In this feature, the Managing Director of Warner Music Korea, Clayton Jin, shares with us plans that the label has in the market. Warner Music Korea recently announced its partnership with local hip-hop label Brand New Music (BNM) in March. As for Clayton Jin, he was appointed MD of Warner Music Korea in 2016, signalling Warner Music’s desire to step up direct investment in local artists and repertoire, as well as to secure strategic deals with independent label partners.

Here’s what he had to say.

Clayton Jin

1. Warner Music Korea teams up with Brand New Music. Will we be seeing more of such deals for the Korean market?

Clayton Jin: Warner Music Korea’s always looking at partnership possibilities and the Brand New Music partnership is already creating synergistic benefits for both companies. We will continue to look for opportunities in the market, and our key measure of success is a strong partnership that will benefit both parties.

2. On the current situation with China, which has shunned Korean performers, is that a major part of your revenues lost?

Clayton Jin: We are hopeful that the situation in China will change soon and that music fans there will have the chance to embrace Korean music.  There is still a huge untapped potential in China for Korean music that, if reached, could mean future revenue growth for the Korean music industry.

3. What are the other sources of income that you are exploring to make up for this loss of revenue?

Clayton Jin: The loss of revenue is not as dramatic for Warner Music. Right now, our focus in Korea is to continue to maximise our international artists’ exposure, whether it is a global superstar, such as Ed Sheeran, or up and coming act, such as Christopher.  We are also continuing to look at domestic content possibilities where possible. Brand partnership and sync licensing is also an area that we hope to grow in the market.

4. What is your assessment on the current state of the Korean music landscape?

Clayton Jin: The Korean music scene is as exciting as ever.  K-Pop remains dominant, but we are seeing artists from all sorts of genres creating great music and engaging with fans.  The fact that Korea is now a top 10 global market for recorded music is testament to the vibrancy of the scene here.  But, like all things, Korean music must continue to change and evolve to maintain its leading position.

5. From the outside, Korean music is all about K-Pop. True / False?

Clayton Jin: I think it’s true that international commentators just focus on K-Pop when they think about Korean music.  This is a big mistake, as the music scene is actually very diverse.  One of the things we’ll be doing with Brand New Music is actively promoting its roster of urban artists around the world, to show a different aspect of Korean music.

6. It is said that Korean Music Superstars come out of some magical production line, with the looks and sounds all appearing almost similar. True / False?

Clayton Jin: I think K-Pop artists are some of the most hard working in the world and the songwriting involved in K-Pop is some of the best you’ll find anywhere.  It’s a case of high production values, not a magical production line.  There is a huge diversity of K-Pop acts and it’s a fiercely competitive music scene.

7. R&B artists like Sanee and Verbal Jint are considered a rare breed in Korea. Is that really true at the ground level? Or is the marketing pf K-Pop portraying a somewhat inaccurate picture of Korean music?

Clayton Jin: Sanee and Verbal Jint are artists at the top in their music genre, but there are many younger artists that are creating interesting urban music.  I think we’ll see more exciting and unique performers coming through in the next few years.

8. What are the major music streaming players for Korea? Does Kakao Music reign supreme instead of the usual Spotify and Apple Music?

Clayton Jin: The digital music market in Korea has developed separately to Europe and North America.  I believe Korea is one of the first, if not the first, country to have standardised streaming as the preferred music consumption format and, as such, localised services such as Melon, Bugs Music, MNET  and Genie have become popular.  Kakao Music is a newer and developing music platform compared to its more established social messaging strength. We are seeing good growth in Apple Music, but Spotify has yet to launch in the country.