EDITORIAL SM Entertainment & the Wasted Potential of WayV

Polaris_Tae

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SM ENTERTAINMENT & THE WASTED POTENTIAL OF WAYV
Written By: Polaris_Tae



WayV or 威神V (WēiShén V) is a Chinese idol group under the management of Label V, an SM Entertainment-established Chinese label that's solely responsible for the management of WayV. The group consists of seven members, Liu Yangyang, Xiaojun (Xiao Dejun), Hendery (Huang Guangheng), Qian Kun, Lucas (Huang Xuxi) Winwin (Dong Sicheng) & Ten (Li Yongqin) — of which the latter four debuted in the K-pop supergroup NCT. Initially, WayV was planned to be an NCT sub-group after SM Entertainment's failed collaboration within the Chinese industry in early 2016 — and the first hints of the group — with Wajijiwa Entertainment's C-pop group XNINE. That was formed following the conclusion of the survival show XFIRE in 2015 — which incidentally, WayV member Xiaojun participated in and was likely scouted from. However, following WayV's debut in China, SM has refused to (officially) confirm or deny the existence and connection of WayV in relation to the larger NCT group. In this article, I will examine whether WayV's association with NCT is a detriment or not, as well as SM Entertainment/Label V's management within the Chinese Entertainment industry and what they need to do to improve their management of the group within China to gain further popularity within the country.




WayV debuted on the 17th of January 2019 to much anticipation with the single-album "The Vision" and a Chinese remake of the NCT127 track, "Regular". Following their initial debut with "Regular" and their follow-up official debut with "Take Off" the group was consistently promoted across major variety platforms including "Happy Camp" & "Day Day Up" two of the most popular variety programs within mainland China along with an appearance as mentors on the Youku survival show "All For One" and a solo reality series "WayV's Dream Plan".

However, the group has faced two major hurdles when it comes to their popularity — or lack thereof — within China. The extreme lack of proper management within China by SM Entertainment (by the proxy of Label V) and the creation of Super M.

In late 2019, just before WayV's scheduled comeback with their 2nd mini-album, "Take Over The Moon", SM Entertainment in partnership with Capitol Records, a major American label, announced their intention to debut an international K-pop super-group, known as Super M. This group would be composed of members selected from a number of SM's groups — namely NCT's Mark & Taeyong, SHINee's Taemin, Exo's Baekhyun & Kai, with WayV's Ten & Lucas rounding out the group. This would effectively remove two of WayV's most popular members out of their main group just before their second major comeback to promote with a K-pop group, which is neither their main target demographic, nor their native language — therefore pulling them out of WayV just days after the release of their latest music video, "Moonwalk", effectively halting any chances the group had at receiving any opportunities as a full group. This, of course, included most year-end festivals that they were on the books to attend and most famously includes their withdrawal from the Tmall 11/11 Super Gala that the group was all but confirmed to be attending in November 2019. The group's latter half of 2019, aside from the small fan-meeting tour consisted basically of photoshoots and Yizhibo live streams when it should have been spent with schedules full of OST releases — for vocally talented members such as Xiaojun and Kun — brand events, singing competition shows like "The Treasured Voice" and Spring Festival Galas. The only festival they attended in 2019 was the Zhejiang New Years Eve festival. Festivals, in China, are of particular importance for group schedules as they are some of the only opportunities that groups get to promote together and showcase their abilities. For example, NEXT, who have not released anything as a group since October and have largely promoted as soloists in 2020, performed recently as a group at the 6/18 Supershow, which was their first group schedule since the Lunar New Year.

Throughout the initial debut of WayV, their main fans at the time consisted of NCTzens, essentially carry-over fans from other NCT units — mainly NCT127 due to Winwin's inclusion in both groups. This essentially acts as somewhat of a detriment to the group, as in order for the group to succeed in China, WayV must establish their fandom separate from NCT, which could likely be one of SM Ent's main reasons for distancing the group from both SM and NCT during late 2019. However, the inclusion of Lucas & Ten into Super M — which SM may have seen as a great opportunity at gaining the group fans of their own — has essentially set them back from establishing a solid base in China.




