Monkey Poo: Blocking Block B

Recently, a reader asked a question about Block B’s battles against their management company.  It’s a great question so I decided to address it in a more open forum here.  I’ve been aware of their struggles but haven’t really been following it very closely.  Frankly, Block B isn’t really a boy band I follow and I feel like the only instance in which they register on my radar is when a scandal pops up.  Though, it’s not the first time an idol or a young star has had problems of this nature.  However, I’ll just share my personal opinion on this particular situation from the tidbits I’ve gathered from the news outlets.

So the question(s) goes as follows:

Since you follow the K-entertainment industry, what do you think of this whole Block B vs. Stardom news? Do you think Block B, by insisting that they will not work with Stardom again is essentially going on strike until they get paid, and do you agree with them that Stardom threatening their individual projects is violating their right to work?

And I suppose my biggest question is: would the Block B members be able to find other work now? What did other stars with agency disputes do?

From what I could gather about Stardom Entertainment, it was started by Cho PD in 1998.  Since it’s inception, the company has gone through many changes which includes changing their name and rebranding the company a few times.  It discovered a few well-known artists like Ra. D and Dok2 but they’ve gone their separate ways since.  Last year, the company changed again when it decided to split and become what is now known as Stardom and Brand New Music.  The artists that went with Brand New Music are Phantom, Skull and Miss $ to name a few.  I feel like the only well-known group with Stardom is Evol and Block B.  I say well-known but they’re still kinda low on the idol totem pole.  Stardom has produced some stars but in my opinion doesn’t have the greatest track record.

It’s important to remember that the members of Block B are young.  When a young idol makes a contract with a company, oftentimes, it’s the parent who looks it over, if they even do look it over.  I don’t really have a reason to doubt that the necessary terms weren’t written into the contract but once it’s signed, they just have to put their trust in the company.

The members of Block B want to go their separate way but their contract states that they have an exclusive deal with them which is pretty typical of an entertainment deal.  Usually if you break the contract, a fine will need to be paid as compensation but I doubt Block B has garnered enough income to pay the fine if it reaches that point.

In terms of the company, it’s the idol who is the face of the company.  When a scandal breaks, it’s the company who helps them in front of the media and even supports them while they lay low.  So the group doesn’t make income but also the company doesn’t make income.  If an idol leaves, their obligations to the company is over.  So while it may sound nasty that the company is threatening the group’s individual activities, I can also see where the company is coming from as their success is based on the company’s reputation and past success.  It’s hard for outsiders to see past that especially if you’re a fan of the group.

As for the group, they’re arguing that since there is income in which the company has yet to pay to them, it’s the company who broke the terms of the contract first.  Unfortunately, there isn’t enough proof that the income of those promotions should have gone to the group.  I know, sounds crazy right?  But that’s how Korea’s entertainment industry works.  It depends on the event or promotion and what deals were worked out.  However, the court has said that there is some indication that the group is due some money but without failure to produce this proof it just becomes hearsay.  Currently, Block B wants to appeal the court’s decision but I really don’t see how feasible the appeal process will be.

I think at this point Stardom Entertainment just wants to be rid of this group so they’ll probably end up paying a compromised fee. It’s doesn’t appear that Stardom has enough power to block the group from individual promotions.  It’s not a big enough company like the Big 3 or even as established as some of the other labels.  Having said that, the Block B members still have an uphill battle in the entertainment industry.  People haven’t quite forgiven them for the Thailand incident.  For any chance at future success, I think it’d be good for each of the members to burn the Block B name from their history and reinvent their image.  If they’re talented enough, I don’t doubt that they should be able to survive this.

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15 thoughts on “Monkey Poo: Blocking Block B

  1. First, thank you so much for addressing this story.

    But I’m confused: why would you think Stardom would want to be rid of them? They could’ve negotiated a release earlier if that was the case. The group is talented, the Thailand situation was blown up out of proportion ( see the comments to this article horrified at the mistranslations and the bullying against Block b. But compare how Teen Top’s C.A.P. was crazy sexist re how he’d hit a daughter and lock her up while spoiling his son, and yet didn’t get ostracized or have suicide petitions to drive him to mental breakdown.) and certainly mishandled by Stardom who should’ve nipped it in the bud right then and there, and Block B has gone on to more success and an incredible comeback.

    Are Evol or that new rapper Stardom’s promoting as big a success as Block B? Stardom wants in on Block B’s success but apparently doesn’t want to do the work for it or pay for them properly for it. And here’s what’s really getting to me: the boys have a deep history with Stardom, they have worked with the company, and been through a rough patch with Stardom: would they not have worked this out if they didn’t have reason to be very very angry?

