This is the ninth in a series on foreigners working in the Korean entertainment industry. ― Ed.
Korean-American Bryan Park, also known by his stage name NoName, came to Korea to pursue a music career in 2008, and though it has been hard going, his efforts are starting to bear fruit.
The hip-hop artist left his label over the summer and opened up his company, AMP Media, in August 2012, and currently has about 15 to 20 people working there, including two artists and a group of trainees for an idol group.
For Park, it was always going to be music. It was that or nothing.
“Music is something that was the last thing anyone expected me to do. It’s more than a passion for me. I actually tried to give up music, and I ended up going into clinical depression,” he said.
Park said he realized if there was no music, then there was nothing for him. Music was his lifesaver.
He has been making music since he was 15, and in 2008 he made the decision to come to Korea and do music here, despite the relative success he was having at the time in the U.S. At first he worked with a major label, but he realized it wasn’t right for him.
“I was with them for a while, and just the way that they did music, didn’t really work with me. It didn’t agree with me, so I left that company and then I was in the underground for a while,” he said.
He worked with a few indie labels, released his first EP. And then he decided that he felt he knew enough of the industry to strike out on his own. From there, AMP Media was born.
His grand plan for AMP Media is to bring the U.S. indie culture to Korea. He wants independent labels in Korea to be just as influential as the major labels.
“You have indie labels, independent labels, that are just as large as the majors. All these companies are still considered indie. But then they go one on one with companies like Warner Bro., Sony BGM, with all the major labels,” he said.
|AMP Media founder Bryan Park (Bryan Park)|
He added that in Korea, it’s the opposite. Unless you are a major label, there is no following, no respect and no one looks at you unless they are a hardcore fan.
“What I want to do is bring up the underground, the indie label culture, I guess you can say, that can actually compete on the level of the major industries.”
Park said the foundation has already been laid for this. The general public is starting to look away from the hook-song system that makes K-pop hits, and more at actual talent. Groups like Ulala Session and artists like John Park, who are not necessarily idol material, have still gained strong followings because of their talent.
“You can’t just put together some sort of hook song and put on autotune and have a hit song anymore. The talent that comes out now, they really have to sing as well as look as good as they do,” he said. “So, I think it’s really upgraded what the general audience, the public, is expecting out of their artists.”
He continued that he sees the current K-pop culture with idol groups lasting maybe another three years before real change sets in, hopefully led by indie labels.
“You’re going to see a lot more of a melting pot of music coming out. It’s not going to be just the most beautiful people, it’s going to be talented individuals that are producing a more, I would say, a more eclectic mix of different types of music.”
Even in his own label, Park said his producers all come from different music backgrounds, since he looks not for people who work in the same style as him, hip-hop, but who he can work with well together. He said they come from pop, rock, country/ballad, R&B/soul among other styles.
And so far, they’ve seen good results. They released his second EP in 2012 “Back to Basics” under his stage name NoName. And they are working with DX Korea, which is one of the top five companies for artist management in China. He’s personally done shows in London, China and Japan since the label started, and has a big hallyu concert coming up in China at the end of the month.
More than that, Park said he is dipping into all facets of the industry here, signing actresses who will debut in films at the end of 2013. Soon he’ll be releasing his first full album which is set to drop in five countries ― Japan, China, Korea, the U.S. and the Philippines.
But it’s not easy. He said he often has to deal with “gyopo” stereotypes since he didn’t grow up in Korea. He was born in Chicago, but grew up in Virginia.
He said that companies sometimes tried to trick him when they found out he was American, assuming his grasp of Korean wasn’t good enough for him to understand. Or they assumed that he must party and drink all the time and is irresponsible.
“It’s really breaking that stereotype that’s one of the hardest things in this industry for me to do,” he said.
But having two actresses he signed star in major films at the end of 2013 and the upcoming release of his first full album in five countries, prove that it’s an obstacle he is overcoming.
By Emma Kalka (email@example.com