SM’s Spectrum Festival Shows Big Potential in Growing Asian EDM Scene

SM Spectrum | moonROK

By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Editor-in-Chief


Back in January, SM Entertainment founder Lee Soo Man pulled a Steve Jobs when he gave a 30 minute keynote address, outlining SM’s expansion strategy for the remainder of the year and reminding us why SM is Asia’s “leader in culture technology.” In that speech, Lee Soo Man announced three major upcoming projects by SM.

The first was the debut of NCT, a male idol group whose concept is a rotating lineup of members whose participation in the group is catered to location and performance style. He also announced “SM Station,” the music platform via which SM Entertainment would be releasing one new single and music video every week in attempt to combat the volatility of digital music charts and to allow SM artists to explore other genres of music.  Lastly, Lee Soo Man announced SM’s foray into the electronic dance music market by hosting EDM festivals “with the unique identity of Asia” in order to “make Seoul a hub of the world EDM music market.”

That last goal came to fruition this weekend when SM Entertainment hosted their inaugural Spectrum Dance Music Festival in Seoul. Despite inclement weather, thousands turned out in person and over 700,000 tuned in virtually via Naver V App’s live stream to see big-name DJs from all over the world and local acts alike perform at the massive venue set up at Nanji Han River Park. The lineup boasted a mix of well-known headliners like Kaskade, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, Far East Movement, and Galantis, along with Korea’s own domestic acts, including Glen Check, Apachi, XXX, and SM’s own Beatburger.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be an SM event without the inclusion of some Kpop, and this is where SM was exceptionally tactical. Normally, including Kpop idols in an EDM festival is kind of like including the cast of High School Musical in a Coachella lineup: yes, you might bring in some ticket revenue from younger fans, but you also lose street cred with the majority of the attendees who are real music fans. That being said, you may have noticed that over the past few months, SM artists like Amber, Luna, SHINee, Taeyeon, and BoA have been releasing a ton of EDM music. Over the past few months, SM has been building a catalog of dance music tracks by their artists in collaboration with international DJs that have come in very handy for this festival. The label’s new EDM repertoire conveniently allowed their artists to participate in the festival without feeling like a Kpop celebrity gimmick to get more fans through the door.

SM did a great job integrating their own artists into the festival both in their selection of artists and in the nature of their appearances. SHINee had their own headlining set on Day 1 of the festival, and the group received a huge turnout not just by SHINee fans, but by general festival attendees as well. The group performed their more EDM-oriented hits like “Lucifer,” “View,” and “Beautiful,” along with two new tracks — “Prism” and “Feel Good” — from their forthcoming album 1 of 1. Out of the full SM roster, SHINee was an appropriate choice because for the past few years their sound has been heavily electronic. The group didn’t seem out of place in an EDM festival lineup in the way that pop princesses Girls’ Generation or Kpop kings EXO would have.

The remainder of SM’s artists strategically participated in the festival in a way that kept with the EDM genre and did not distract from the main acts. Amber of f(x) made brief but impactful appearances at KSUKE and R3HAB’s sets, using the collaborations as an opportunity to draw in more fans without stealing the spotlight from the main acts. SM also hosted a collaboration stage which included f(x) members Luna and Amber, SHINee’s Key, NCT member Johnny, and TRAX’s Jungmo, a team that they dubbed “Dreamstation Crew” for the event. The crew performed covers of EDM hits like Desiigner’s “Panda” and David Guetta’s “Titanium,” along with their own dance track hits like “4 Walls,” “Wave,” plus a new SM Station single from Amber and Luna entitled “Heartbeat.”

SM’s ability to diplomatically include their own artists at the festival is a major reason why Spectrum shows such huge potential. SM artists already have massive star power across Asia; add that to the big name DJs coming in from all over the world, and you’ve got a winning combination when it comes to attracting Asian audiences.

More than their preexisting star power though, SM’s ability to tap into the $7.1 billion EDM market hinges on one crucial advantage: SM understands Asia. One of the biggest barriers that festivals like UMF and Electric Zoo have encountered when trying to bring their events across the Pacific, is that they do not have the sort of pre-existing infrastructure or understanding of strict government regulations that SM, who has been putting on mega-concerts in Asia for nearly 20 years, does. The festival was well organized with multiple entry and exit points, medical tents, food trucks, and beer was available just 10 yards away, no matter where you were standing. Not to mention the most polite and upbeat staff I have ever interacted with, a nice change from the usually disgruntled college kids who thought they were going to get free passes to the festival in exchange for their volunteer hours.

By all accounts SM’s inaugural Spectrum Dance Festival was a success, and now all they have to do to assert their position as a major EDM player, is to beat western festivals to the other Asian markets, namely China. SM’s extensive experience promoting their own artists and hosting concerts in other Asian countries should make that task a breeze. The Asian EDM market is currently valued at $950 million USD, a number which I’m sure was mentioned frequently as SM concocted the plan that Lee Soo Man outlined in his January speech. Yesterday, nine months after his announcement that SM would attempt to crack the electronic dance music market, Lee Soo Man smiled down from the VVIP section, watching his elaborate EDM business plan unfold as thousands of people jumped up and down to his artists and dance music’s finest.

All visual and audio media courtesy of SM Entertainment
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