    Something went very wrong between Block B and Stardom, and since Stardom are the elders with the greater experience, the fault is more likely theirs, since they have the knowledge to catch it and correct it. Whether its feelings or money or both, Stardom needs to either let them go in peace or resolve it kindly so everyone can get back to work and living their lives.

    As for the court: it did say there was money owed so the least it could’ve done was order an accounting by a specific date, procedures and methods for work and pay in the meantime (again dates for procedures and methods to be set and implemented) and re-evaluation based on the accounting. If Stardom continued to be wishy-washy, then the court can find always say there’s no way to reconcile so cut the contract. From what I’m reading, the court hasn’t even tried but has just left it to the appellate court, and that’s wasting time, lives and resources.

    Finally, individual activities are individual activities. Block b may not work together, but they should be able to work separately. I’m confused here as well, because didn’t JYJ work while they were disputing their contract with SM?

    Thanks you again for raising this. I’d love to hear if anyone has more information.

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    • I think Stardom would want to be rid of them because Block B seems adamant about not working with Stardom again. Unless I’ve missed something. After spending money on this court case and because Block B is not yet willing to accept the court’s ruling, they’ll have to spend more. And again, this is just my opinion but wouldn’t it be easier to have a portion of that money go towards paying them off and the rest focused on their current trainees and artists? I suppose Block B could always be convinced to come back to Stardom but it seems more feasible to figuring a way out of this contract.

      As for Stardom’s other artists, I had said that they are low on the idol totem pole. In some ways they are a success because they are out there promoting. But that’s it. You’re right, though. The boys have a deep history with Stardom but that’s the ruthlessness of the entertainment business. It’s about capitalism and there are no allegiances went it comes to money. I know I sound very pessimistic but that’s why the fine print is there. It’s not there show favor but it’s there to show what both parties agreed to. Mind you, we’re all commenting on this situation without having seen the original contract the boys signed which won’t voluntarily be released to the public due to contract confidentiality clauses. Even in my line of work, I’ve seen some crazy clauses in contracts but people sign them. Fact is, it happens time and again because the company needs to make money so if they have the upperhand, they’ll take the upperhand. That’s how you survive. You can see it as taking advantage but a lot of the artists that we know started out that way until they wizened up on the legal aspect of the business. Once you become more established, you can negotiate for more things. However, like I’ve said, I don’t think Stardom has the greatest track record and this is just me reading up on their history and formulating an opinion.

      As for the court, it’s important to remember that they said there is an indication that the boys should be owed more money. But not enough proof was provided. Like you said, there are procedures and methods but not having seen the status of the accounts or the contracts I just can’t really say. I’m sure there is a small amount pf the cases in which either parties can reveal. And appellate court is still court. A lot civil cases get tried there and I can’t see a reason to bring it to a higher court. It just depends on how much Block B wants to push this.

      JYJ did work during the contract dispute with SM. However, they didn’t do it with SM’s blessing. Hence why they were banned from all the music programs. JYJ did a lot of promoting overseas due to the support they received from fans and I have to say they have a lot more fans than Block B. They certainly have a lot more history with the fans. That isn’t to say that SM tried to stop them whenever it could.

      In regards to the Thailand incident, yes some people did take it way out of proportion. But I still think they were disrespectful at the time. Since then, I think they’ve repented and made amends for what they’ve done but Koreans are all about the Hallyu wave so I guess they feel like Block B misrepresented all of Korea in a foreign country. Whatever, they’re still offended. They’re young and immature and I hope they’ve learned from that. Let’s move on. However, Block B is still pretty small on the idol scale. It wasn’t even a year when that Thailand scandal broke out. Then they went on hiatus for a long time afterwards.

      Finally, Teen Top’s CAP comment? First of all, I know who Teen Top is but have no idea who CAP is. So if I were to get mad at him for his comments I wouldn’t know who to get mad at because I have no idea what he looks like. They don’t really register on my idol radar so… His comments were misogynistic but a lot of traditional Koreans probably wouldn’t find anything wrong with that comment. I mean, he did receive backlash but I think that came from more liberal thinkers.

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      • Hi there! I was pointing out the inequity between the mistreatment over a misunderstanding and some immaturity from kids not quite adult, and the advocation of domestic abuse by another kid. And people who didnt know who Block B are were getting on the suicide petition train, so, even tho youre a reasonable person who wont overreact, there are a lot of bloodthirty mob-mentality types who will. So, it’s just downright unfair.

