Top 10 K-Pop Entertainment Companies – Best of 2019

The Top 10 K-Pop Entertainment Companies in 2019

K-pop is still bigger than ever. It is growing every day not just in Asia but all around the world. Furthermore, K-pop Entertainment companies are reporting all-time high profits and pop groups are getting global exposure. Recently BTS performed on SNL which made them the first Korean musical performer on the show. Therefore, Korea’s main asset still continues to be K-Pop as K-Pop entertainment companies continue to find new talent. Most of these K-Pop companies/agencies are looking to expand outside of Korea and into other Asian markets as well as the United States. Some of the richest K-pop Idols started out as fans before pursuing their dream. People all over the world want K-Pop more than ever.  

K-pop is a blend of electronic, hip-hop, pop, rock, R&B, and even rap. Currently, K-pop is a $5 billion global industry. For those that are looking to find the latest news regarding K-Pop, here is our list of the top 10 K-Pop News Sites. For those looking to become a K-pop star or looking for some tips for K-pop auditions please check out our article here.  

The Battle for the Top Spot

Most of the Korean Entertainment companies are listed on KOSDAQ (SM EntertainmentYG EntertainmentJYP EntertainmentFNC Entertainment, and CUBE Entertainment). Both SM and YG Entertainment have been the two most dominant over the last decade. However, with all the K-pop scandals that YG faced in 2018, JYP and SM are now battling it out for the top spot. For this ranking we at Seoulz took into account four factors:

  • Talent roster
  • Market Capitalization
  • Future Potential
  • Social Media

This is our comprehensive list of the Best K-Pop Entertainment Companies in 2019

1.Big Hit Entertainment

Big Hit Entertainment

The success of Big Hit Entertainment is because of ONE group and one group only…BTS. In addition, BTS has been having one of the most successful runs of all time. Big Hit was just a small company and in 2007 they were on the brink of bankruptcy. But with BTS they were able to create one of the biggest boy groups of all time. BTS is a 7 member boy band and they have already sold millions of albums and their YouTube videos are some of the most-watched videos on Youtube. BTS was not an overnight sensation. They debuted in 2013. BTS stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan which translates to Bulletproof Boy Scouts. Now BTS stands for Beyond the Scene.

A Huge Boom to the Korean Economy

It is estimated that BTS added $3.8 billion to the Korean economy in 2018. This number could double in 2019. The band could generate $40 billion over the next decade for the South Korean economy.

They first came to the US in 2014. The group was living in LA and learning about western culture. They even played at LA K-Con. They have since collaborated with Nicki Minaj, Halsey, and Ed Sheeran.  In 2017 won billboard award for top social artists. Beating Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. In 2018 BTS partnered with UNICEF, Converse, Coca Cola, Puma, and Hyundai. Their stadium shows around the world quickly sold out. In 2019 they performed at Soldier Field and Metlife Stadium generating over $30 million in ticket sales.  

Their Love Yourself/Face Yourself Tour has generated over $100 million.

Top Social Media K-Pop Group

They are very connected to their loyal fans who are called Army. BTS used social media to make themselves available and visible. The Band had full control of their social media. They were able to show their fans what was going on backstage. BTS has only one band account. One account per platform. For example, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter.  Big Hit Entertainment has over 27 million subscribers on YouTube which goes to show their potential market cap once they have their IPO. Therefore, once they do they will crush all competition. This is why Bit Hit Entertainment is #1 in our rankings.

Netmarble Holds 26% of Big Hit Entertainment 

Netmarble, one of the biggest gaming companies in Korea bought 26% of Big Hit Entertainment back in 2018. The partnership was created to develop mobile games based on BTS. This year they released BTS World, which allows gamers to take on the role of BTS’s band manager. The game has already brought in over $3 million since its launch. Furthermore, Bit Hit Entertainment acquired Source Music a Korean agency that represents Gfriend and Korean music gaming startup Superb. This will further Big Hit Entertainment’s foray into the gaming industry. The acquisition will allow Big Hit Entertainment to create mobile games based on their bands.  

