Top 10 K-Pop Entertainment Companies in 2017

The Top 10 K-Pop Entertainment Companies

Korea’s main asset continues to be K-Pop as K-Pop entertainment companies continue to grow.  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.   People all over the world want K-Pop more than ever.

For this ranking, we at Startup Radar took into account their overall estimated sales as well as the artists that are involved in the company.  We also looked at the potential for growth not only in Korea but also across Asia as well as the west.  This is our comprehensive list of the Top 10 K-Pop Entertainment Companies in 2017.  

1. SM Entertainment 

Are you really surprised?  SM has been at the top of their game for years now.  SM Entertainment may not hold on to this spot for long as YG and JYP are really starting to catch up.  This is why their expansion into other markets will be crucial in 2018.  But one thing SM can do well is adapt.  They will able to go from Super Junior to EXO with even missing a beat.

To be honest, SM were the trendsetters.  They were the ones that really broke into the Chinese market first.  EXO has a lot of Chinese members.  In 2016 even a big corporation like Alibaba invested $30 million into SM Entertainment.  This was done to help the digital music industry in China.   SM Entertainment might have gotten some bad press with their K-Pop training centers.  However, this kind of hard work amongst their talent is what revolutionized the K-Pop industry.

This is why when groups like SNSD (Girl’s Generation) and f(x) are so well polished when they debut.  In 2017 they even built a ‘K-Pop International School’ at Gangnam, Seoul.  This shows that SM is constantly looking for international talent.

The origins of SM Entertainments success can be found with H.O.T. back in 1996 followed by S.E.S. in 1997.  Their biggest star now is clearly BoA.

Most of their K-Pop stars don’t just do music, they are also active in roles on T.V. and film.  In 2016 Red Velvet which focused more on a slower R&B sound which was different from other K-Pop groups.  So SM knows how to adapt and pivot which is crucial in setting trends.  They are also looking in AI technology and are working with the Korea Creative Content Agency to create AI idol stars that fans can chat with on Kakao.

SM Entertainment lost their partnership with Genie Music in 2017, but the good news is their partnership with SK Telecom in July of 2017.

The biggest loss might have been Seohyun of Girl Generation who SM in 2017.

SM Entertainment’s YouTube channel has over 12.3 million subscribers as of the end of 2017.   That is #1 in all of Asia. Over 90% of the subscribers are not Korean, showing the global power of SM Entertainment.

Artists: BoA, TVXQ, Super Junior, Girls Generation, SHINee, f(x), Red Velvet, Kim Ryeowook, Taemin, Jonghyun, NCT, and EXO

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $1.2 billion

2. YG Entertainment 

YG Entertainment has probably the two biggest potential K-Pop stars that can transition into the United States in G-Dragon and CL.  This is why YG has the potential more than JYP to overtake SM in the future, the U.S. market is a market that has not fully been tapped into just yet for K-Pop.

Psy proved that the potential for huge growth is there in the United States.  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%.  So not only do they have potential int he U.S. market but also China as well.  They also got a huge partnership/investment from Naver, South Korea’s largest internet portal for around $90 million (9% equity stake).

 CL will really be the key to their plans for U.S. expansion.  Since 2NE1 one of the biggest K-pop groups in Korea disbanded in late 2016, everyone knows CL was going to be a star.   YG’s signing of CL back in 2016 was one of the smartest moves the company has made.

YG is not only known for creating K-Pop start but also models and actress for film and T.V. However Goo Hye Sun’s contract with YG entertainment has come to an end in 2017.  In 2017 YG Entertainment has even established a label specifically for drama and content production called YG Studio Plex following in the footsteps of SM Entertainment who established its drama and content production label SM C&C in 2012.

Some of the members of their biggest group Big Bang were doing their military service in 2017 so others had to step up like Black Pink.  Also, the T.O.P. scandal didn’t help YG Entertainment in regards to PR.  In 2017, YG Entertainment started to focus more on Japan rather than China because of the (THAAD) concerns.

In 2017 YG signed Sechskies however they have not done a great job of promoting them.  Hopefully in 2018 Sechskies will get the push that they deserve.  There are also talks of iKON and Black Pink making a huge comeback in early 2018.

Artists:  2NE1, BIG BANG, CL, WINNER, 1TYM, DJ Tukutz, G-Dragon, Daesung, T.O.P., Taeyang, Kang Seung-Yoon, Minzy, Dara, Psy, Sandara Park, Seungri,  Sechskies, Yang Hyun-Suk, Stony Skunk,  Akdong Musician, Katie Kim, Lee Hi, Epik High, Tablo, Taebin, Teddy Park, iKONG, and MOBB, and Black Pink.

2017 Estimated net worth:  $900.5 million

3.  JYP Entertainment 

JYP Entertainment had a HUGE 2016 and almost doubled the company’s yet worth.   Thanks mainly to the success of TWICE and miss A’s Suzy.  TWICE had not only a lot of success in Korea but also in Japan where they broke all the records for a K-Pop girl group.  Their newly release “Twiceagram” has also been an amazing success so far.

Suzy is but only having success as a musician but also as an actress.  She has stared in the SBS drama “While You Were Sleeping” which continues to make her a massive name which is why renewing her contract in 2017 was such a big deal.  GOT7 is still going strong heading into 2018.  But the loss of 2PM is really going to hurt in the short term.

JYP gives a lot of freedom to their K-Pop stars to do what they like as well as interact with their fanbase.

JYP also hold auditions all around the world to find the best talent.  In November JYPE stocks rose 5%, and that is probably due to the fact that they are about to debut three boy groups in 2018 and they will be promoted heavily in China.

