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  • Writer's pictureEric Doades

International Tectonics from KOCCA and MU:CON

Learn about the music industry and music tech in South Korea on this week's episode.

Find out Korea's big players, the music tech startups, the role of K-pop, and emerging trends. Plus learn about a new metaverse music making system from a startup called Verses. Our first report-back from the 5th Annual Music Tectonics Conference comes from members of the South Korean trade mission brought to us by KOCCA and MU:CON, South Korea's music and entertainment fair.

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Episode Transcript

Machine transcribed

0:00:00 - Dmitri

Welcome back to Music Tectonics, where we go beneath the surface of music and tech. I'm your host, Dmitri Vietze, also the founder and CEO of Rock Paper Scissors, the PR firm that specializes in music tech, and I'm actually recording from the Music Tech Tonics conference in Santa Monica, california. We're on our third day of the conference over at Expert Dojo. It's been a blast. We've met so many cool people here, and one thing that's great that's post-pandemic is we attracted so many international folks around the world to our online events and they're starting to show up time and time again in person at our event.

This year, we've had a great trade delegation from Korea, with the help of COCA, and they brought several companies over, and I thought it would be fun for us to have a chance to talk to a couple of the folks from one of the companies. In fact, it's called Versus. It's a really cool Metaverse meets music thing, but I got to see the demo and it looks great. The graphics are incredible. It's a new way to create music, and so I've got with me Sean Lee and Kyungtae Kim from Versus. Hey, Sean, how are you?

0:01:13 - Sean

Yeah, I'm good, I'm excited to be here. I really love tech tonics and I met really nice people and all the artists are very gentle and we have a really we show you a really great idea in here. Yeah, very excited.

0:01:31 - Dmitri

We have a good vibe right. It's chill, but business.

0:01:34 - Sean


0:01:36 - Kyungtae

Kim, how are you? Hello, my name is Kyungtae Kim. I'm doing great, thank you, and same as Sean, this is one of the best conference I've ever been, because everybody understands the music here. So what we're trying to do is like talking about music, right, but the other conference they don't understand. Like, what is the problem with the music?

0:01:56 - Dmitri

Right, you guys won a CES award, so you went to a non-music conference.

0:02:01 - Kyungtae

It is. So they were like what is weird thing? I mean it sounds cool and looks cool, but what it is? And they just, they get curious. They come over here. They were like you know, like about like 40 or 50 percent care understand it, but others just, okay, cool, go for it.

0:02:19 - Dmitri

That's funny. I really want to talk a little bit about South Korea so that our listeners get a sense of the market, but first, just so we have a little context, what is versus? How would you describe it?

0:02:31 - Kyungtae

So basically what we're trying to do is to make music as our interactive format so that people can be more immersed into it, because we think music has remained as a static fire format for a long time, so we think it's kind of losing its appeal compared to other medium. Like, if you think about, the differences between a game and movie become obvious. So basically we made a system called Metamusic System which allows users to be involved in music directly and they get to control the music, their favorite music, directly, so they can make their own versions from it. And we've won a Best Innovation Award by suggesting a new concept of music. And, yeah, so we're doing. We're planning to launch our very first product very soon. So our reason is to make a new music product to help music industry to monetize more Money.

0:03:26 - Dmitri

Money, don't go about it. Yeah, money is important. I mean, that's what keeps the health of a business right. So yeah, just from my experience, it reminds me of when I was playing with my kid on Roblox. You have this very. You know, you're an avatar, you're moving around the world, but the graphics were just so much cooler in verses and then having that musical component. First you're kind of experiencing and discovering music, but then you realize you can actually build on top of the music as well, so super cool. Okay, what is the music tech scene like in South Korea?

0:03:59 - Sean

Yeah, south Korea has a very long history about the music technology and you should remember, south Korea has many manufacturers like Samsung Electronics, lg and Hyundai, so so many audio technology companies and music companies are working for them. But probably they are a little bit small and we have a really strong background about, like, the mobile music industry. The first ringtone service came from South Korea. Yeah, it's almost the same period with Japan and Finland, but we were one of the pioneering countries, so there were many mobile music companies were there and right now we have a third generation music tech companies like Video Game and K-Pop that help music companies to get a little bit trendy and fresh. Yeah, so that's a yeah.

0:05:05 - Dmitri

Have there been some more successful specific music tech companies that we should know about, like by name, that are actual music tech companies?

