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K-Pop Superfans Flock to Los Angeles for KCON LA 2023

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K-Pop Superfans Flock to Los Angeles for KCON LA 2023

Thousands of K-Pop fans waited up in downtown Los Angeles hours before the doors opened, stretching for blocks in the hot sun for KCON LA 2023. K-Pop fans danced and traded homemade stickers, banners, bracelets, and photocards while wearing pleated skirts and platform shoes and carrying the transparent bags that have become stadium standards. Inside was their paradise: an IRL space where they could talk about their URL obsessions.

If anything, the 2023 LA KCON was a microcosm of K-pop’s overall impact on the music business.

From Friday to Sunday, an estimated 140,000 people from all over the world attended panels, premium meet-and-greets, interviews, dance breaks, concerts, and more at the Los Angeles Convention Centre and adjacent Crypto.com Arena.

Inside the convention centre, fans brandished light-sticks of their favourite groups, flaunted DIY shirts with simple, direct inscriptions like “I HEART MINGI,” gathered sticker books and K-beauty products and waited in line for tteokbokki.

According to Steve Chung, chief worldwide officer of organisers CJ ENM, KCON began 11 years ago in Irvine, California, gathering 10,000 people to its maiden celebration of Korean culture. It is now a global event taking place in several countries: KCON has already visited Thailand, Japan, and the United States in 2023.

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“In those (11) years, we’ve welcomed something like half a million people from all over the world,” he explains.

Panels on K-pop songwriting and cup sleeve creations were held in Los Angeles (K-pop fan gatherings are hosted at cafes on an idol’s birthday, anniversary, or other important date). On one stage, up-and-coming groups such as NMIXX led dance courses, while another stage allowed rookie groups to introduce themselves to a larger audience.

The Associated Press met with a wide range of fans during the weekend, including some who drove 12 hours straight from Utah, flew in from the United Kingdom, and were of various ages, genders, colours, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“The culture of inclusiveness is huge,” said Annya Holston, 40, of Florida, who discovered K-pop through her daughter. “Being here has allowed us to make so many new friends.”

Premium tickets were $500 per day and included access to a “Red Carpet” area where acts posed for photographs and answered two or three questions in a 30-minute window, as well as admission to the conference and concert. Fans may spend an extra $100 for “Hi-Touch” — a fast meet-and-greet in which fans and performers high-five — with one group of their choice. With fresh fears about the spread of COVID-19, “Hi-Touch” became “Hi-Wave” (exactly what it sounds like, much to the sorrow of a few fans wishing for that physical connection; others were content with the sheer proximity).

Those encounters provided as a nice reminder of a component of the music industry that K-pop understands incredibly well, and much better than most: fanbase is the most profitable and durable resource in this business.
On Friday, August 18, 2023, fans attend KCON at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

Peyton Tran, a 17-year-old dancer from Los Angeles, told AP at KCON, “It’s just cool to see how much people can support these businesses out here.”

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The music industry will encounter new issues in 2023, including what Mark Mulligan, a MIDiA Research music industry analyst, has dubbed the “fragmentation of fandom.”

New musicians face unprecedented competition as a result of algorithmic listening, which is a direct result of the streaming era.

Consider this: It is uncommon for a new act to ascend to the status of monolithic pop star — the ranks of Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Harry Styles, all of whom began performing prior to streaming — because listenership is hyper-specific.

In K-pop, where companies are typically fully integrated institutions — a record label and a talent agency rolled into one — and hyper-consumption is encouraged, business focuses on cultivating a community of superfans and inspiring those devoted listeners to advocate for their favourite artists, fueling a sense of participation that extends beyond their purchasing power. It doesn’t hurt that K-pop fans have a tendency to coordinate worldwide fan movements on their own and construct rituals and events, communicating through specialised fandom sites such as WeVerse and Vlive.

Niche does not imply small; rather, it signifies specialised. KCON is proof of this.

Fans saw K-pop groups and soloists from all “generations” perform at the concerts, which were held all three nights for the first time: Taemin from the second-generation boy band SHINee, Rain — the first K-pop idol to go international, and now a manager himself — fourth-generation boy bands ATEEZ and Stray Kids, and rookie groups like XG and ZEROBASEONE.

XG performed songs like the Kesha-inspired “TGIF,” with production greatly influenced by the current liquid drum-and-bass/U.K. garage movement in global pop music, a welcomed retro-futuristic sound from a group and convention with their sights set on the future.

Notably, these concerts prioritised K-pop girl groups, reflecting a recent shift in listenership. Boy bands were supposed to be more profitable in the past, but girl groups like IVE, ITZY, NMIXX, Kep1er, (G)I-DLE, and EVERGLOW proved that was outdated thinking in their spectacular KCON sets.

