CFP: Culture and Commerce in the Asian Traditional, Modern and Contemporary Music Industries

Cultural studies print and online journal Situations: Cultural Studies in the Asian Context will be hosting an international conference  on December 12-13, 2014 in Seoul, South KoreaThe aim of this conference is not so much to critique the East Asian contemporary music industries as to empirically analyze them—in terms of their commercial strategies, their creative potential and their range of cultural expression.

Starting in the early 1980s, a variety of popular East Asian musical pop forms began to explore the possibility of breaking beyond their national borders in order to win for themselves new levels of international exposure and influence. Taking their cues from Cantopop and J-pop, these new East Asian popular music forms, drawing on such global trends as Europop and rhythm & blues, reggae and hip-hop, house and techno, soon won for themselves mass followings in North and South East Asia. More recently still, they have begun to reach out to new fan bases in the Middle East, North and South America and Eastern and Western Europe.

The result of this has been an increasingly homogenized set of youth styles and performances and unprecedented levels of profit, overseen by a relatively small network of musical management companies. For example, according to Billboard estimates, “the Korean music industry grossed nearly $3.4 billion in the first half of 2012 … a 27.8% increase from the same period last year.” What is more, these figures belie the actual sums of money being generated. According to CJ E&M, a major Seoul media company, “record sales account for about 40% of the major management companies’ revenue. The other 60% comes from having their stars appear on everything from energy-drink labels to soap operas.” These new pop forms now exist alongside an array of more traditional forms, some of which are also seeking out ways to make their presence felt in the more competitive capital-intensive contemporary pop market.

What is the cultural and commercial logic of these major musical entertainment industries? What can cultural theories say about contemporary celebrity and idol culture? What do we have to say about music and dance performance, cosmetic surgery and diet routines, scandal and gossip, as aspects of wider commercial and cultural management strategies? How have the major musical management companies succeeded in displacing other musical forms from the national imagination? What are the risks and rewards of an increasingly homogenized musical style? How can traditional (trot, enka, pansori) and alternative forms (jazz, blues, punk) best position themselves in a highly capitalized marketplace?

Possible topics of the conference include, but are NOT limited to:

  • The Financial Bases of the Major East Asian Entertainment Companies
  • The Evolution of Girl Groups and Boy Bands (Music, Dance, Image, Marketing)
  • Music Performance: TV, Youtube, Lap Top and Mobile Technology
  • K-Pop Songwriting as Commerce and Creativity
  • The Growing Eroticization of Dance Performance
  • Fads, Trends, Gossip, Scandals: The Making of Pop News
  • Fan Groups, Social Networking, Subcultures
  • J-Pop, K-Pop, Canto-Pop: Fads and Fashions
  • The Role of Impromptu Street and Live Performances
  • Jazz and Blues in the Contemporary Music Scene
  • Traditional and Alternative Musical Forms in a Highly Capitalized Market

Each presenter will offer a 20-minute presentation of a projected 6,000-word academic paper. That presenter will then be invited to take part in a formal question-and-answer session with other panelists and audience members.

Deadline: Abstracts (300 words maximum), full texts or other suitable material must be submitted via email to by August 15 2014.

Be advised that all accepted participants are expected to turn this initial presentation into a finished 6,000-word paper for possible inclusion in a future issue of our journal, Situations: Cultural Studies in the Asian Context. The deadline for completed papers is November 15 2014. Should you have any questions or require more information, please do not hesitate to contact the conference coordinators, at


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