0:05:12 - Sean

Yeah, there are many music, many big music companies in South Korea, like Melon and Genie Music. They are Korean music streaming company. They are really big in South Korea, but not much as big as Spotify, but still big. Yeah. Yeah, they are famous in South Korea.

0:05:33 - Dmitri

How are they different from Spotify?

0:05:36 - Sean

The library is a little bit different. Yes, they have more K-Pop library, of course, and also they have a combination with artist management and record label in-house. That's a big difference, got you?

0:05:54 - Dmitri

Okay. So this is great because you're kind of giving us, like our first window, anyone who hasn't been there or hasn't done business there, our first window. And I'm curious who are the other big players in Korea, the organizations that everybody has to work with? You mentioned some streaming services. Are there video and social platforms, record labels? You know over here, we know who the majors are and we know the Instagrams and the. You know the TikToks and YouTube. Who are the players in South Korea?

0:06:20 - Sean

Yeah. So, as I mentioned, Melon and Genie, that is a big platform, but at the same time we have K-Pop giant entertainment company, SM Entertainment, Hive, they are huge. The next thing is they share their stock with like a tech company. Yeah, that's a really great combination. So tech company work very closely with like K-Pop record companies. They produce products together and promotion together, even sharing stocks, so that makes a huge impact on the industry. So easy to work with and work very fast. Very easy to work. Got it yeah.

0:07:12 - Dmitri

Okay, cool, that's helpful. And what types of apps and platforms do people like to use in Korea in general, like, what's the experience, the user interface you know early on? I mean, obviously K-Pop has just changed everything in music, not only there but also in the West, and how people think about fandom and fan creation and interaction and that kind of thing. Obviously, in the United States we had a big Facebook moment, we had a big Instagram moment, we had a big YouTube moment. Now we're having a big TikTok moment. But what I found is a lot of things start in the East and come West. You know, like even SMS. Sms, you know, in the East was was very even with the flip phones. There's a lot more texting happening there before here. So I'm curious, what types of apps and platforms do people like to use and how is that different than the US? From what you can tell?

0:08:03 - Kyungtae

I think mainly it follows to Instagram trend and X Twitter, x Twitter or like. There's some specific service that entertainment provides. It's called Weverse. It's a fan-based platform. They can communicate with each other. They can communicate with artists if they like, if they pay some monies, and it and recently the very famous, you know the trending girl group called Nugents. They made their own version of the fan apps. It's called Fawning. The interface is more like a KakaoTalk, which is a very famous messaging program in Korea. They include the KakaoTalk interface, instagram interface and some kind of social feed interface, and even they mimicking the form interfaces, so they pretend the members has called you or sent you a message. Yeah, I mean, they made it good. So there were numerous attempts about that one.

0:09:11 - Dmitri

That's really interesting. So, like it's a form of messaging, it kind of it's kind of related to what I was saying about these direct messaging experiences that I think started East and moved West. They're still leveraging that as a way to create an experience that feels like the artist is talking to you and interacting, and it's interesting to see that sort of integration of interfaces that everybody kind of gets used to, but then building it in for the artist as well. So that's a great description. What about some cool up and coming startups? We talked a little bit about verses. Are there some other ones that you guys are excited about? Maybe collaborators or friends, or maybe just stuff that you're like I love what they're doing.

0:09:51 - Kyungtae

So there's a startup called SuperTone. They're doing a. So basically they got a viral because they made a program that can mimic some artist's voice, but not just the voice, just singing voice, so they can manipulate the pitch. They can manipulate the style, because back in the days everybody was focused on making on like TTS or STT, but it was more like text to speech, so everybody was trying to put emotions on it. Nobody was thinking about. I mean, people were thinking, but nobody was succeeded to have control of the voice, of the pitch or singing style before then. But SuperTone made it. So they made a lot of TV programs to, you know, like pretending, some old, like super old artists singing on new songs, and yeah, I think that is what's cool.

0:11:02 - Sean

But don't forget about Fan Engaging App. Yes, a blip and a we verse that is like, especially made for the fan engaging with K-pop stars, and that app provides, like many that sells many goods and albums and digital contents and direct message from artists to fans that bring a new vibe to, like industry. That is an interesting point.

0:11:31 - Dmitri

That's cool. I think the fandom thing is another thing that we're seeing going east-west. You know what I mean. Like I think the American music industry is learning from Korea, from Japan and China as well, just sort of like how fans might want to engage with artists. So I mean, when you guys come here, maybe next year, we need to have a conversation about what are the trends in Asia that Americans should be paying Like, because it's like a wind, it's like a breeze that's come. It always goes this direction. It's so crazy.