BTS will be on an extended break

BTS will be on an extended break to rest and relax. Big Hit Entertainment has not stated how long the break will last. This should give BTS time to recharge. The members already extended their contracts with Big Hit Entertainment for another 7 years.  

Artists:  BTS, TXT

Estimated Market Cap:  $1.9 Billion

YouTube Subscribers:  30.1 Million

Facebook Followers:  9.3 Million 

Twitter Followers:  11.7 Million

Instagram Followers:  21 Million

2.  JYP Entertainment

JYP Entertainment

JYP was founded in 1997 by J.Y. Park. The company has been known for making the careers of K-pop legends such as Wonder Girls, Rain, and Miss A just to name a few. Their YouTube channel has over 12 million subscribers. Their current hottest group TWICE has over 3.5 million followers on Twitter and Instagram combined. While the company has focused a lot on China, JYP focused a lot on Japan. TWICE broke all the records for K-pop girl groups in Japan. The loss of Suzy will hurt JYP, but what JYP does best to find talent from all around the world. They hold auditions all across Asia. JYP was not affected by the K-Pop sex scandal.  

Entering the Japanese Market

TWICE and GOT7 will continue to focus on Japan as both are gaining a lot of popularity there. But the company will look to support their 2019 projects Mix Nine and Stray Kids. They recently formed a partnership with The Orchard in hopes of expanding their reach outside of Korea. The Orchard is a part of Sony Music Entertainment. They are in charge of global digital and physical distribution. This will help JYP enter the U.S. and European markets in 2019.

Artists:  2PM, TWICE, GOT7, DAY6, 15&, Stray Kids, JJ Project, Jus2, 3Racha, ITZY, J.Y. Park, and Yubin.  

Estimated Market Cap:  $1.5 Billion

YouTube Subscribers:  14.3 Million

Facebook Followers:  2.4 Million

Twitter Followers:  3.7 Million

Instagram Followers:  3.4 Million

3.  SM Entertainment

SM Entertainment

They are now battling JYP for the 2nd spot. The company has focused a lot on the Chinese market in 2018. They will look to continue that in 2019. After getting investments from Alibaba and now Tencent, their popularity grew even more in China. If you check out their youtube channel they have over 19 million subscribers. Data shows that over 90% of the subscribers are not Korea. In addition, a vast majority are from China. Their strategic partnership with Tencent Music Entertainment will help SM Entertainment’s distribution and marketing in the Chinese music market. SM even has a Chinese boy band called WayV.

Breaking into the Chinese Market

China is one of the leaders in the music streaming space. Tencent Music Entertainment has close to 900 million monthly users across four of the top music service platforms in China. To put that into context, Spotify has just under 200 million monthly active users. Through the partnership, Tencent Music Entertainment will have access to SM’s entire music catalog.

SM’s music and video platform sales have grown close to 50% from last year. SM’s yearly YouTube views have reached just under 8 billion by the end of 2018. Their top female K-pop group at the moment is Red Velvet which is doing their first solo tour in the United States. Their top male K-pop group Super Junior is doing a tour around South America.

SM is planning to create an American version of Girl’s Generation as well as a European version of NCT.  

Corporate Restructuring at SM Entertainment 

SM did a major corporate restructuring due to pressure from shareholders. SM Entertainment had been acting more like a tech company rather than a music company. They have many subsidiary companies that create apps that help bridge communication between fans and artists. Their focus now will be on culture creation, culture expansion, and culture exportation. Therefore they will partner with their artists so their branding can be utilized in many different types of business not just music. SM Entertainment has already started to acquire modeling agencies and sports agencies to expand SM’s presence.  

Mega K-Pop Group coming in late 2019

The rumored Mega K-Pop group will consist of SHINee’s Taemin, EXO’s Kai and Baekhyun, plus NCT’s Taeyong, Mark, Ten, and Lucus. The reports are that the group will be a permanent group and not a collaboration project. They will not be leaving their original groups as their activities with their original groups will take precedence over this new group.  

