To hundreds of thousands of K-pop followers, hello82 has been a vacation spot to observe their favourite idols take on viral challenges, play celebrity babysitter to kids, attempt karaoke in foreign languages and star in different ready-to-share movies. But previously yr, the corporate behind the multi-language YouTube channels has expanded its e-commerce choices to raised meet its’ viewers’ desires. The outcomes have led to success for the four-year-old firm on the Billboard charts and, as of final week, finishing their first “tour.”
When ATEEZ‘s first U.S. shows since 2019 kicked off in January for The Fellowship: Beginning of the End tour, the band was selling out arenas but had yet to break into the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 like many of their K-pop peers. While a relationship with Korean management label KQ Entertainment led to the channel’s top-watched video (an 11-minute prank of ATEEZ member San disguised as a break-dancing senior has over 32 million views), hello82 noticed a possibility to raised hook up with the band’s ATINY followers straight within the States.
With workplaces in Los Angeles, hello82 spent 2021 becoming a trusted hub for worldwide Ok-pop followers to buy bodily album imports, merch, and digital experiences like dwell occasions and artist-fan calls throughout the pandemic after COVID-19 issues pressured the corporate to increase into totally different choices. Physical-album distribution within the U.S. has helped Korean artists soar excessive on the Billboard albums chart (largely due to being issued in collectible deluxe packages, every with a regular set of things and randomized components). hello82 noticed how increasing their e-commerce channels might create a brand new enterprise alternative and concurrently ship the identical communitive side they seemed to develop with their video content material.
“We just wanted to go meet where the demand was with the supply,” says Sang H. Cho, co-founder of hello82’s dad or mum firm KAI Media and its present COO, from his Beverly Hills workplace. “We just felt like few K-pop groups are well represented and were getting the sort of recognition or credit they deserve when it comes to things like charts. Obviously, we’re a business that wants to make money, but we also understand the fans, their psychology, and their needs too. Having them getting involved and getting them to feel the sense of accomplishment and community. And we obviously knew the opportunity was there for all of us to achieve that together.”
What started in 2021 as distributing two ATEEZ albums from a digital storefront—September’s Zero: Fever Part.3, which peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard 200, adopted by December’s Zero: Fever Epilogue at No. 72—changed into bigger ambitions for ATEEZ’s The World EP.1: Movement album launched this previous July. Not solely was this ATEEZ’s first launch after reuniting with their ATINY followers throughout their early 2022 tour, but in addition ignited a brand new musical period for the group.
“We saw the potential to make it much, much bigger,” Cho says together with his staff trying to each conventional, big-box retailers alongside native, fan-driven pop-up shops to activate past the digital.
Chain malls have been more and more carrying extra Ok-pop content material, however virtually completely by these with label offers or illustration within the U.S. While RCA Records beneath Sony Music signed ATEEZ in 2019, the group had but to have its music out there in retail shops stateside. (RCA declined to remark by time of publication on its relationship with ATEEZ) With Cho’s background in retail finance, plus different inside relationships, hello82 rapidly made inroads.
“There are a couple of retailers that understand and know the K-pop market pretty well: Target is one, Barnes & Nobles is another, and we’ve worked with those two pretty extensively,” Cho says. “Those guys don’t necessarily buy from new suppliers very easily—especially when it comes to physical media, but we were lucky enough to know some people that could get us in front of these buyers fairly quickly in an official manner and make sure we check all the boxes to make sure we’re qualified for them.”
The transfer immediately linked hello82 and, lastly, an ATEEZ album into a few of the world’s greatest retail giants. The World EP.1: Movement was out there on-line and in Barnes & Noble shops, plus in on-line shops for Target, Walmart and FYE. “The margins are thin at these big-box retailers,” Cho says. “But they also give you a lot of coverage and you get a lot more fans who aren’t close to places like big cities so we’re happy about that.” There are hopes for upcoming ATEEZ initiatives to be in precise Target shops.
Yet maybe probably the most significant a part of their chart objectives was creating greater than a dozen pop-up shops throughout the nation straight alongside followers. With a hello82 rep at every retailer, native ATINY volunteered (some reaching out on social media earlier than the corporate might even make the decision for assist) after being vetted by the staff to assist work at their native places that have been adorned with photograph partitions, giveaways and customised merch.
