J-POP Girls’ Band vs K-POP Girls’ Band

  • East Asian girl bands these few recent years are a phenomenon to admire, whether you are a music lover or a business person. For Western audiences, witnessing the gaggles of cute girls in groups of up to 50 people dominating the Asian pop scene can be bemusing or even alarming. Whatever you think of East Asian girl bands, the accounting spreadsheets will confirm that they are indeed a force to behold. To the outsider, J-pop and K-pop girl bands may seem similar at first, but there are different ways that they tend to be marketed to their domestic and overseas audiences.

    Different types of cuteness

    Girls who join pop bands in East Asia are chosen not just for their artistic abilities, but also their looks (shocking!). But what count for girl-band-cute are different for Japanese and Korean audiences.

    AKB 48

    Japanese girl bands are extremely cute and girl-next-door. Chosen for sweet looks and youthful energy, they often start in their teenage years, debuting as “idols”. They are often portrayed as innocent and girly, and many are actually banned from dating until their mid-20s, where by then they would have been decade-long showbiz veterans. In line with their cute image, they also perform in cute ways proved popular long local audiences, such as their cheerleading-like dancing styles.

    Girls’ Generation SNSD

    Korean girl bands, on the other hand, resemble those girls that are too far out of reach for average Joe. Flawless skin and flawless model-like bodies, with flawless make-up and hair. Perfection is the average for these Korean girls. Compared to Japanese girls, they also tend to be sexier and more adult in the way they are styled, more befitting for girls in their 20s, though many tend to be actually very young.
    Of course in reality, anybody mentally healthy would agree despite these tiny surface differences, all these girls are better looking than 98% of the people they have met in real life. More power to beautiful people.

    Audience type

    Japanese and Korean girl bands enjoy their share of fans, but their target audiences are fairly different. For Japan, the main bulk of fans come from Japanese males, the more fervent of those quite unkindly called idol-otakus. While there have been attempts to export this business model to other countries targeting the often lonely males in those countries, we see a trend towards focusing on domestic markets, rather than the overseas audience.

    For Korean bands, they have their share of fans from pre-teen girls to older girls and boys. The main difference is perhaps their attitudes towards attracting overseas audiences. Korean girl bands are far more likely to record songs in other languages (English, Japanese, Mandarin are some of the more common languages), and it is even common to include native speakers of these languages in their line-up. With the Korea government officially supporting exports of Korean music as an economic and cultural export, this overseas- geared business model will stay on so long as K-pop remains popular.