Why Singapore Stock Broker-Turned-Entrepreneur Is Bullish On Asian Pop
Stock broker-turned-entrepreneur Alan Chan sets sights on investing in not just Kpop, but the "Asian pop" entertainment business
Mr Alan Chan, Founder and CEO of Alpha Entertainment
Singaporean Alan Chan had been a stock broker for over 20 years. When he was first introduced to K Pop by his daughter, coupled with the nudging of his Korean associates who mostly have their own entertainment companies, he decided to invest in something entirely different - the currently red-hot K Pop industry, and eventually became the founder and CEO of Alpha Entertainment, which launched the five-member girl group, SKarf.
We spoke to the entrepreneur on what it takes to make it in the highly competitive Kpop business, and though he may be relatively new in the industry, he knows that in order to survive in the long haul, he cannot simply just ride on the the Kpop trend, but to see it as part of something bigger from Asia.
"(The Kpop wave) will always be there like the J Pop and C Pop. It will tapper off from the peak. That is why we will never focus just on K Pop. We want to be more Asian Pop that includes J Pop, K Pop and C Pop," Alan explains, and this is perhaps why SKarf now consists of 5 members of different nationalities i.e. Singaporeans, Koreans and Japanese. The company undertakes a glocalization strategy of the band members in order to increase the group's ability to adapt faster and reach out to big Kpop markets like Japan.
Describe your risk appetite. Is it more risky to invest in the seemingly fickle entertainment industry or in stocks? How has your investment worked for you?
I have been a stock broker for more than 20 years and I know all about risks. To be able to enter into K Pop by a foreigner is itself an achievement. It will take time but we will see decent returns. Don't forget, we have the best training director and artistes manager in Korea working for us now. Together these two have trained and managed artistes like TVXQ, SNSD, SHINee, SJ, SJm, F(X) and Rain.
You've started Alpha Entertainment since 2010. How has been the journey like so far? What are the company's major milestones?
It is not easy to break into Korea whether it is the entertainment or any other industry. They are very closely knitted. So far it has been quite smooth. Different countries have different cultures and ways of doing things. You have to adapt. The major milestones in Korea I would say is the first Singaporean in K Pop and also first Singaporean to host any TV shows. Winning The Raising New Star 2012 within 3 months of launch is also a major achievement. And of course the latest appointment of SKarf by Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) as Global Ambassadors. All these are recognition of what we have done so far.
Recruitment, training, production, marketing/ promotion, distribution: What is Alpha Entertainment's focus and how does it balance all this?
We focus on casting, training and management. All other promotions will be taken care of by CJ, they are our Global Distributors. Experienced staff is not difficult to find in Korea. We have just setup a training school in Singapore and it is doing well. We will probably focus a little more time into it. Financials will always be the biggest issues. Just to launch a mini album can cost anything from US half a million and this is expensed off.
You have offices in Singapore, Korea and China. How has this helped you in expanding your business in Asia?
China is a huge market and it is near to HK, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Take for instance, the Luv Virus MV on Youtube has about 120,000 hits while in China's yinyuetai has about 1.05m hits. That is about 10 times. We are planning for a Chinese album next year. Surprisingly, SKarf has good following in South America as well.
What does it take for a Kpop group/ band to be successful?
It is a combination of everything and of course luck. With SKarf, our next group will be slightly easier. It is still a long way to where we want SKarf to be. It takes time but will come eventually.
What are the main revenue streams for a kpop band like SKarf?
Performances and endorsements.
SKarf first released a single, followed by a mini album this year. Was this intentional to minimize risk? Why not a full album?
It is not a practice in Korea. Even those from Hong Kong now realize this. It is better to have 2 to 4 mini albums followed by a full one.
How can SKarf stand out from the cookie clutter of Kpop bands?
It's in their concept and songs. It is back to the early days of K Pop. Too many female groups are going for the "sexy and aggressive" image. SKarf has to be different to stand out.
Other than SKarf, are there any other artistes under the group? Previously in another interview, you mentioned that there were plans to launch a girl group and a boy band every year. How has that worked out so far?
That was our plan and we still hold to that except that we need to make sure SKarf is where we want it to be, among the top. This will make the launch of other groups easier.
What do you think artistes of other genres or backgrounds could learn from their Kpop counterparts?
Must always work extremely hard and continue to train even after debut. Forget about sleep and freedom. You have now become a public asset and many youths look up to you for inspiration and belief. It is never a smooth passage, learn along the way and always remember your roots. There is no place for Prima Donnas.