The “Dream Stage,” where a few dozen fans who auditioned to perform a dance with a K-pop group earlier in the day were brought out to do just that, was a particularly unique and powerful moment throughout the event.

On the second day of the convention, iHeartRadio’s KIIS-FM established a new, open-to-the-public “K-pop Village,” where K-pop fans could enjoy free performances by newer talents, such as LEO, who made his U.S. debut on the outdoor stage.

“2023 is similar to a crossover event.” “The last ten years have been about serving an endemic fanbase of people who already know and love K-pop,” Chung explains. “As evidenced by the iHeartMedia partnership, it’s really like a crossover moment where K-pop goes mainstream.”

Even Tropical Storm Hilary couldn’t keep the most ardent fans from queuing in the rain to watch their favourite performances on the convention’s last day. On the train the night before, the AP asked a K-pop fan from Massachusetts, known on YouTube as Toadcola, if he was worried about the weather. Not at all.

But if the weather cancelled his trip home, he reasoned that it wouldn’t be so bad because the idols might be stuck at the airport with him.

 

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Beatles To Get A Fab 4 Of Biopics, With A Movie Each For Paul, John, George And Ringo

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NEW YORK — The Beatles are receiving the big-screen biography treatment in not just one film but four, with each band member getting his spotlight – all directed by Sam Mendes.

For the first time, the Beatles, traditionally among the most stingy rights holders, are granting complete life and music rights to a film project. Sony Pictures revealed Monday a contract that may dwarf all previous music biopics, with the story of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr divided across four films.

The Mendes-conceived films are intended to be released theatrically in a unique manner, with the films coexisting or intersecting in theatres. Specific release plans will be communicated at a later date. Sony has set a release date of 2027.

beatles

Beatles To Get A Fab Four Of Biopics, With A Movie Each For Paul, John, George And Ringo

McCartney, Starr, and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison have all approved the initiative through the band’s Apple Corps. Ltd. Sony Music Publishing has rights to the majority of Beatles’ songs.

“I’m honoured to be telling the story of the greatest rock band of all time, and excited to challenge the notion of what constitutes a trip to the movies,” Mendes stated in an e-mail.

Each film will be told from the perspective of one of the Beatles.

“We intend this to be a uniquely thrilling and epic cinematic experience: four films, told from four different perspectives, which tell a single story about the most celebrated band of all time,” stated Pippa Harris, the film’s producer. “To have The Beatles’ and Apple Corps’ blessing to do this is an immense privilege.”

The Beatles’ most well-known film appearances were during their early career. From 1964 to 1970, they appeared in five films, including “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) and the animated “Yellow Submarine” (1968). They have, of course, been the subject of numerous documentaries, most recently Peter Jackson’s 2021 “The Beatles: Get Back.”

beatles

Beatles To Get A Fab Four Of Biopics, With A Movie Each For Paul, John, George And Ringo

The Beatles reunited in 2023 using artificial intelligence in the newly released song “Now and Then.” The track was made feasible by technology employed by Jackson on “Get Back,” it included a music video directed by the New Zealand director.

Attempts to dramatise the Beatles’ narrative have been intermittent and less effective. A 1979 biography titled “The Birth of the Beatles” was developed while Lennon was still alive, with the Beatles’ original drummer, Pete Best, serving as an adviser. The 1994 indie drama “Backbeat” followed Lennon’s connection with Stuart Sutcliffe before the Beatles became famous. Aaron Taylor-Johnson portrayed a teenage Lennon in the 2009 “Nowhere Boy” film.

However, music biopics have become a lucrative business in the last decade. Box-office successes like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Rocketman,” and “Elvis” have prompted Hollywood executives to seek the next jukebox blockbuster. Over Presidents Day weekend, “Bob Marley: One Love,” co-produced with the Marley estate, was the top-grossing film in theatres. A Michael Jackson biopic is currently under production.

beatles

Beatles To Get A Fab Four Of Biopics, With A Movie Each For Paul, John, George And Ringo

“Theatrical film events today must be culturally significant. “Sam’s daring, large-scale idea is that and more,” said Tom Rothman, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures’ Motion Picture Group.

The combination of Mendes’ crew “with the music and stories of four young men who changed the world, will rock audiences all over the globe,” Rothman added. “We are deeply grateful to all parties and look forward ourselves to breaking some rules with Sam’s uniquely artistic vision.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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Paul McCartney Reunited With Stolen Guitar ‘That Kicked Off Beatlemania’ After 50 Years

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McCartney

LONDON — Paul McCartney no longer weeps over his original bass guitar.

A five-year search by the instrument’s manufacturer, assisted by a husband-and-wife team of journalists, helped reunite The Beatles star with the distinctive violin-shaped 1961 electric Höfner, which went missing half a century ago and is estimated to be worth 10 million pounds ($12.6 million).

