K-pop used to have a certain formula to be successful overseas. Korean pop artists had to be armed with youth, good looks and cool dance moves, and have plenty of TV exposure through variety shows. Not anymore. Going viral is the new rule.
Not-so-young, not-so-good-looking Korean rapper and singer Psy, whose horse-riding dance is more hilarious than cool, earned instant international fame when his latest music video went viral in recent weeks. "Gangnam Style" has amassed over 50 million views on YouTube so far, just over a month after it was put on the video-sharing site on July 15.
The 34-year-old artist's video was spotted by US pop idol Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun, a prolific Twitter user with more than 1.8 million followers. His tweeting of Psy's YouTube video link, saying "How did I not sign this guy," led to "retweets" by fans of Justin Bieber, whose Twitter account has more than 26 million followers. US pop singer Katy Perry joined the latest Psy craze, tweeting "Help, I'm in a Gangnam style K hole" on Tuesday.
By country, 47 per cent of the 50 million views of "Gangnam Style" came from the US, 7 per cent from the UK, 6.8 per cent from Canada and 4 per cent from Korea, according to analysis by Park Han-woo, associate professor at Yeungnam University's media and communication department.
Psy's global success shows that going viral on social media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter has become "a must" for K-pop artists looking for international exposure, industry watchers said.
With the fast international growth of K-pop, YouTube created an official K-pop channel under its music category in December.
Entertainment agencies cite "instant promotion effects with no cost" as the greatest strength of using YouTube as their K-pop overseas marketing tool.
"Social media tools allow us to save time and money for traditional PR events ? which can be redirected to more investment in new K-pop songs and artists," said Kim Eun-a, spokesperson for S.M. Entertainment.
On Aug. 14, YouTube's Twitter page officially tweeted to its 15.4 million followers that K-pop boy band Super Junior has released its latest music video "Spy," offering a link to the music video page.
"Attention K-pop fans: Super Junior is back with a new hit video and a license to kill (on the dance floor). http://goo.gl/Sv3yM," the tweet said.
Super Junior's "Spy" music video generated more than 4 million clicks in just nine days after it was first put on YouTube on Aug. 12.
Facebook's power is formidable as well.
Best-known K-pop girl band Girls' Generation has 3.4 million likes on its Facebook page, boy band Big Bang 3.5 million likes, girl group 2NE1 2.9 million likes and boy band SHINee 2.8 million likes, as of Tuesday.
Big Bang's Facebook status update on July 15 ? noting that its member G-Dragon is featured on Psy's new album, on the first track "Blue Flog" ? helped Psy promote his new album to Big Bang's multitude of Facebook fans.
2NE1 was interviewed on "Facebook Live" in Los Angeles on Thursday morning, Korea time, mainly talking with their fans about their first overseas concert held in New York on Aug. 17 that attracted about 7,000 concertgoers.
The Facebook interview, a rare event for a Korean act, attracted attention to their next show at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Friday.