Monkey Poo: The Kris Exo-dus

If you follow SM’s latest mega-member band, you’ve probably heard the news about EXO’s Kris wanting to break with his contract. Right now, there’s a lot of speculation out there and we’ll probably never know the truth but I’m hoping they will be able to work it out without dragging it out.  I think the biggest blow this news may have had is to the group’s fans as Kris was the leader of the EXO-M and the news came right on the heels of the group winning a major music award in China.

Yes, SM is a big entertainment company and I could see it running like a big machine but by being with SM, there are some comforts in knowing that they have the money and the resources to help promote the talent.  I’m not here to vilify either party simply because there are not that many facts to go on but wanted to share a few thoughts.

The group is fairly new and they’ve risen pretty quickly since their debut 2 years ago.  However, they’re a 12-member group. They have yet to write their own music, as far as I’m aware, so the only royalties the group makes is through the master rights. Music royalties are split between synch and master rights. Synch or synchronization rights are rights belonging to the writer and composer of the song. Master rights are rights belonging to anyone involved in the actual making of the track. That’s musicians, arrangers, administrators as well as the singers. Every single time the song is played, the song earns their royalty.

However, I noticed a difference between American and Korean standards when it comes to earning these royalties. You often hear a lot of popular songs on Korean TV than on American TV. So I have to think that the Korean broadcasters aren’t paying all that much (for example, $40,000 USD per track, every single time you hear it – yes, that’s how much it can cost sometimes) to license this type of music, if they’re paying anything at all. Think about that and think about all the way the royalties can be split and divide that by 12. Most idols make less than the average entry-level employee. So that’s why they aim to get on a variety show or drama to make extra income.

It’s not easy being an idol. Not only do you have to be there for your group but you’ve got to take on a 2nd, 3rd or even a 4th job. You have to constantly be promoting yourself. So perhaps Kris’ dissatisfaction extends from the fact that there were projects that he wanted to pursue but SM refused to let him.  On the other hand, perhaps the projects Kris wanted to do may not have been good opportunities for him and we don’t know what those reasons are.  It may even be that Kris, himself, doesn’t know.

As a full-service management company, SM’s got their own drama production house which could produce a lot of opportunities for their artist and because they are so big, some artists get more attention than others. Having said that, EXO is still new and they don’t have a long entertainment history since their debut. The thing I am surprised about is that most entertainment contracts have a confidentiality clause so it’s not clear why a) SM hasn’t beefed up that language over the years or b) why all this is being played out in front of the media. I think some of the discord may be heightened from the fact that it’s being played out in front of the fans and it doesn’t seem to be helping.

As an entertainment group, SM certainly has their hand in everything their talent does which may also include when the star is allowed to go outside. Perhaps that’s a safety issue as it’s not unusual for idols to have sasaeng fans waiting outside for them. As for Kris being suspected of contracting myocarditis, it’s a viral infection so it’s not clear where he may have contracted it but as far as I’m aware I don’t think there are other medical issues besides stress. And if being in the limelight isn’t stressful then I don’t what is.

While the members of EXO-M have spoken out (as well as a few EXO-K members) and came across as hurt, it appears there hasn’t been a clear-cut dialogue between the members. Perhaps Kris did not want to lay his burdens on the other members as the leader of the group and discuss it only with management. Kris also has to deal with adapting to a different culture on top of being away from his family so feeling alone is understandable. It seems the type of management that SM offers their talent might not be for him, which is fine, but let’s hope both parties work it out and get back to doing what they do best.


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