Reinventing The Deal

The lawsuit two members of Korean boy band TVXQ brought against their management company, SM Entertainment, has opened a whole can of worms regarding artist management.

In Korea, talent agencies typically recruit would-be stars at an early age and spend resources training them to sing, dance and make themselves desirable to as many people as possible.

But how much freedom should these charges expect in return?

Korean government officials embarked on a probe to find out if this traditional practice is unfair to the artists.

They found that many members of top pop groups are bound to their respective talent agencies for very long periods, during which they often have to report their whereabouts constantly to their managers and have no say in how their careers will progress.

Moreover, they have to sign contracts prohibiting them from pursuing new show business options after they leave their agencies.
The probe also found that problems between talent and agencies is more often found in the acting realm.

Singers typically sign up as teens and have no special knowledge about contracts nor any sense as to what the future will hold for them.

The agencies defend these practices by saying they spend lots of money and time grooming young singers to be stars, and that many of them do not become stars, thus becoming liabilities to the agencies.

Nevertheless, the officials didn’t buy it and have said they may propose laws that prohibit agencies from writing contracts that treat talent as chattel.

They point to Japan, which used to have a similar system but has since become more cognizant of talent’s rights.

Most contracts in Japan are for three years, whereas in Korea they can last for more than 10.