“We knew that we could probably do a few pop-up stores on our own, but we really wanted to activate the fans and make them one of the stakeholders in the entire campaign,” Cho says of the 19 pop-up shops they held in hotspots like Chicago and Atlanta, but in addition in smaller cities like Yuma, Ariz. and Southfield, Mich. Utilizing cafes and present shops (some very acquainted to Ok-pop followers like NYC and LA’s LINE Friends shops that promote BTS‘ BT21 and TREASURE‘s TRUZ merchandise), followers might choose up their copy of The World EP.1, an unique field model ready by hello82, and join with different ATINY in particular person.
“Doing pop-ups has its own merits; it can be flexible in terms of locations, timing and all of that,” Cho displays. “I just feel like K-pop fans in certain areas now deserve a place that they can go to to hang out, not just access to all the products and albums. These fans like to just get together. And it’s not just K-pop fandom, I feel like it’s all most fandoms: I’m a big Philadelphia Eagles football fan and I would go to a sports bar just to hang out with other goofy MFers from Philly.”
The technique broke ATEEZ by means of with The World EP.1: Movement opening at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 (behind Beyoncé and Bad Bunny) with 50,000 equal album models earned within the week ending Aug. 4, with album gross sales comprising 47,000 of that whole, in response to Luminate. The set has earned 86,000 U.S. equal album models by means of Dec. 1.
The first week marked a large bounce from the opening gross sales of Fever Epilogue (which earned 16,000 models within the first week) and Fever Part.3 (13,000). Along with KAI Media co-founder and present CEO Jae Yoon Choi, Cho emphasizes ongoing dialogue with Billboard and Luminate to make sure “we’re doing everything by the book.”
“It’s the first time for us doing it this scale so obviously there were some hiccups but release week was actually pretty calm,” he recollects. “We kind of knew where we were gonna go, but you never know…when we were at the top of the charts, I mean, we were obviously ecstatic. Not just us, but with the fans that we got a lot of ‘thank-yous’ and ‘great jobs.’ Our community manager who talks to a lot of those guys directly also shared an almost tears-of-joy moment on release day, and then, ultimately, when the charts officially came out. So, it was exciting.”
The firm stored that power alive with pop-up shops all through the 11 dates within the North American leg of ATEEZ’s The Fellowship: Break the Wall tour, the group’s second tour in 2022 and most expansive run but. Each of seven cities on the trek, together with two that weren’t on the tour route, arrange store for at the very least two days every because the official pop-up for tour merchandise.
“After the successful album distribution, we are now distributing merch in association with their upcoming North American tour,” Cho explains. “We have always looked at ourselves as a bridge for management companies between South Korea and the U.S. market, where we can help them connect directly with their fans here and create a lasting fandom.”
Stores in LA and Oakland opened forward of ATEEZ’s Nov. 7 and eight exhibits on the Honda Center in Anaheim. Fans might seize new objects like jackets and T-shirts whereas taking part in actions like writing sticky be aware messages for ATEEZ.
By the tour’s closing cease in Toronto on Dec. 2, hello82 showcased what could also be their most seen venture but once they performed their “Project Star 117 – From ATINY to ATEEZ” video performed throughout the present with on-camera messages from followers and the sticky notes written by pop-up attendees. The band themselves watched with a heartfelt gaze and led to chief Hongjoong crouching down in tears. The official add video has greater than 50,000 views in beneath 5 days.
hello82 isn’t a devoted music-service firm, however they watch trade traits and client behaviors to contemplate new enterprise.
“The music industry is now sort of maturing into this real combination of on-demand, ubiquitous consumption of music, but also this very active and passionate sorts of fandom activities as well that drives a lot of commerce,” he provides. “I think all of these things have always been part of music business, but it’s coming back with the vengeance now and we’d like to partake in all of that. The K-pop audience, K-pop fans, they’re sort of at the forefront of all of these activities so, we see a bright financial future and our investors do as well.”
Cho notes that the ATEEZ methods have caught the curiosity of different artists and labels trying to affect America. However, the corporate is focused on companions who will have interaction closely with followers and “be a little bit experimental.” There are additionally hopes for the corporate to take the enterprise past North America and “hopefully, eventually expand out to other underserved markets around the world.”
While Cho and colleagues are straight discussing high-level plans with Team ATEEZ (“Credit goes to KQ for having the foresight and ATEEZ for being a great band—they were kind enough to give us the opportunity, and they were willing to risk a lot”), they’re additionally placing in work at hello82’s retail shops themselves.
“We make sure that everybody does a rotation,” Cho says. “The look and joy you see on fans’ faces—especially when you’re pulling the right photo card for them—that’s what makes our day.”