Another major issue that SM — and by extension Label V — consistently fail to understand, is the presence and culture of solo stans within the industry. Solo stans are a vital part of the C-pop industry. Where they are looked down upon in K-pop, Chinese solo stans essentially help to prop up the group through mass album sales and the promotion of the group their bias comes from, as the Chinese music industry somewhat promotes the culture of solo stans through the establishment of a solo career branching off from a C-pop group — see NEXT who spend most of their time promoting as solo acts and only reform as little as two times a year as a group to promote their latest release. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse, at the exact same time. Chinese solo stans are responsible for mass buying projects that in effect help to prop up the group, for example, the presence of fansites that are dedicated to group members within China and can be responsible for over 20% of a group's album sales. The Win Win Bar is probably the most well known WayV fanbase. At the same time, for members that are not prioritised by the company, their solo schedules can be few and far between and they will essentially be waiting out time until their group is next scheduled for a comeback — see OP's NEXT bias Ding Zeren who is now mainly a Douyin star and influencer rather than an entertainment personality, essentially waiting his time until NEXT finally comes back from Yuehua's dungeon despite being one of the group's most talented members.


Despite this, Label V seems to be managing WayV as if they were any other Kpop group rather than a relatively new C-pop group trying to break into an industry that has remained staunchly opposed to anything Korean related since at least 2016, declining most — if not all — of the solo activities offered to each of the members. Winwin, for example, was reportedly denied a role in the hit Chinese drama, "Meteor Garden" even though this could have likely given not just him, but the wider group a boost in popularity.




Another issue that particularly stands out is the fact that WayV does not live in China, but live and dorm in South Korea. This is likely due to SM not wanting to spend the time and resources establish a new base and studio for a group but based on past experiences in the company, they could be risking several members packing up and leaving the company à la the Ex-Exo revolt. However, if the group were to live and work out of China, opposed to having their base in South Korea — where the group essentially act as FIFO (fly in-fly out) workers, flying in and out of the country depending on their schedules — they would likely have broader access to the Chinese industry. This would avoid being held back by issues such as the country-wide shutdown of Chinese borders due to the coronavirus crisis as they would already be living and working in the country — Ten and Yangyang would not be banned from entering like they currently are due to the current pandemic, as the two are not Chinese citizens and thus cannot enter the country at the moment. This issue has in actuality, cut the group off from not just connections within the C-pop industry, but has also caused a number of their schedules to be abruptly cancelled. They were supposed to appear on "We Are Blazing", seemingly confirmed by Black Ace — a group that WayV grew close to while in China filming their variety show, "WayV's Dream Plan" — but possibly had their schedules cancelled likely because of SM & the Covid-19 pandemic. This has also had a very large impact on Lucas' ability to appear on "Keep Running", a Zhejiang TV variety show of which he is one of the main cast members. He has been unable to return to China for filming and likely will not appear on the show for an entire season


There is a belief in some fan circles that NCT20XX will bring wider popularity to WayV, when in actuality, the concept is essentially a pipe-dream. Where fans wish that they will become recognised as a part of the wider NCT super-group - essentially, fans want OT21 for the interactions and concrete confirmation of Xiaojun, Hendery & Yangyang being in the larger NCT super-group — however, I believe that, just like Super M, NCT 20XX will only cause more harm than good. There are over twenty members — if counting Xiaohenyang — as the group will have to sing in Korean, which none of the members is a native speaker of and that only the SM favourites like Taeyong, Ten, Mark, etc. will be substantially pushed which will thus relegate most of WayV to becoming background dancers for an entire promotion cycle yet again and removing them from their target market to promote in yet another K-pop group.




So how can Label V effectively establish WayV as a group in China? As of now, the most reasonable solution for WayV would be to separate Label V from the wider SM Entertainment system by essentially establishing it like a Chinese studio where the Korean branch of SM Entertainment does not interfere when it comes to the groups' individual Chinese schedules — similar to what Yuehua Entertainment has established through the Korean branch of their company where their Korean artists are signed to the Korean branch of the wider company and the larger Chinese company does not widely interfere in their schedules and is mainly responsible for allocating a budget and promoting their Korean schedules on SNS.

Label V would essentially only collaborate with SM Entertainment when producing the album for the group, but when it comes to scheduling appearances on shows and festivals, that responsibility would lie in the hands of the former. Though knowing SM, this will likely either never happen, or take years to accomplish. Despite the groups' poor management at the hands of Label V, I still hold high hopes for the group and wish them the best and hope they only continue to rise both as a group and individuals in the future.




