SM Entertainment is making music’s answer to Marvel’s universe

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SM Entertainment CEO Sung Su Lee doesn’t usually do interviews.

So when he does communicate publicly, it’s price listening very carefully to discover out what makes the wheels flip on the Ok-pop large he’s in control of, whose roster options stars like EXO, Girls Generation and Shinee.

Lee appeared as a keynote speaker at 2021 STARTUP:CON final week and shared some perception into SM’s imaginative and prescient for the way forward for Ok-pop.

He additionally introduced SM’s formidable aim of wanting to make Seoul, already the birthplace of Ok-Pop and Ok-culture, “the mecca of global culture.”

The government, who joined SM Entertainment in 2005 as a part of the A&R staff, argued in his speech that Ok-pop is “not just a genre of music, but a genre of content”.

At the centre of SM’s content material technique is the SM Culture Universe (SMCU), which, Lee defined, is a “future entertainment universe that connects the world through culture without any boundaries between reality and virtual reality”.

SMCU is basically a character-led universe akin to cinematic universes like these created by comedian giants Marvel or D.C.

Explaining the concept round SMCU on the firm’s ‘SM Congress 2021’ again in June, Sung Su Lee mentioned that it “can be thought of as SM’s metaverse, inviting K-pop fans around the world to appreciate our music and stories via various platforms”.

He added in his speech final week that SMCU “will not only include our original content, but also [content] recreated by the fans”.

This is achieved particularly by way of the corporate’s ‘Pink Blood Project’, a fan engagement platform that helps what it calls ‘prosumers’ – SM followers who create their very own content material impressed by SM’s acts.


The origins of the SMCU, Sung Su Lee instructed the viewers final week, are rooted in SM founder and Executive Producer Soo-Man Lee’s prediction of “the future becoming a world of robots and celebrities, as well as avatars”.

As such, mentioned Sung Su Lee, SM Entertainment has “been preparing for the future [i.e. virtual] content era for decades”.

The firm’s huge growth into the rising virtual artist space, and its introduction of SMCU idea, arrived in October final yr with the launch of aespa – a ‘Metaverse Girl Group’ that includes 4 human members and 4 digital counterparts.

According to Sung Su Lee, SMCU is a “massive virtual world that starts with aespa’s storytelling”.

The title “aespa” is a mix of ‘ae’ (initials for ‘avatar’ and ‘experience’) and ‘aspect’, which, SM says, represents “the meeting of another self and experiencing a new world”.

The group’s debut single Black Mamba, launched in November 2020, surpassed 21 million views inside its first 24 hours. And in May this yr, SM launched Episode 1 of aespa’s big-budget cinematic comic-esque movie, additionally referred to as Black Mamba (see under).

Sung Su Lee defined that “the main keyword” of the corporate’s universe is ‘KWANGYA’, which he says “holds a symbolic meaning as it encompasses both real and virtual worlds”.

“K-Pop fans call our relocated SM Headquarters in Seongsu-Dong and the Seoul Forest area KWANGYA,” he defined.

“It’s our goal for ‘KWANGYA,’ an infinite virtual universe, to expand as the concept of space that refers to our new location and become the landmark of SMCU.”



Sung Su Lee’s newest speech arrived a number of weeks after it was reported that 20% of SM Entertainment is up on the market, together with over 18% of the shares owned by founder and government producer Lee Soo Man.

Quoting ‘investment banking insiders’, Korean information website AllKpop studies that it’s possible that both Kakao Entertainment or CJ Entertainment – the manufacturing firm behind Korean blockbuster film Parasite – will swoop for the stake within the music firm.

Citing sources once more, AllKpop studies additional that CJ is Lee Soo Man’s most popular alternative and is presently trying just like the ‘strongest buyer candidate’.

If CJ and SM, had been to go into enterprise collectively, it wouldn’t mark the primary time that SM has labored with a titan of the movie world.

Sung Su Lee famous in his speech that again in 2010, SM Entertainment and Canadian movie maker James Cameron – who created field workplace smash Avatar – teamed up to create 3D content material.

“Despite being a music-based culture content company for over 20 years, SM has always understood the importance of incorporating the latest technologies of time such as IT and AI into our content and have been implementing such (technologies) for over 20 years.”

Sung Su Lee, SM Entertainment

“It was very ahead of time back then, but when producer James Cameron’s Avatar swept the world with its 3D content, SM had already finished the related R&D, which allowed us to establish a consortium with Samsung Electronics and [Cameron] to showcase Girls’ Generation’s 3D music video right away,” defined Sung Su Lee final week.

He added: “Despite being a music-based culture contents company for over 20 years, SM has always understood the importance of incorporating the latest technologies of time such as IT and AI into our contents and have been implementing such [technologies] for over 20 years.

“Now, in an era where IT, AI and contents cross boundaries and take place in companies and various contents, we, as a content company, would like to work with and support innovative, technology-based start-up companies.”


Elsewhere in his speech, Lee mentioned that the SMCU was created “through decades of accumulated killer content and IP expansion” and, that it is this “metaverse-styled future content that SM strives for”.

As an instance of IP growth, Lee launched the corporate’s ‘Remastering Project,’ which goals to increase the standard of SM’s authentic music movies in addition to re-mastering the corporate’s authentic tracks, which he says “are SM’s precious assets and the history of K-Pop”.

“When viewing the structure of K-POP from the perspective of a global trend called Metaverse in the post-COVID era, K-POP can be seen as a new form of cultural IP content never-before-seen in existing genres of music.”

Sung Su Lee

Continued Lee: “When viewing the structure of K-Pop from the perspective of a global trend called metaverse in the post-COVID era, K-Pop can be seen as a new form of cultural IP content never-before-seen in existing genres of music.

“This is SMCU as based off the worldview we are creating, and we will reach the next level by creating an expanding universe of metaverse-styled IP content that connects the various and independent IPs of artists, music, music videos, performances, etc. within SMCU to one another.”Music Business Worldwide

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