30th October 2023

Is K-POP leading us into the AI-content era?

Andrew Simmonds
Head of EMEA Content
Is K-POP leading us into the AI-content era?

How Kpop is using AI and what it means for the rest of us…

The world of K-pop may be niche but it’s by no means small—the industry generates about $10 billion annually for South Korea, with many groups, like BTS, managing to achieve stardom globally. But in the last few years, K-pop music labels have started to dabble with the potential AI brings. 

Take a look at this music video of K-pop group Eternity

The video has all the hallmarks of a typical K-pop girl group—colorful sets, flawless face cards, fun choreography, and millions of views.

But the idols in that video aren’t real.

Eternity’s management company, Pulse9, used a combination of deepfake and motion capture technology to bring the first AI K-pop girl group to life. The music videos aren’t completely AI-generated—hired dancers and singers “play” the idols and then their faces are swapped for the AI models. 

Even though the video has garnered a variety of reactions from curiosity to downright hatred, the implications of using AI in this way are impressive.

But this is just scratching the surface—AI brings boundless potential to K-pop for both companies and fans. 

How AI could revolutionize the (K-pop) content paradigm

Breaks, rehearsals, and studio time slow down the content creation process, but unlike human idols, AI isn’t hindered by fatigue, health issues, or physical limitations — or inevitable idol-related scandals and contractual disagreements. Instead, AI could produce songs, choreographies, and even music videos in a fraction of the time. This means fans can enjoy fresh content more frequently, and the possibilities for immediate song releases or response tracks are nearly limitless. 

AI also paves the way for 24/7 interaction to keep fans constantly engaged. And not just digitally. Hologram concerts have become more prominent and improved in quality in recent years. While the game Fortnite has hosted a number of digital concerts. Whether in-person or online, the arrival of digital pop stars means concerts are no longer fixed to a single location and could instead happen all over the world at once.

Dovetail locationless concerts with AI’s potential to translate content in real time, and AI K-Pop groups could release a song in Korean, English, Spanish, or any other language almost simultaneously. This breaks down the barriers to international promotions, making global expansion seamless without the exorbitant costs and logistic challenges.

The questions now become: how much content do fans really want? And how much time do they have to consume it? And, most important, will they accept non-human idols? 

The “it” factors

These possibilities are exciting but also scary. The constant concerns with AI nowadays are typically about job displacement, privacy, and misuse—all of which are concerns here as well. But as with any industry seeking to toy with AI, success hinges on meeting the demands of the consumers first and foremost.

So what do die-hard K-pop fans value?

Many fans love K-pop for a simple reason—the lyrics are in Korean. Since most international fans don’t understand Korean, they can’t just sit back and enjoy the music rather than feel forced to listen to lyrics they don’t vibe with. Fans also find K-pop music catchier than Western pop and admire the variety of sounds and concepts.

These things are easy enough to replicate with AI, but there are still a few key issues that AI K-pop groups haven’t solved yet.

To some fans, the idea of an AI K-pop group simply has no appeal”—these fans feel like the novelty of a virtual group alone isn’t impressive enough to differentiate it from a human group. Other fans value “having some quality of genuineness” to the art—the blood, sweat, and tears that cultivate a talented performer. Others simply want to engage with the “personality” of a real artist. 

While faster content production and more direct engagement would be beneficial to fans, failing to deliver on other core aspects, like perceived authenticity—aspects that aren’t so easily manufactured—may leave fans asking what the point of all this is.

It’s also important to note that, as of right now, full-on K-pop groups aren’t the goal of AI deployment. One Korean record label, HYBE, used AI to record one of its artists’ songs in 6 different languages because the artist was struggling with pronunciation. A girl group named aespa became the first K-pop group with their own AI avatars which act as “support” to the real human idols in their virtual world. 

The real human idols aren’t being replaced in either of these situations. Instead, AI technology is being used to help artists do their work more effectively and make their brands more appealing to fans.

This is where we are with AI in general right now—yes, some jobs may not be as prominent in the near future as AI continues to develop, but on the flip side, AI isn’t yet at the point where it can do all things we need it to do. 

On the authenticity and transparency front, consumers still prefer engaging with other humans. Behind the scenes, we’ll still need people to come up with ideas, strategize, and coordinate these AI strategies, which only breeds the need for more skills and jobs related to doing these things. 

Amongst both the fear and the excitement, there is opportunity. For those willing to learn, adapt, and innovate, AI is a tool that can be used to support and enhance human creativity, not replace it. 

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