Artists: S.E.S., TVXQ, Girl’s Generation, Super Junior, Shinee, f(x), EXO, Red Velvet, NCT, BoA, Kangta, J-Min, Sunday, Taemin, Dana, Amber, Taeyeon, Luna, Victoria, Lay, Yoona, Yuri, Key, Onew, Chen, U-Know, Sulli, Baekyun.

Estimated Market Cap:  $970 Million

YouTube Subscribers:  20.4 Million

Facebook Followers:  5.6 Million

Twitter Followers;  7.9 Million

Instagram Followers:  6.8 Million

4.  YG Entertainment

YG Entertainment

What a terrible year for YG Entertainment. Their biggest female K-pop star CL wants out of her contract. Then they are hit with the biggest sex scandal to ever hit Korea. We will get to that a little later. The K-pop entertainment companies have all suffered due to the scandal of Seungri.  

LVMH invested $80 into YG Entertainment and China’s social media giant Tencent and its related online ticketing company Weiying Technology agreed to invest $85 million into YG Entertainment in 2016. Weiying owns 8.2% of YG and Tencent owns 4.5%. They also got a huge partnership/investment from Naver, South Korea’s largest internet portal for around $90 million (9% equity stake).

Their current top group is Black Pink who are traveling across Asia in early 2019. They have also partnered with Universal Music Group’s representative label, Interscope. Winner will also look to start their U.S. tour in 2019.

The Seungri Scandal (Burning Sun Scandal)

However, the key to YG will be the comeback of Big Bang after most have now finished their military service. But is that possible with the Seungri scandal? Investors have already started to sell their shares of YG Entertainment and by the end of 2019, it is possible that Big Hit Entertainment will surpass them. Seungri is facing jail time after allegations of drug use and sexual assaults at the nightclub Burning Sun. He has already posted on Instagram that he is quitting show business.

YG Entertainment has a major PR problem they need to deal with. Big Bang is a major part of YG’s success. If they fail so will the company. They alone account for 40% of the companies total sales. B.I. of iKON was also involved in a drug scandal. Both B.I. and Seungri has since left their groups and have disappeared from public life.  

YG Founder Yang Hyun-suk steps down

Yang Hyun-suk the founder of YG Entertainment stepped down due to the many sex and drug scandals at YG. He is also being looked into allegations he provided sex services for foreign investors back in 2016. Furthermore, an investigation is being conducted into allegations of illegal gambling by Yang Hyun-suk.  

Their strategy for 2019 will probably be to focus on Blackpink’s comeback. However, Blackpink cannot replace Big Bang. This should be an interesting year.

Artists:  Jinusean, Sechs Kies, Big Bang, Akdong Musician, Winner, iKon, Blackpink, Treasure 13, Hi Suhyun, MOBB, Treasure, Magnum, Eun Ji-won, G-Dragon, T.O.P., Taeyang, D-Lite, CL, Dara, Lee Hi, Yoon, Mino, Jinu, Bobby, and Jennie.

Estimated Market Cap:  $640 Million

YouTube Subscribers:  4.9 Million 

Facebook Followers:  3.6 Million

Twitter Followers:  5.6 Million

Instagram Followers:  291,000

5.  FNC Entertainment

FNC Entertainment

For FNC Entertainment 2018 was terrible. 2017 was better. 2018 brought a lot of scandals with F.T. Island and AOA.  The company itself seems to lack leadership and it seems to have a lot of corruption and is one of the low trending K-pop entertainment companies.

In 2017 things ran much smoother. FNC started to focus more on dance. FNC has been known for cool/hipe bands like CNBLUE, SF9, and AOA who have all transitioned into more of a dance group.

TV vs Music

However, the biggest star for FNC Entertainment is not even a K-Pop star but the famous Yoo Jae Suk who they signed in 2017. That signing alone rose FNC’s stock prices by 30% raising the company’s value to close to $300 million. Therefore FNC relies more on their T.V. talent than singers. This might be a good strategy moving forward as they will not be able to compete with the Big 3 and for sure not Big Hit.