PROOFREAD BY: @Dragon of the West
GRAPHICS BY: @AKID❀KI
 

Dragon of the West

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While I do love the fact that they're focusing on group promos, I understand that SM really needs to start figuring out how to give them solo promotions in China if they're going to succeed. They need to adjust to that market instead of continuously trying to promote them like they would with a K-pop group.
 

Polaris_Tae

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While I do love the fact that they're focusing on group promos, I understand that SM really needs to start figuring out how to give them solo promotions in China if they're going to succeed. They need to adjust to that market instead of continuously trying to promote them like they would with a K-pop group.

I agree with Dragon Sm needs to find a way to break Wayv in the Chinese Market in China.... Because if not what's the point just have them be a Korean Subunit then.

There are really only 3 ways for a group to break into the market as a group due to the way the Chinese music industry is set up rn
They can either:

1. Promote each member solo where the popularity will, in turn, affect the popularity of the group - this is the easiest option


2. Promote on a survival show like CHUANG2021 which I doubt SM would ever agree to do. The group could easily promote on a group survival like "We are Blazing" though, which would guarantee the group a short burst of popularity which is when if SM had any sense they would attempt to keep the popularity by sending them on solo schedules. - Hopefully, they get invited for Season two after missing out on participating in Season 1 bc of COVID-19

3. Be the TFBoys. - WayV aren't the TFBoys :okbye:


The only real group that consistently promotes together with some semblance of popularity above nugu tier as a group rn is SING女团 (listen to their music it's great). Honesty, group promos are a hard thing to focus on full-time in a soloist dominated industry that the Chinese market currently is.
 

anh

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it's interesting to see that sm has no clue what to do with wayv considering how super junior-m enjoyed a moderate level of success prior to their eternal hiatus?? disbandment??? regardless it's not like sm has never worked with a chinese unit before, although wayv itself has more autonomy as a separate group compared to suju-m.

i'm somewhat inclined to believe that sm rlly was intending on a chinese nct unit (nct 116, what a dream that was), but then thaad got in the way (despite how ridiculous it now sounds as an excuse) and wayv was established with no attachment to nct other than having nct members. there are a lot of things that are still in limbo like winwin's status in 127, will xiaohenyang officially join nct soon, will kun lucas ten and winwin join future nct promotions etc., that sm refuses to acknowledge, and it is frustrating to see.
 

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Thanks fo the article, Polaris, it was an interesting read!
I'm not 100% familiar with WayV so I had no idea the extent of all this, though I'm not surprised at how they've been handled.

Hearing SM reject opportunities, particularly for Winwin, is sad. I feel like he is truly wasting away. :sadpepe:
 
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Polaris_Tae

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I had no clue WayV was dorming in South Korea wow​

SM yet again :seungfail:ailing to establish WayV in China

Thanks fo the article, Polaris, it was an interesting read!
I'm not 100% familiar with WayV so I had no idea the extent of all this, though I'm not surprised at how they've been handled.

Hearing SM reject opportunities, particularly for Winwin, is sad. I feel like he is truly wasting away. :sadpepe:

Mayhaps I had an irrational hate boner for SM and their addition of WayV in Super M while writing this :Slime:

Winwin is a sad case. Hoping that once China opens back up they can get some more individual and group opportunities for the group again
 

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There are really only 3 ways for a group to break into the market as a group due to the way the Chinese music industry is set up rn
They can either:

1. Promote each member solo where the popularity will, in turn, affect the popularity of the group - this is the easiest option


2. Promote on a survival show like CHUANG2021 which I doubt SM would ever agree to do. The group could easily promote on a group survival like "We are Blazing" though, which would guarantee the group a short burst of popularity which is when if SM had any sense they would attempt to keep the popularity by sending them on solo schedules. - Hopefully, they get invited for Season two after missing out on participating in Season 1 bc of COVID-19

3. Be the TFBoys. - WayV aren't the TFBoys :okbye:


The only real group that consistently promotes together with some semblance of popularity above nugu tier as a group rn is SING女团 (listen to their music it's great). Honesty, group promos are a hard thing to focus on full-time in a soloist dominated industry that the Chinese market currently is.
Can't they just follow Lay around 😭