McCartney had urged Höfner to assist in the search for the missing instrument that helped launch Beatlemania around the cosmos, according to Scott Jones, a journalist who worked with Höfner CEO Nick Wass to locate it.

“Paul said to me, ‘Hey, because you’re from Höfner, couldn’t you help find my bass?'” Wass stated. “That’s what triggered the great hunt. Sitting there, knowing what the lost bass meant to Paul, I was resolved to unravel the puzzle.”

McCartney

Paul McCartney Reunited With Stolen Guitar ‘That Kicked Off Beatlemania’ After 50 Years

McCartney purchased the bass for approximately 30 pounds ($37) in 1961 while The Beatles were honing their skills during a period of residency in Hamburg, Germany. The instrument appeared on the Beatles’ first two LPs, including songs like “Love Me Do,” “Twist and Shout,” and “She Loves You.”

“Because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical,” McCartney once explained. “I got into it. And after I purchased it, I fell in love with it.”

It was rumoured to have been stolen while The Beatles made their final album, “Let It Be,” in 1969. But no one knew when it went missing.

What began as a lengthy and winding route for Wass to find the bass gained momentum when Jones unexpectedly joined the hunt after witnessing McCartney headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2022. At one point, the stage lights appeared to spotlight nothing except McCartney’s sunburst pattern on his bass, prompting Jones to wonder if it was the same instrument he had played in the early 1960s.

When he later searched the internet, he was surprised to discover that the original bass had been lost and that there had been a search.

“I was staggered, amazed,” Jones added. “I think we live in a world where The Beatles could do almost anything and it would get a lot of attention.”

Jones, his wife, journalists, and researcher Naomi contacted Wass to share the message more widely.

McCartney

Paul McCartney Reunited With Stolen Guitar ‘That Kicked Off Beatlemania’ After 50 Years

After hitting a dead end with a lead concerning a roadie for The Who, they revived The Lost Bass Project in September and were swamped with 600 emails containing the “little gems that led us to where we are today,” Jones explained.

One of those emails came from sound engineer Ian Horne, who had previously worked with McCartney’s band Wings and marked the first significant breakthrough in the search. Horne claimed the bass was stolen from the back of his truck one night in Notting Hill, London, in 1972.

The researchers released the new evidence on their website in October, adding that Horne claimed McCartney told him not to be concerned about the theft and that he continued to work for him for another six years.

“But I’ve carried the guilt all my life,” Horne explained.

After publishing that update, they received a bigger break when they were approached by someone who claimed their father had taken the bass. According to Jones, the man did not intend to steal McCartney’s guitar and became scared when he realised what he had.

The thief, who was not identified, eventually sold it to Ron Guest, the proprietor of the Admiral Blake tavern, for a few pounds and some drinks.

Word had already spread among his family as the Joneses began searching for Guest’s relatives. His daughter-in-law approached McCartney’s studio.

Cathy Guest stated that the ancient bass in her attic for years resembled the one they sought.

It had been passed down from Ron Guest to his oldest son, who died in a vehicle accident, and then to a younger son, Haydn Guest, who married Cathy and passed away in 2020.

The instrument was returned to McCartney in December, and it took around two months to authenticate it.

mccartney

Paul McCartney Reunited With Stolen Guitar ‘That Kicked Off Beatlemania’ After 50 Years

The project had planned to make an announcement, but they were overshadowed by Cathy Guest’s son, Ruaidhri Guest, a 21-year-old film student who posted images of the guitar on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday, writing: “I inherited this instrument, which has been restored to Paul McCartney. Share the news. He sent a message on Friday, stating the family had received numerous interview requests and would soon tell their story.

According to Jones, the estimated worth of the instrument is based on a Gibson acoustic guitar Kurt Cobain played on MTV Unplugged, which sold for $6 million (4.7 million pounds). However, it has lost nearly all its worth during the last 50 years.

“The thief couldn’t sell it,” Jones explained. “The Guest family never attempted to sell it.” It’s a red flag because the moment you step forward, someone will say, ‘That’s Paul McCartney’s guitar.'”

It is now McCartney’s again. His official website announced its comeback, writing, “Paul is incredibly grateful to all those involved.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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Rio De Janeiro Is Betting On Carnival For ‘Cooler’ Parties – And A Better Brazil

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Rio’s government made its largest investment yet in 2024’s Carnival. If it pays off, everyone benefits.

Rita de Cassia Oliveira takes a quick break to rearrange a display of multicoloured earrings before returning to serve a group of tourists. They are choosing dazzling shorts and glittering bikini tops for this year’s Carnival street festivities. During this time, Oliveira trades her typical swimwear products for Carnival clothes, and she expects February’s income to increase compared to previous months.