Veteran actors Lee Dong Gun will continue to help FNC as they look to split their talent base down the middle. SF9 is who FNC will focus the most on in 2019. They are looking to push them in Japan as well as Latin America. Their new female group Cherry Bullet will also debut in 2019. CNBLUE’s Jung Yong-hwa will leave the military in November of 2019 so a late CNBLUE comeback could be in the works.  

The Rise of Actor Jung Hae-in

Korean actor Jung Hae-in is the biggest rising star for FNC Entertainment. He was on the hit Korean drama “Something in the Rain”. He has the potential to add up to $20 million per year for FNC.  

Artists:  CNBLUE, FT Island, N. Flying, AOA, InnoVator, SF9, and Cherry Bullet.

Estimated Market Cap:  $120 million

YouTube Subscribers:  451,000

Facebook Followers:  661,000

Twitter Followers:  471,000 

Instagram Followers:  17,000

6.  Cube Entertainment

Cube Entertainment

Cube Entertainment has found great success with their new group PENTAGON. PENTAGON looked to take the place of B2ST who left Cube Entertainment. This was an attempt to revive Cube Entertainment who has not had a great 2016 and has seen their stocks suffer continual losses even into 2017-2018. Cube’s success depends on the continued success of BTOB (top digital sales 2018), the rise of PENTAGON, CLC‘s debut, and (G)IDLE taking that next step.

With the loss of 4 Minute and B2ST, it was crucial for PENTAGON and CLC to pick up the slack which they were unable to do. Losing BEAST was a crushing blow to Cube Entertainment. Add that to their failure to sign SISTAR and resign 4 Minute and many are wondering if Cube Entertainment can ever recover.

Many questioned whether Cube Entertainment can take girl groups to the next level. It was not wise to launch HyunA‘s solo career so closely with 4 Minutes debut. As all the attention went to HyunA, 4 Minute just got left behind. In fact, looking back on Cube Entertainment’s history you can say their only A list hit was BEAST. Maybe they should think about restructuring their business model in regards to managing their artists.

United Cube ONE Concert

Their 2019 United Cube ONE Concert was a huge hit as it offered their fans a mobile view of the concert on the CUBE TV Hangtime app. The concert had over 30 Cube artists and it allowed fans who couldn’t make the sold-out concert a chance to view the concert from a variety of cameras. This multi-view experience could set the standard for live video production for mobile devices. In addition, the CUBE TV Hangtime app can be downloaded for users to watch live and archived content anytime and anywhere from their mobile phones.

Artists:  BTOB, CLC, Pentagon, (G)IDLE, A Train to Autumn, Jo Kwon, Jang Hyun-seung, and Yoo Seon-ho

Estimated Market Cap:  $140 Million

YouTube Subscribers:  2.1 Million

Facebook Followers:  608,000

Twitter Followers:  1 Million

Instagram Followers:  293,000

7.  Woollim Entertainment

Woollim Entertainment

Woollim Entertainment merged with SM Entertainment through SM C&C in 2013. However, three years later the two companies officially separated. Woollim Entertainment now is an independent company. Their main artists include INFINITE and Lovelyz. However, INFINITE L announced he will be departing from Woollim Entertainment. Woollim Entertainment decided not to renew this contract. However, INFINITE’s disbandment is not being considered at all. Currently, members are serving in the Korean military.  

What can you expect in 2019? More of Golden Child? The main singer Choi Sung Yoon could be the next big K-Pop star in 2019. When they debut in August of 2017 with “DamDadi” there was a lot of buzz about them because of their youthfulness and high energy.

The big acquisition of Woollim was Takahashi Juri of Japanese idol group AKB48. She will debut in a new girl group under Woollim Entertainment in 2019. This could be their long term plan to break into the Japanese market. They are one of the major K-pop entertainment companies that are aggressively looking to enter Japan.    

Artists:  INFINITE, Lovelyz, JOO, Golden Child, Rocket Punch, Infinite F, Joo, Kim Sung-kyu, Nam Woo-hyun, Jang-Dong-woo.  