Moving forward TWICE, Wonder Girls, Bae Ah Yeon, and Baek Yerin will be looked upon to carry the company. This marks the new beginning for JYP Entertainment.

Artists:  TWICE, G. Soul, DAY 6, Wonder Girls, 2AM, g.o.d., GOT7, Miss A, Suzy, Baek A Yeon, Min, Park Ji Min, Baek Yerin, Hye-lim, J J Project, Kim Tae Woo, Min, Sunye, Kichkhun, Park Jin-Young, Joon Park, Sunmi, Wang Fei Fei, Yubin, Jang Wooyoung, 15&, and Bernard Park

2017 Estimated Net worth:  $720.5 Million

4.  FNC Entertainment 

For FNC Entertainment 2016 was terrible.  2017 was better.  2016 brought a lot of scandals with F.T. Island (candlegate) and the investigation into FNC regarding stock manipulation.    Then there was the investigation into FNC Entertainment regarding suspicions of unfair profits made from stock manipulation.  FNC Entertainment has denied all allegations, however again the damage was done.  Their stock value dropped to an all-time low.

AOA also had scandals who were made fun of for their lack of knowledge in regards to Korean history figures.  Also, there was the Toyota incident where they had the companies logo blurred out in the music video.

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.

However, the biggest star for FNC Entertainment is not even a K-Pop start 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.

Also Veteran actor Lee Dong Gun has decided to renew his contract with FNC Entertainment! Also, FNC will be launching a new girl group in early 2018.  So things are starting to look up for FNC Entertainment!

Artists:  CNBLUE, FT Island, N. Flying, AOA, AOA Cream, Hong-gi, Yonghwa, Jimin, Choa, Jong-hyun, InnoVator, SF9, and Juniel.

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $298 Million

5.  Big Hit Entertainment 

The success of Big Hit Entertainment is because of ONE group.  BTS (Bangtan Boys) has been having one of the most successful runs of all time.  Big Hit was just a small company but with BTS they were able to create one of the biggest boy groups of all time.  BTS alone is said to have a Net worth of over $40 million.  Big Hit is different from the other “BIG 3” because they work with a few bands and put all their attention on them.

Big Hit Entertainment is also planning to file for an IPO in a year.  Hopefully in early 2019 with a pre-screening on (KRX) in June of 2018.  That is big news and goes to show that Big Hit might be able to compete with the Big 3 in the near future.

Big Hit Entertainment has garnered over 7.7 million subscribers on their official YouTube channel.

Artists:  BTS and Homme

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $85 Million

6.  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.

2016 was all about the comeback of INFINITE and has been a success up to this point.

2017 was all about INFINITE.  The main topic was whether they would resign with Woollim Entertainment.  The good news for Woollim was that they were able to sign INFINITE.  Now they can focus on having an amazing 2018.

What can you expect in 2018?  More of Golden Child.  The main singer Choi Sung Yoon could be the next big K-Pop star in 2018.  When they debut in August of 2017 with “DamDadi” there was a lot of buzz about them because of their youthfulness and high energy.

Artists:  INFINITE, Lovelyz, JOO, Golden Child, and Nell

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $68 million 

7. Pledis Entertainment 


Pledis Entertainment has had great success with their girl group After School.  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.

Their newest groups  Orange Caramel and UEE was a success in 2017.  The key loss is with Seventeen which has been a success with over 300,00 copies sold but are very expensive to maintain because they were a 13 member band.

Pristin had a successful debut in 2017, however, PRISTIN’s member Kyla will be taking a break from her promotions due to health reasons.  The group will have to go on without her in 2018.   Still, there is a lot of potential for Pristin heading into 2018.

Artists:  NU’EST, SEVENTEEN, Orange Caramel, UEE, Han Don Geun, Pristin, and After School.

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $54 Million

8.  FAVE 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 2018 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 on board, 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 Starships plan to appeal more to young girls.

Artists:  Cosmic Girls, Monsta X, Yoo Seung Woo, Hyorin, Soyou, K. Will, Mad Clown, Brother Su, Boyfriend, WJSN, JungGiGo, Lee Kwang Soo, Lee Dong Wook, Kim Bum, Kim Ji Won, Yoo Yeon Seok, Jo Yoon Hee, and SISTAR

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $39 Million

9.  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.  Cube’s success depended on PENTAGON‘s and CLC‘s debut and HyunA‘s comeback.

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 HyunA4 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.

On the bright side, Cube entertainment was signed by AdShare.  AdShare is a monetization service for music, film, television, and sports rights holders.  This could be a sign of new direction as Cube Entertainment recently hired ex-chairman of Yedang Entertainment Shin Dae Nam.  His knowledge in the media and entertainment fields could be a way for Cube to turn things around.

Artists:  PENTAGON, BTOB, CLC, Yook Sungjae, Yoon Doojoon, HyunA, Ga Yoon, G. NA, Jang Hyun Seung, and Lee Gikwang.

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $39 Million

10.  TOP Media 

K-Pop EntertainmentTOP 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 of 2017 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 2018.

Artists:  TEEN TOP, 100%, UP10TION, Andy, Niel

2017 Estimated Net Worth:  $25 million

John Yoon

John Yoon is the Editor in Chief at Startup Radar, Organizer for Startup Festival 2017, Head of Operations Korea at EOS Asia and the Global Marketing Director for Email = if you are interested in guest contributing and helping the Korean startup ecosystem. Wechat, Kakao, and Line user ID is jswy315


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