How to Rise to International Fame Like a K-Pop Star

You may be wondering how Korean pop artists manage to maintain so much fame internationally, despite the language barrier. (And if you’re not aware of the K-Pop phenomenon, head over to USA Today, which just published an article on the “K-Pop wave in the U.S.” this past week).

How is it that these Asian musicians attract so much attention throughout the world with their songs regardless of the language barrier? Take a look at the following five points.

1. Language is never a barrier because music is a language that speaks volumes.

There are two things in this world that bridge cultures: dance and music. Every culture contains dance and music, so no matter what language one speaks, he or she can quite easily connect with a completely different person through body language evoked by dance or music. This is one way K-Pop has flown from country to country and attracted waves of international fans. Even though these artists sing in Korean, the catchy rhythm and beat is all the same to fans; music is a language in itself, and fans find a certain appeal in K-Pop regardless of the technicalities of the lyrics.

Check out this music video that Korean band BTS impressed the world with. Isn’t the style of music quite similar to that you’ve seen with Western artists? Regardless of the language, doesn’t the song have a certain downbeat that resonates with you?

2. There’s certain music you can’t simply listen to without tapping your foot along with the beat.

In today’s day and age, no matter the singer or the demographic, as mentioned above, there’s a certain type of beat that just makes everyone want to get up and dance. If you can hit this jackpot and come up with the right combination of beats to make this type of dance music, you have guaranteed yourself a spot in the pop music charts for a long time.

As seen with South Korea’s BTS and EXO, dance music with a deep beat strikes audiences around the world despite the language barrier. Both bands have managed to rise to the top of the Billboard charts; EXO currently sits at number one on Billboard’s World Digital Songs chart with “Monster.” Clearly, many find their music appealing and prove that a strong rhythm strikes the core of every music fan despite where it’s from.

3. Approach the globe with an open mind.

Korean bands make an effort to reach out globally and branch out to different international countries with their music. They travel to a wide range of countries, from China to America to Sweden, and they are always fascinated with the new things they learn and see in these countries different from their home of South Korea. Because they are respectful of the culture and people residing in all the different countries they visit, they appeal to a broad range of fans and are welcomed everywhere in the world. By recognizing that the market is not only a single-country (for example, American) industry, one can branch out and reach audiences from miles away and continue to gain fans. Just remember that regardless of origins in Korea, America, Japan, or Germany, music-lovers are music-lovers.

New Zealand native Laurence Larson has always been a fan of Chinese music, and that inspired him to create a Chinese version of Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again.” Larson continues to combine English and Chinese in his covers to reach both English and Chinese-speaking audiences. Soon after releasing this video, he received many new fans in the Western and Eastern hemispheres, with his subscribers and Wiebo (Chinese Facebook) soaring in followership.

4. Update!

Regarding all musicians in general, it is easy for fans to feel disconnected from them. Bands and groups in South Korea make an extra effort to upload brief check-in videos or tweet selfies to update fans. They also participate in variety shows and perform special stages to make appearances outside of concerts and tours. Their labels also release videos of groups’ dance practices and pre-concert shenanigans to further update and connect with all their fans. As with all musicians, it is essential to constantly update fans of their current status to remind them to stand by and support them, even when they are seas away.

M Countdown is a special K-Pop show where boy bands and girl groups debut their singles and comebacks. These are fan-supported events, as performances on this show are also the first time fans have seen and heard these songs performed live by the idols. Below is girl band TWICE taking the Comeback Stage with their newest single “Cheer Up”.

5. Make an effort and always put out your best.

Korean bands really try their best when it comes to gaining global popularity. They realize that the music industry expands far beyond South Korea, and bands EXO and Super Junior have even created Chinese branches of their bands (Super Junior-M, and EXO-M, M for Mandarin), with Chinese translations of their Korean songs. Another band, BTS, releases Japanese translations of their songs and released a Japanese album to further appeal to their Japanese fans. By doing so, not only do they maintain close ties with their fans from across the sea, but they also show that they really do care about the global industry and are willing to walk the extra mile to maintain a foothold there.

It is important to remember that in this industry, you are not isolated in one place with one demographic. To gain popularity and rise to the top of the charts, you need many fans to support you. Never neglect the possibility of international fans, and don’t doubt your ability to connect with them through music. As seen with the Korean music industry, fans from all over the world with different backgrounds share the same music taste, and this has bolstered K-Pop bands’ popularity, referred to in the U.S. as “the K-Pop wave.”

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Angelina Hue enjoys listening to wide variety of music, from instrumental movie scores to alternative indie to Korean pop music. She also likes to make short films and write fiction.

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