        As for Block B compared to JYJ, people who like Block B’s style (I personally only like Pierrot out of JYJ’s work while I’ve yet to turn off a Block B song) seem to know them all around the world. Blockbuster, their comeback album, was #10 on the world Billboard charts. So, taking JYj as an example, I really hope Block B members get to promote abroad as much as possible.

        And to refer back to Block B’s success: Stardom would probably want to keep them. The people for whom an extended lawsuit is expensive are the members themselves. That’s why it seems particularly irresponsible and inequitable of the judge to say stardom admits owing money but then not setting a schedule for a proper accounting. A business is a business: there should be records, tax payments, accounts etc that should prove what was paid and what wasn’t and, if not, some way of explaining this and negotiating a deal.

        And frankly, just because Block B doesn’t want to work with stardom doesn’t mean stardom won’t want to keep using Block B.

        In the end, based on the language in the press, this judge seems to have done a terrible job worthy of courtroom scenes in k-dramas!

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      • Unfortunately bloodthirsty mob mentality types will always exist. Is it fair? No. But there have been stars who have been treated to that barrage and survived. The point is that if the boys want to stay in the industry, they have to look for a way past this barrage. I honestly don’t think keeping the Block B name and image will be very helpful. And if they leave Stardom, I don’t think they can take that name with them anyways.

        And this is probably because we come from different perspective and experiences but I know people who know JYJ far more than they know Block B. Plus, you have to realize that JYJ has been on the scene far longer (especially since their DBSK days) than Block B so that’s why I say the fanbase is bigger. They had the time to cultivate that following.

        I have to disagree with you there on the judge’s ruling. I think it’s unfair to make an assessment on the ruling when the evidence hasn’t been presented for the public to view. There are so many things being said in Block B’s official statement but very little evidence that they’re offering. And of course, I don’t think they’re able to share everything but it makes it hard for me to make a judgement on the judge’s decision. If the judge showed gross negligence in his ruling, then I think Block B would have made a statement about the judge. However, all they say is that they don’t agree. Even if the funds from these events may and I strongly emphasize the word may was not properly taken care of, there is no indication that Stardom isn’t trying to rectify the situation. It’s just that Block B wants out but wants out by saying Stardom nullified their agreement first.

        And in terms of what I mean about Block B not wanting to work with Stardom, if push comes to shove something’s gotta give and at some point Stardom will have to let them go or fine them. It’s just that Block B can’t pay them so it’ll go back and forth until they work it out. I just don’t see Block B staying with Stardom so Stardom is gonna have to live with that, no? What are they going to do? Keep them locked in a room?

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      • No, I don’t think the evidence would be out in the open like that. I just think if money is the issue, then there should be an accounting and not a pass-the-buck to an appellate court.

        One point, though: Block B is unlikely to accuse the judge of gross negligence in their statement. The next level judges won’t like it and it would screw over their lawyers when next they had to appear before this judge.

        It may be that there’s proof of payment Stardom hasn’t shown Block B. but then that gets weird: if Stardom has proof it paid Block B, wouldn’t it have already closed down that argument with them, requiring them to use another angle for their court case?

        And you’re right: Block B cannot use their name and work as a group without an end to their contract with Stardom. But that doesn’t mean they can’t refer to Block B on their résumé, so to speak. E.g. B-bomb referring to himself from Block B in his own dance troupe, All Eyes On Me is arguably just giving his experience.

        I hope Stardom and the members come to an agreement soon that frees the members from the company and lets them move on with their lives and their chosen fields. But somehow, I don’t see Stardom letting go of their moneymakers that easily.

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      • Like I said confidentiality clause, but what makes you think there isn’t a record of accounts? I don’t think the statements that have been made are sufficient to show that the judges are negligent in how they came about to their decision. The judges can only go by what they are presented in court and if they made a ruling that is negligent, that’s a serious offense. That’s what I thought you were alluding to. I don’t think the judges are guilty of this but if they are I think Block B’s lawyers would bring that up right away. The next level of judges will have to be judged by the same scrutiny too. You can disagree with their ruling but I think calling them irresponsible in an entirely different ballgame. The fact is Stardom isn’t saying that they have paid Block B. They’re saying their contract with Block B hasn’t been nullified. For me, it’s hard for me to see what Block B could present to the court as evidence. Did they keep their own records? I just don’t know. I think rather, at least for Stardom, than it being about letting go of their moneymakers it’s about not setting a bad reputation for their future endeavors. If they admit they wronged Block B, they are openly acknowledging they made serious mistakes which is different from saying we made a small mistake and we’re fixing the problem.

