a key revenue source, is unmatched. Kakao Entertainment plans to combine SM’s music with Kakao’s IT capabilities to enhance their content competitiveness. They also aim to create content based on K-pop groups and their worlds while strengthening their fan platform and seeking expansion of their global artist lineup in regions such as North America, Japan, and China.

By Jung Ju-woen and Chang Iou-chung

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