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Girl group ITZY / Courtesy of JYP Entertainment

In the dynamic realm of K-pop, girl groups are currently facing a notable contrast. While their international fame and success continue to skyrocket, their domestic performance is undergoing a noticeable decline.This dichotomy not only underscores the evolving dynamics within the K-pop industry but also raises critical questions regarding the long-term sustainability and strategic direction of girl groups.Recent industry reports have shown a downturn in the domestic market, with new and established groups alike reporting significant drops in album sales, chart positions and fan engagement. For instance, YG Entertainment’s Baby Monster struggled to make a mark on Melon’s Top 100, while JYP Entertainment’s ITZY and NMIXX saw drastic reductions in initial sales of their latest releases. Similarly, Le Sserafim’s latest mini album saw a 20 percent fall in first-week sales.Despite these challenges at home, K-Pop girl groups are achieving unprecedented success internationally, gaining popularity across the U.S., Japan and beyond. Accolades such as NewJeans and Le Sserafim winning the Japan Gold Disc Awards, and TWICE topping the Billboard 200 chart, underscore the global influence and appeal of K-Pop girl groups.This juxtaposition of domestic struggle against international acclaim has sparked a debate within the industry about the underlying causes and the future trajectory of these groups.

Experts point to market saturation, a reliance on fan signing events and a strategic pivot toward international markets with English lyrics and Western songwriters as potential factors distancing these groups from their domestic fanbase. Meanwhile, the success abroad suggests a robust global market eager for K-Pop content, hinting at the complexity of the issue at hand. This necessitates a reassessment of strategies to ensure the longevity and vitality of K-pop girl groups. Suggestions include reducing the frequency of debut groups, fostering long-term growth over short-term gains, and innovating to stay relevant both domestically and globally.The epicenter of the girl group crisis theory is the slump in the girl group sector of SM, YG, and JYP Entertainment, the three major agencies before Hive’s meteoric rise. SM Entertainment’s aespa has faced challenges following the departure of producer Lee Soo-man and a dwindling Chinese fan base.Industry insiders and experts have weighed in on the situation, suggesting that the perceived crisis may not be as dire as it appears. A K-pop agency executive said, “While fan signing events can boost album sales in the short term, they are not a sustainable model.”One of the main reasons experts point to for the weakness in the girl group sector is that agencies are focusing more on profitable overseas markets, especially in Japan, the United States, and Europe, than on the domestic market. While it was customary for K-pop groups to engage with domestic fans during the early stages of their album activities, there has been an increase in groups prioritizing overseas activities in recent times.

This shift contributes to the weakening of domestic fandom, including the significant Chinese fan base that has been a major supporter of the K-pop girl group market. Kim Jin-woo, a senior researcher at Circle Chart, noted, “The trend toward songs aimed at international markets, including increasing English lyrics and participation by Western composers, and the expansion of overseas activities seem to be distancing these groups from the interest of the domestic audience.”The aging of senior executives with decision-making power is also cited as a reason for the underperformance of JYP and YG. An executive from a K-pop agency said, “Popular music needs to quickly grasp trends and adapt flexibly. As companies age and grow in size, they can become less sensitive to change. It’s crucial to continuously recruit young and talented producers for innovation, just as HYBE successfully did by bringing in Min Hee-jin to lead NewJeans.”Industry insiders and experts generally believe it’s too early to declare a K-Pop crisis. Kim mentioned, “It’s difficult to definitively say there’s a ‘crisis for girl groups’ since they are steadily growing in overseas markets.”Popular music critic Kim Do-hun suggested, “The recent surge in the number of new girl groups leading to market saturation and stagnation indicates that there’s a need to moderate the competition for initial sales through fan signings and reduce the frequency of girl group replacements. Focusing on allowing a group to grow more sustainably over the long term is necessary.”As the K-pop industry continues to evolve, the current challenges facing girl groups may serve as a catalyst for change, prompting agencies to innovate and adapt to the shifting landscape. While the domestic market may be cooling, the global appeal of K-pop girl groups remains strong, indicating 토토 that the situation may be more of a transition than a decline.

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