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      • Um, as a lawyer, I would be seriously hesitant to call a judge negligent right away. I would simply say I was going to appeal the decision, which is what I gather Block B’s statement says (they say they will contest various statements, so that an appeal seems what they mean). (And they did provide evidence as they say in their statement in response to one claim about a contract not being submitted: it’s one of the few clear translations from both sides.)

        The reasons are: 1) it’s a harsh thing to say, especially when this person can affect your future clients, and 2) the next level judges will see such strong language as a threat to themselves. An appeal, on the other hand, keeps the next level in robes and bar association dinners. 😛

        I could be misunderstanding things here – and we certainly don’t have all the facts per confidentiality, plus we have to deal with translated statements – but again, if money is the issue, then get Stardom to do an accounting and prove it isn’t true. Don’t just say, “as [Stardom] is testifying that they will pay if they find out that there are missing payments that need to be paid, there is a high likelihood that they can pay any unpaid accounts.” That amounts to “Stardom says so, so we’ll leave it despite people coming to court over this.” No. Set actual dates and times for things to be done.

        For instance, in the agency where I work, if S and B have a money dispute, and S says,” okay, *if* I owe anything, I’ll pay it,” then the judge requires further investigation to make sure money is or is not owed, sets procedures if need be to see if money is owed, and, most importantly, requires compliance within a certain time-frame.

        Plus, these are all public rulings. Now, it could be that such further required actions are not public in S. Korea. And it could be the news agencies simply don’t report such details. Either way, it seems the only thing we know is that Block B members are continuing their dispute and will fight Stardom if it tries to interfere with them working individually.

        So, unless we hear they’ve negotiated a settlement (I really hope so), I don’t think we can expect anything from Block B for a long time.

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      • For clarification, I don’t think they should call the judge negligent. But correct me if I’m wrong, you were alluding that the judge was negligent. I don’t see anything in Block B’s statement or the statements made by the court which indicates the judge made an incorrect ruling. It’s just that Block B doesn’t agree. And I come from the perspective of working in entertainment law, so not that this comes up very often but if there was negligence on the judge’s part, you don’t want to sit on that. Or else, down the line they will be asking: 1) Why didn’t you bring this up sooner? 2) Were you just wasting the court’s time? Wrong is wrong and I don’t believe harshness has anything to do with that. And I did read some of the articles by Hankook Ilbo and Star News so I did compare it against the Korean/English translations. They were fine. But to determine if the contract is null and void, it has be more than just a money dispute. I mean, Block B is arguing many things against the company that they failed to provide including decent living quarters and adequate studio space. What else? The ruling has been made public but the details of the case have not. And I don’t think it will be made public for some time as there appears to be an appeal process. It’s bad management but legally management is required to follow what’s in the contract, no matter how minimal that may be. My point is it appears that Stardom has had a bad track record with previous artists but they may not be breaking the law in this current case. Just providing minimal support to Block B as per contract. And while they made a mistake regarding the payment schedule, the contract can’t be considered nullified for that reason alone especially since Stardom says they will promise to pay. Companies makes errors in payment schedule all the time which they later rectify. Now if Stardom doesn’t live up to that promise, then that’s another story. I doubt it because now that tidbit has been released to the public.

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  2. Yes, *I* do feel the judge was negligent in not at least ordering an accounting to establish the facts. But I doubt anyone will say “negligence” with regard to the judge, more the language of “ignored facts” or “failed to develop full record,” or “biased” when appealing.

    Sounds like you know a lot more facts from your extra reading. Which Block B’s claims against Stardom were reported, other than not being paid and inadequate housing and training?

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    • But it appears from my reading that the accounts were reviewed, hence my confusion here. According to the judge’s review, Stardom provided the documents and apparently the judge felt that what they provided was enough. Block B didn’t say anything else otherwise except they don’t agree. If Block B had more proof I think they would have provided it already but things can come out of the woodwork so we’ll see? The not being paid thing was at the top of their list. The education, housing and studio issue was mentioned as well. The agreement that wasn’t filed with the company in Japan but other than it wasn’t filed, I don’t have more information about that and what Stardom’s defense was for that. Those were the 3 big issues.

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      • Thing is, if there’s a possibility that there’s money left unpaid, *as Stardom says,* the judge needs to insist that’s figured out instead of leaving it just out there. Then, he can say, the minimum was done and you’re stuck with this or pay the penalty. And then, if Block B takes it further, it doesn’t seem so much like the buck (no pun intended) was just being passed.

        Anyway, at this point, without more information, we’re just left speculating and strategizing for all three sides: judge, Stardom and Block B. (And how I want to be there working on this case!)

        Thanks again for the post and the discussion.

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      • My point is that the judge should figure out the missing money sitch with an order for an accounting *before* deciding one way or another.

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