Disclaimer: As with my write-ups on K-Pop’s biggest agencies, this is written from an outsider’s perspective. I’m not privy to any business-related financial information beyond what any other fan would know. The purpose of these articles is to examine how well these agencies are serving their artists and the general K-pop fan-base.
MLD have extended to the Filipino market with the debut of boy groups HORI7ON and New:ID, and they’re probably smart to branch out globally. Since losing flagship girl group Momoland, Korea has been a tough nut to crack. Rookies TFN and Lapillus are still quite unknown by most, with music that isn’t often very strong.
P Nation went from being the premiere boutique agency to a sinking ship when many of their most popular artists departed last year. Luckily, they were able to scoop up the ever-popular HwasA and still boast a couple of cool tastemakers (Heize, Crush, Penomeco) as part of their roster. Boy group The New Six had a solid year musically but simply aren’t promoted well enough to make a splash. I hope P Nation has big plans for them in 2024.
RBW (Rainbow Bridge World)
RBW has become a conglomerate that encapsulates other agencies like WM and DSP, but for the purposes of this feature I’m going to focus on their main stable of artists. With that in mind, we’re mainly looking at Mamamoo, ONEUS and Purple Kiss. Other acts either weren’t active in 2023 (Kara, Vromance) or didn’t have much to release (ONEWE – though they did deliver an early-2023 album and some solo stuff).
Mamamoo continued their solo and sub-unit era. I found most of this music pretty bland, but the group has a large, loyal fanbase. Each member feels successful in her own way. ONEUS also has a sizable fanbase, though their industry presence seemed to dip just a bit this year. Purple Kiss are still on the rise, but sales have hit a bit of a slump. Maybe member Yuki’s involvement in Queendom Puzzle group Elz7 Up will buoy their fortunes…
Wake One Entertainment
WakeOne is basically the “survival show” agency, with groups Kep1er, ZEROBASEONE and TO1 on their roster. As such, they have a built-in infrastructure for their music and content distribution. Kep1er had frequent, successful releases (though sales have decreased) and feel more like a permanent group than a competition-winning act. ZEROBASEONE have proven to be an instant smash, and I’m heartened by their consistent sound. Their 2024 should be huge.
Poor TO1 seem to be forgotten. There was no new album this year and one of their newer members has already left the group. However, the agency gained soloist Kim Jaehwan and continue to promote Jo Yuri pretty well.
WM Entertainment have made some good decisions and some bad ones. It feels like they’ve bungled the opportunity for Oh My Girl to become an industry-leading girl group, with steadily decreasing sales since their 2021 peak. Yet, the decision to have all eligible members of ONF serve their military duty concurrently has paid off with a shorter-than-normal hiatus between albums. As a fan, I’m grateful for this planning. Soloist Lee Chaeyeon scored a nice viral hit this spring while veteran act B1A4 continue to remain inactive as a group. It’s a mixed bag at WM, for sure.
It doesn’t seem like Yuehua knows what it wants to do. They can’t nail down a consistent sound for rookies Tempest, though their strong sales numbers continue to coast on goodwill. Girl group Everglow finally made a return in 2023, but neither the song nor promotions felt like big moments. Luckily, they’ve got a few popular members of ZEROBASEONE waiting in the wings, though it’ll be years before they can promote solely under Yuehua.