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Posted : 2012-12-10 16:54
Updated : 2012-12-10 16:54

CJ threatens chokehold on concert industry

By Rachel Lee

The "too big to fail" looms as a "once-upon-a-time" tale in the history of Korea Inc., but the media giant CJ E&M's growing prowess is only broadening and deepening in the entertainment industry. The media giant is once again generating antagonism among smaller-sized concert planners.

Securing major venues in Seoul is almost impossible during the winter months especially with the Christmas season, but the prevalence in booking concert venues are mostly by big companies like CJ E&M.

The company, aside from its hold on film, cable and musical industry, has been the largest concert organizer that has held concerts for such big names as boy band 2AM, B1A4, Busker Busker, girl group Wonder Girls and singer Lee So-ra this year.

From left are English musician Sting's concert held Wednesday at the Olympic Gymnastic Arena in Olympic Park in Seoul; Kim Bum-soo & Lena Park concert at the Olympic Gymnastic Arena.


"CJ E&M has swept the country's popular venues so it leaves absolutely no room for smaller agencies and it's not fair at all," a local event organizer said Thursday in a telephone interview.


According to industry insiders Friday, the country's two most popular venues among Korean artists are the Olympic Gymnastic Arena in Olympic Park and Jamsil Indoor Stadium, all of which are located in southern Seoul. Other places favored by them are the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium in Olympic Park and LG Arts Center in Yeoksam-dong in southern Seoul.

"We just decided to go for other options or start our tour in other areas because we already knew in the first place that we wouldn't be able to rent the popular ones anyway. It's almost impossible for us," the organizer added. The organizer also said that they have decided on a performance venue at COEX in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul.
Superstar K4 and CNBLUE concerts at the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium in Olympic Park. / Courtesy of CJ E&M

In the month of December, CJ E&M organized a total of nine concerts, eight of which were and are to be held in major concert halls including the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium and LG Arts Center. A recent concert of English musician Sting was held Wednesday at the Olympic Gymnastic Arena and CNBLUE and Superstar K4 concerts will be at the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium.


However, a spokesman for the company says this is unfair criticism.

"All these big concert halls are very strict about lending their places to agencies," a PR specialist from CJ E&M said Monday in a telephone interview. "What they want is good performance, as in performance of top quality. And we, CJ E&M, have been the biggest organizer in this field with lots of experience so we can give a guarantee of what they want, top quality."

According to managers at the Olympic Gymnastic Arena Thursday, the judging panel at the venue considers various factors once all proposals are submitted from organizers; the potential success of the event; whether the event fits the image of the venue and the earning capacity of the planning agency.

"We do not make decisions on the size of an agency. It doesn't matter how much profit they make normally. The most important thing for us to consider is the validity of a contract with the artist," said a manager at the arena Thursday in a telephone interview.

With regard to this matter, small planning organizers expressed complaints Friday saying, "When we submitted our proposal to the judging panel at the arena, we were competing with over nine other companies. We were dropped in the end. Their screening criteria are ambiguous. We believe they just prefer those big organizers that have held concerts for years."

A local organizer in Seoul also said, "I think most of the concerts organized by CJ E&M are held in major venues including the Olympic Gymnastic Arena. It's about big business commanding certain privileges that are not accessible to small business."

All interviewees wished to remain anonymous as it's a relatively small industry in which everyone knows everyone quite well.


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