“It’s the best time of year for those who work on the streets,” she explains, setting up pots of glitter at her outdoor shop on a popular Copacabana street corner.

carnival

Rio De Janeiro Is Betting On Carnival For ‘Cooler’ Parties – And A Better Brazil

Shopping in Rio de Janeiro picks up in the weeks leading up to Carnival. The festivities draw many national and international tourists to see the world-famous parades and block parties. But it’s more than simply a good time for Brazil; it’s also a moneymaker. Tourists spend millions during Carnival, creating thousands of temporary jobs in the city.

Rio de Janeiro is expected to earn a record 5.3 billion reais (£846 million; $1.06 billion) from tourism-related activities in February this year. The state government has invested the highest in Carnival preparations and celebrations for 2024, totalling 62.5 million reais. The infusion of capital has resulted in a record number of jobs and strengthened infrastructure to support tourism, and it is expected to provide long-term socioeconomic changes to the city.

“For every one Brazilian real invested in tourism in Rio, it brings a three to fourfold return,” says Ronnie Costa, president of Rio’s tourism board Riotur. The Carnival investment is well-timed. Brazil welcomed record numbers of international tourists last year, bringing $6.9 billion (£5.5 billion) into the Brazilian economy, a 1.5% increase over the previous best income achieved in 2014 when Brazil hosted the World Cup. The country’s Tourism Plan aims to reach $8.1 billion (£6.4 billion) by 2027.

In Rio, the government has been spending on infrastructure, security, and mobility to attract visitors. This includes more flights into the city’s major international airport and enhanced police presence in tourist areas. This year, Rio will have more than 12,000 military police officers on duty during Carnival, a 5% increase from the previous year.

Officials hope this will help to counteract Rio’s reputation for violent crime. The National Confederation of Commerce (CNC) reported that this image cost the state 3.3 billion reais (£536 million; $660 million) in tourism in 2023.

“The city needs to enable decent infrastructure to receive all these tourists, so the City and Rio State are making investments to create a good, positive experience,” says CNC’s chief economist, Felipe Tavares.
Rio has also invested 40.5 million reais (£6.5 million; $8.1 million) in samba schools, the clubs that organise the city’s iconic parades. The schools open to the public several weeks before Christmas, allowing visitors to view and participate in singing music, and dancing rehearsals.

“When schools have more money, they may spend on equipment, costumes and floats. Tourists will notice something neater, tidier and more sophisticated; a cooler avenue and cooler parties; and a better day-to-day experience’, says Carlos Werneck, president of the tourism organisation Visit Rio.

carnival

Rio De Janeiro Is Betting On Carnival For ‘Cooler’ Parties – And A Better Brazil

In addition, they’ve committed tens of millions of reais to prolong Carnival celebrations beyond the statutory five-day period. The capital has already helped pay for the typical block parties on weekends soon after New Year’s and will support the street celebrations that continue in the weeks after the parades, providing tourists with a Carnival experience in Rio during the first quarter of the year.

Tourism officials from Riotur and Visit Rio say there may also be plans for a Carnival-style celebration in the middle of the year.

Many Rio locals rely on the celebrations and subsequent visitors for income. According to Costa, investments in 2024’s Carnival have created 50,000 jobs, most benefiting socially vulnerable populations from low-income districts. Samba schools employ hundreds of seamstresses, musicians, performers, and organisers.

Full-time employees in Brazil are often paid an additional month’s income at the end of the year, known as the “thirteenth salary”. According to Oliveira, a street vendor in Copacabana, Carnival earnings are the equivalent of this incentive and an opportunity to pay off obligations and save. Rio officially registered 15,000 street vendors to work during block celebrations and parades this year, up from 10,000 last year.

carnival

Rio De Janeiro Is Betting On Carnival For ‘Cooler’ Parties – And A Better Brazil

“Carnival represents an important source of extra income for independent street vendors to increase their revenue during this period,” says Bruno Guerra, director of popular parties at Dream Factory, an event and entertainment firm. “This extra money helps support their families and pay additional expenses, often playing a fundamental role in the financial stability of these independent street sellers.”

However, Tavares emphasises that it is not just about profit. “When we have such a large development in Carnival and tourism, we see significant social improvements in the region,” he said. “Rio is getting more professional in the Carnival and tourism sectors. More people in tourism speak English and Spanish.

You can see options in two or three languages. Rio’s entire city and economy are adjusting to become an international and national tourism destination.”

In February, São Paulo state is set to receive a record 16.2 billion reais (£2.6 billion; $3.25 billion) in tourism revenue, over three times that of Rio state. Tavares attributes this to the region’s vastness. “We are seeing destinations that were not traditional for Brazilian Carnival, such as the states of Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais and São Paulo growing a lot every year.”

This is a beautiful time for Rio’s street vendors, such as Oliviera. She states, “It’s like Christmas for us.”

SOURCE – (BBC)

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