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The past few years saw Korean management companies trying their hand at international business, and as K-pop became a global sensation, they’re now quite used to it. As they grow bigger and take on more work, their accomplishments are spiraling upward. The news that HYBE subsidiary Big Hit America acquired Ithaca Holdings is a different story altogether. Before the news broke, not too many people would have expected a K-pop label to expand its business by buying out a US company. While it might be tempting to read this as BTS and other HYBE artists hanging out with Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, it’s best to look at the announcement more closely. Which companies have become a part of HYBE?

As the name suggests, Ithaca Holdings is a company that holds, or owns, other companies. More simply, it’s all of Scooter Braun’s businesses rolled into one. Braun’s name also carries weight in Korea as a manager within the K-pop sphere, as he represents PSY and CL in their American endeavors. The most notable item on his resumé is discovering Justin Bieber on YouTube, whom he still manages today, along with other famous artists including Ariana Grande, J Balvin, Demi Lovato and others. In the US, management companies represent artists’ business interests, handing contracts related to recording, distribution, publishing, performances and anything else on the business side. This is part and parcel of the extremely complex contractual relationship surrounding copyright and profit-sharing in the American music industry.
In Korea, management and label are typically indistinguishable from one another. In the big picture, Bieber and Grande are attached to Universal Music Group, but that’s divided by label into Def Jam, Republic and more, so it’s fair to ask whether those artists are with different companies. But they’re not: They both have recording contracts with Universal, just under different labels. And Scooter Braun’s management company, SB Projects, manages the contracts. Not surprisingly, SB Projects is Ithaca Holdings’ most important company. There’s Braun’s own recording company, Schoolboy Records, as well. Schoolboy Records, in collaboration with Usher and Def Jam, created RBMG Records specifically for Bieber’s debut. Schoolboy and RBMG, along with Def Jam, collectively constitute Bieber’s labels; real-world contracts are immensely complicated. There is another facet to Ithaca Holdings, too: Big Machine Label Group. Focusing on country music, it maintains contract with artists such as Sheryl Crow and Tim McGraw. While Braun’s business is centered around music management, it isn’t limited to it. It includes investment companies spread across such varied fields as film, TV show production, and even IT and games.

So then, what exactly are we looking at now? On the Korean side of things, HYBE has a number of K-pop labels, including the agency responsible for managing the world’s most popular boy band as well as various businesses and a platform that carries out various endeavors based on music. Now it’s acquired the company charged with the management of the two artists with the widest fanbases in the US, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Put all together, we’re witnessing the birth of the brand with the largest, most loyal fanbases in the world. Now’s not the time to make hasty predictions about what to expect or what might happen, though. It’s just good to understand what’s happened so far.
Article. Seongdeok Seo(Music Critic)
Photo Credit. sccoterbraun Instagram