[ENTERTAINMENT]The Good and Bad of Music Videos

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[ENTERTAINMENT]The Good and Bad of Music Videos

The key to success on the Korean music scene nowadays is not aural but visual - that is, a music video. To become a profit-making singer, a video is now essential. It reportedly costs 100 million won ($78,000) on average to produce a video, while it takes only 70 million won to produce an entire album. But cost is of no concern to producers, for they are sure to make their money back if they create a product that follows the industry formula. Thus music executives ignore quality of sound in favor of creating something visually appealing and financially stimulating.

The music video craze exploded in 1998, when a new singer, Jo Sung-mo, developed a new marketing strategy. He strove to gain recognition with a music video, instead of making live media appearances. His debut video, "To Heaven," had a big impact on the local music scene. The video contained every element for success with a young audience: a cast of their favorite stars, a love story - and gratuitous violence. Jo's subsequent music videos followed this formula, including "Asinayo" ("Do You Know"), which was a miniaturized version of the movie "Platoon." The concept of creating a video in the image of a film was new, and it greatly appealed to teenagers. Previously, music videos in Korea had simply been footage of singers lip-synching with soulful expressions.

After Jo's breakthrough, music videos were considered an essential ingredient for success. Music producers took note of Jo's winning formula and copied it: popular cast, tragic love story, violence and lastly a foreign set location, to emphasize the costliness of the video.

Sometimes, music videos make up for a lack of live media appearances, an important part of the Korean music scene. For those who wish to shun media appearances for one reason or another, a music video provides a substitute opportunity to gain recognition through repeated play. Recently, Kim Beom-soo, who reportedly avoids media events because of a fear of public appearances, took advantage of the music video option with his song, "Haru" ("A Day"). It featured Song Hye-gyo and Song Seung-heon, two very popular Korean actors, in a heart-breaking love triangle. The music video was well-received, while the singer himself - previously unknown - gained notoriety.

The 34-year-old diva Jang Hye-jin is known for putting extra effort, and of course money, into creating an impressive music video, not because she was concerned about her image, but because she was to leave for the United States to study music at the time of her album's release. She needed to ensure that her face stayed in circulation during her absence. The video, which followed the miniature-film formula, did indeed succeed in making up for her absence.

It is no crime to enjoy music in a variety of ways, but the music video fad is detrimental to the discovery of real talent. A musician is judged not by his musical talent, but rather by his ability to finance a flashy video.

by Chun Su-jin

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