0:12:06 - Sean

Yeah, that's a little bit different. In United States, I think, a star is kind of mysterious, yeah, because it's like a symbol, but in South Korea it's more like a friendly. The fan and the idol stars are very close. Yeah, that's a little bit different and that also brings more money to industry.

0:12:29 - Dmitri

Yeah, yeah, because people have more of a connection, they're willing to pay for that, exactly, yeah. So one more thing, I guess, on the big picture of South Korea, are there any other? I mean, you've kind of talked about this innovation trends that are taking shape, but are there anything else? We, so we know a little bit about the fandom, the fan engagement. We talked a little bit about verses, but I'm curious any other things that are coming down the line in the music space on the innovation front? What's next?

0:12:58 - Sean

Definitely AI. Yeah, because AI brings us like Earth we create, like a cyber idol. We bring a star into a metaverse and VR space and a fan directly communicate with the star. Like that. That is possible by AI. Yeah, that's a really big thing and that will dominate, like in the future, in the near future, perhaps three years and five years later.

0:13:36 - Dmitri

What about you, Kim? Are there any innovation trends you're keeping an eye on?

0:13:40 - Kyungtae

So I think that's one of the. I feel proud of the AI part of our company because you know, when you first think about the AI or generating technology, your first thought is, oh man, somebody is losing their jobs. Right, exchange change something and they take control like the humans things. But our service has to. Our service needs artists' original sources. It starts from them. Our generation technology can expand the sources from artists, but we need artists' original sources. So we're kind of very proud of the. Our technology doesn't harm any artists or other stuff.

0:14:30 - Dmitri

So I feel like you're right on point with the conversations at Music Techtonics. It's, you know, like this we're at this a lot of conversation about how AI could harm artists and so forth, and this conversation about ethical artificial intelligence, and I think it's because a lot of the people that are in AI music are just big music fans and they, you know, there's no harm meant. It's more like creation opportunities, interaction, fan engagement opportunities and this convergence All those things coming together at the same time as well. Well, this has been a great little master class in what's going on in South Korea. Maybe if there's other people who are thinking about coming from Music Tech Tomics, what have you gotten out of being here this year and what should people look for when they come to Music Tech Tomics?

0:15:18 - Sean

Here yeah, Music Techtonics has everything. Yeah, human resources, connection and also wisdom and our fact and money too. So, yeah, we met like a universal music and on Sony and Spotify. I was dreaming about to have them and having a conversation, but it happened in Music Tomics. I'm really thank you to Dimitri and other staffs and, yeah, very excited and probably I will come back next year.

0:15:54 - Dmitri

Love to hear. Love to hear. Okay well, Kim and Sean from Versus. How can people find out about Versus? Is there a way for us to see it in the United States yet, or do we have to wait?

0:16:04 - Sean

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So for next month, yeah, so we'll launch our first product with SM Entertainment Big Star. Yeah, yeah, so probably we'll find out if we like K-pop.

0:16:17 - Dmitri

Yeah, okay, so keep an eye out for that. Sean and Kim, such a great pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for coming to Music Tech Tomics you guys are making it into like a whole new thing with us going global, and thanks for bringing all your great spirit and sharing what you're up to. Thanks so much.

0:16:33 - Kyungtae

Thank you, Thanks everyone, thank you.

0:16:37 - Dmitri

Thanks for listening to Music Tech Tomics. If you like what you hear, please subscribe on your favorite podcast app. We have new episodes for you every week. Did you know? We do free monthly online events that you, our lovely podcast listeners, can join? Find out more at and, while you're there, look for the latest about our annual conference and sign up for our newsletter to get updates. Everything we do explores the seismic shifts that shake up music and technology, the way the Earth's tectonic plates cause quakes and make mountains. Connect with Music Tech Tomics on Twitter, instagram and LinkedIn. That's my favorite platform. Connect With Me. Demetri Vietze, if you can spell it, we'll be back again next week, if not sooner.

Music Tectonics at NAMM 2023

Let us know what you think! Tweet @MusicTectonics, find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, or connect with podcast host Dmitri Vietze on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Music Tectonics podcast goes beneath the surface of the music industry to explore how technology is changing the way business gets done. Weekly episodes include interviews with music tech movers & shakers, deep dives into seismic shifts, and more.


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