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The Truth About YG, Big Hit, & SM Media Play: Are They Really Doing Media Play or is It Just Marketing?

Fairlane is a devout Asian entertainment fan. On the side, she is a professional screenwriter and author.


Media Play has many names - drumbeating, PR, Marketing, Hype but for Asian, it has a negative connotation. It is the practice of manipulating the media to sway public opinion. In South Korea, it is more often used to hype the success of artists to make them appear more successful than they actually are.

The YG Media Play

Last year, a fan posted a collection of what may be an example of YG’s media play to make it appear as if Big Bang was more successful than DBSK and how YG uses the names of other groups to draw attention to their own artists.

One clear example is YG’s claims that Big Bang sold more tickets in their Japan concerts than DBSK but two pieces of evidence may prove the claim to be untrue: the number of tickets Big Bang supposed to have sold exceeds the capacity of the venue and photos of the actual shows that the topmost part of the venue was closed during Big Bang’s concert while it wasn’t on DBSK’s concerts.

There were also numerous headlines showing that YG constantly uses headlines that mention the names of other popular groups to draw attention to their own talents.

The photos and statistics the writer presented are solid but the question is how do we know for sure that these write ups came from YG and not the initiative of the media publication.

Screencap of the translation of the article about YG's media play which was written in Hanggul

Screencap of the translation of the article about YG's media play which was written in Hanggul

Where do Media Publications Get Their Stories

Media Relationship Department/Officer

In a formal media publication setting, journalists usually have “beats”. They are assigned to a certain section such as Police Beat, Entertainment, Government Agencies, etc. Almost every journalist, except those that are pursuing the entertainment beat, starts in the Police Beat. All these government agencies, entertainment companies, businesses and other entities that usually get covered by the news have a department or person dedicated to maintaining relationships with the media. Journalists keep in contact with this department or person so that when a news release is, well, released, they get it and can write about it.

When something like concert sales is reported, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from YG. It could have come from the concert venue because they have their own media relationship staff too.


It is very common for journalists to establish connections with insiders or people that are actually working in the companies or has close connections to the companies. This is the best source of “scoops” or a piece of information that no other media publication knows about. Usually, these are scandals. Dispatch’s “breaking news” of celebrities dating is a scoop.


In more political or in police settings, it’s common for journalists to have assets. These are people who, in one way or another, get to work closely with the entities that are constantly on the news.

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Industry Plants

For businesses, it’s common to have industry plants. These are people that seem like they are not connected to the companies but constantly disseminate information about the company. This allows the companies to deny praising themselves while still being able to disseminate the information they want to disseminate. This is utilized more often than people would expect.

How Do You Know Where The News is Coming From?

The easiest way is to ask the journalist the wrote the story. If it’s an asset or insider, they are less likely to name them since they wouldn’t want to jeopardize their relationship with these people. If it’s a news release from the company, they will most likely name them since that’s a public information.

Even if you don’t ask, however, there are tell tale signs if the story came from the company or other sources. If multiple publications publish the same story, it most likely came from the company.

A pattern is also usually a tell tale sign. If the same kind of story angle is constantly used, it talks of the same news strategy which means it must be constantly coming from one source.

As for YG’s Case

It wasn’t a secret that these are media releases from YG. That is how multiple publications published the story and are even consistent with the headline. All official releases from Japanese venues and market, including international publications such as Forbes, report that DBSK continues to dominate the Japanese market to this day. Yes, DBSK still outsells BTS in Japan.

Big Hit’s Case

There was a user created content that Koreaboo published about Big Hit’s supposed media play based on a story about BTS’ economic contribution. The story states that the headline is not consistent with the content of the story. The headline implies BTS’ economic contribution has already been proven while the content of the story states it is just an estimate.

The study was conducted by Hyundai Research Institute (not the same company as Hyundai Motors). More importantly, the user who questioned whether or not Big Hit is doing media play completely misinterpreted the story. There were two parts of the story. One is the impact BTS already made to the South Korea’s economy and the other a 10-year prediction.

The studies of Bank of Korea Economic Statistics System, International Trade Center’s data and World’s Top Exports report. Unless Big Hit funded the research, no link is established between these companies and Big Hit.

SM’s Media Play

SM is not known for neither mentioning names of other groups nor exaggerating their numbers but they are good in using big words and creative descriptions to cast a giant shadow. Even when a group is yet to debut, they manage to make them appear already successful and popular just by sheer elaborate teaser videos, constant teasers, appearances in TV shows, and concerts in Korea and abroad.

That is not surprising. The company have the money to invest on shows and concerts and connections to secure TV spots for their talents. And professionally speaking, that really isn’t media play. It’s just marketing which SM does very well.


Now that you know how media publications get their news and how to get a feel on where the news is coming from once it hits the headline, you can better decipher what you are reading. Just take note that websites like Koreaboo, AllKPop, and Soompi are good sources of Korean entertainment news in terms of providing a you breadcrumbs as to what is out there. However, it is always better to go to their sources to find the truth of the matter or get better details. These sources include TV networks, Korean publications and even international publications such as Forbes, Time, Newsweek, CNN, and others.

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