K-Pop & Latinos

As readers of this blog, you are likely in marketing. And as someone in marketing/advertising, if I ask you what BTS means, odds are you’re going to answer “Back To School”. However, if you have a teen in the house, don’t be surprised if they look at you and wonder how you could possibly know about the hottest K-Pop boy band around. (go ahead, give it a try!)

BTS or the BangTan Boys, is a hugely popular K-pop band that has toured in the states, has billions of views on YouTube and not long ago released a song called “Idol” that broke worldwide twitter records and a YouTube 24 hour view record previously held by Taylor Swift. And one potentially surprising stat was that 8.7% of all global mentions of “Idol” were from U.S. based Hispanics. And 46.1% of their conversations were in Spanish and 19.7% were bilingual English and Spanish. (http://oyeintelligence.com/multicultural-music-demographics/ ) Wait… Korean pop music being talked about in Spanish in the US? What’s going on here?

Last week, we discussed blending of cultures and more specifically a growing trend of Chino-Latino. For Part II of blending Asianess and Hispanicity, this week we will be discussing how Korean entertainment has attracted Latino audiences.

A Korean-American friend of mine went to K-Con (the Coachella of K-pop held in LA and NY to nearly 100K fans) last summer and remarked that he saw nearly as many Latinos there (in the thousands) as Asian Americans. Somewhat surprisingly, Latinos have quickly become K-pop’s second largest fan base in the US at 21.4% vs Asian Americans at 33.8% (remezcla.com/features/music/k-pop-latinos/). What a commentary on how small our world is becoming and how huge an influence social media has become in spreading music, art and ideas across cultures. And when we dig a bit deeper, we find another genre that may have served as the beginning of their attraction to Korean entertainment: Korean Dramas. The uncanny resemblance to telenovelas for Latinos watching during their childhood was an easy transition into Korean Dramas and eventually into K-pop. DramaFever, a Netflix-type streaming service for Korean Dramas in the US (which was recently canceled) showed that average users spent about 54 hours a month streaming vs Netflix at 10.7 hours per month, showing the highly addictive nature of K-Dramas. And 27% of that audience streaming Korean dramas from their site were Hispanic! Many fans of Korean Dramas have become K-Pop fans and have spread that fandom to their friends via social media.

What is really interesting, and perhaps amazing, however, is the to watch how the music has begun to intermingle. With such vibrant sounds of their own, Latino sounds have begin to find their way into K-pop hits. In 2017, there were several breakthrough K-pop hits with Latino influence such as KARD’s “Hola Hola” and SF9’s “O Sole Mio” that topped the charts. BTS even dropped a new album called “Love Yourself: Tear” that was the first Korean Album to top the Billboard 200 and had significant Latin influences including the song “Airplane pt. 2” that was a tango-pop track. The song has shout outs to Brazil and Mexico city, showing great appreciation for their Latin fans.

Thus, while the cultures of Koreans and Latinos are distinctly different, there is a clear attraction there that may not have been apparent or obvious, but follow the numbers, and then open your eyes, and ears and you may find influences from corners of the globe that are now finding each-other with the potential of creating something entirely new.

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