Estimated Market Cap:  $65 Million

YouTube Entertainment:  1.6 Million

Facebook Followers:  526,000

Twitter Followers:  411,000

Instagram Followers:  128,000

8.  Pledis Entertainment

Pledis Entertainment

Pledis Entertainment has had great success with their girl group After School over the past few years. However, many fans see After School as a one-hit-wonder because they have not made a lot of noise ever since “Because of You”. However, still to this day After School has a strong following in China and Japan and still ranks in the mid of Korean song charts.

Orange Caramel was a success in 2017 but has fizzled out. Pledis’s main group is SEVENTEEN followed by NU’EST. Those groups will be pushed hard in 2019. They both have the potential to have a big global impact. Raina will be focusing a lot on YouTube.

The Pledis YouTube channel has 850,000 subscribers. They have started to upload SEVENTEEN content on the Pledis channel in hopes of raising their subscriber numbers.  

Artists:  NU’EST, SEVENTEEN, Orange Caramel, Raina, Han Dong-geun, Bumzu, Kyulkyung, Yehana, Seungyeon, and After School.

Estimated Market Cap:  $45 million

YouTube Subscribers:  859,000

Facebook Followers:  225,000

Twitter Followers:  543,000

Instagram Followers:  2 Million

9.  Starship Entertainment

Starship Entertainment

FAVE  Entertainment was formerly known as LOEN Entertainment and their subsidiary Starship Entertainment has had much success with their 12-member girl group Cosmic Girls and of course IU who is one of the biggest stars in Korea at the moment.

IU is not only a musician but also a very successful actress. She is the driving force behind FAVE entertainment. Starship’s focus for 2019 will be to continue to look into the Chinese market and Cosmic Girls which consists of both Koreans and Chinese members is their best chance for it.  With SISTAR resigned and onboard, Starship will look to nurture their individual abilities for potential solo careers.

Male group MONSTA X partnered with Cosmic Girls to form a new unit called Y TEEN. Y TEEN consists of 7 MONSTA X members and 7 Cosmic Girls members for a total of 14 members. This is Starship’s plan to appeal more to young girls. MONSTA X was Starship’s top group in 2018. Comeback group WJSN will continue to push their comeback album as well as continue acting. Boyfriend, solo artists K.Will, Soyou, and Jeong Sewoon will perform in various ways such as broadcasting. They come in at 9 on our list of the top K-pop entertainment companies.  

Artists:  K.Will, Soyou, Jeong Sewoon, MONSTA X, and Cosmic Girls

Estimated Market Cap:  $20 million

YouTube Subscribers:  3.9 Million

Facebook Followers:  772,000 

Twitter Followers:  522,000

Instagram Followers:  398,000

10.  Top Media Entertainment

Top Media Entertainment

TOP Media is a South Korean company. They were founded by Shinhwa member Andy. He was in charge of handling the management of several artists. They usually work with LOEN Entertainment as the distributor of musical releases. They are considered one of the top up-and-coming K-pop Entertainment companies in Korea at the moment.

TOP Media’s biggest success in 2018 was TEEN TOP.  The group has five members: C.A.P, Chunji, Niel, Ricky, and Changjo. Originally they were a six-member group (with L.Joe, filing for contract termination in February 2017), Teen Top debuted with their first single album “Come into the World” way back in 2010. They are still going strong and look to take that momentum into 2019.

Artists:  TEEN TOP, 100%, UP10TION, Andy, and Eric

Estimated Market Cap: $10 million

YouTube Subscribers:  116,000

Facebook Followers:  79,000

Twitter Followers:  132,000

Instagram Followers:  10,000


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John

John is the Editor-in-Chief at Seoulz. He has covered the startup, tech & blockchain scene for media platforms Startup Radar and Seoul Space having written over 600 articles on Korea's blockchain and startup ecosystem. John has worked closely with The Ministry of SMEs and Startups as well as the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity. Email him at john@seoulz.com

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