This was posted last week. Here it is again, in case anyone is interested.
In my attempt to better understand the band, I continue to look at their unprecedented success from different academic angles.
This time I want to look at the management structure which surrounds the girls as well as other kpop groups. Kpop can be described as an industry governed by lean, quality or Freedom Through Control.
First, let's clarify a few things to avoid becoming controversial, that is not my intention. This is not about culture, ideology or politics. Indeed, the theories used here were developed globally.
The notion that the girls have always been destined for greatness and would shine even brighter were it not for the confines of YG is simply false. They are extremely gifted, but BP is not a lucky coincidence. Their success is only made possible by a framework in which they are able to show their talent.
This framework can be thought of as a quality system found in engineering and business. Yes, I am now going to compare YG to a factory, because in many ways it is. Relax, I will explain.
Quality systems work on the principle that rigorous steps create less waste and more consistency. If a hotel receptionist follows exact steps for, say, room service there will be no mistaken deliveries, less fighting with the kitchen and fewer customer complaints. A car factory uses very precise systems to avoid defects, relying mostly on robots and automation. McDonald's uses thick manuals and lengthy training to minimize variation. It's why they're No. 1. Now, does this mean workers are mindless machines without choice? No. Employees now have more freedom, precisely because of the system. They don't need to worry about work which follows the steps and can now focus on ways to improve themselves and the organization. The receptionist can learn a language. The car engineer may discover a better paint job. The McDonald's front desk worker suggests a new local food item and gets promoted. Freedom through control.
The entertainment industry has used these principles. Old Hollywood, Motown, anime and of course the boy bands of the West. What makes YG and the other Korean labels special is they are really good at quality and systems. It's almost as if they meet regularly with Kia and Samsung. KPop is a well oiled machine as are the TV and movie studios. How else would Korea have gone from a third world country to a high tech powerhouse in 30 years?
This brings us to the girls. Again, let's not kid ourselves. Rosé didn't walk in with her guitar over her shoulder and say "Hey. I heard you three are starting a band." This has never been rocknroll. As you know there are auditions, trainees, practices, selections, rejections, debuts and comebacks. A system. Does this mean our girls are merely burger flippers or factory drones living in a gulag? Of course not. They express themselves (that really is an understatement) within the plan and schedule. Let's say they met DJ Snake back stage who suggests a collab. They don't start saying yes or no, arguing over future songs. One of them (probably Jennie) turns it over to a relevant staff and says they'll be in touch. Later in a meeting they'll maybe mention they love Turn Down for What which is then conveyed to Teddy. There are no meltdowns, no confusion, no doubt in the task. This leaves more time and energy for the show, vlive, family, creativity, solos. Freedom through control.
A system can go too far, or have negative outcomes. In the past there was The Jackson 5, just one of many examples of exploitation. In Korean entertainment tragic suicides were arguably influenced by hectic schedules. But a quality system used correctly will always allow for improvement. Yes, BlackPink tour and promote very hard and it is rough. But if one of them isn't feeling well she isn't dragged on stage. What would be the point? Instead a contingency is in place, improvisation allowed and a bear is the replacement. Blinks and band are happy. Everybody wins.
The magic that is BlackPink exists because of well thought out system, not despite of it. Hopefully YG will continue to let them grow even stronger.