SM Leisure is making music’s reply to Marvel’s universe


SM Leisure CEO Sung Su Lee doesn’t typically do interviews.

So when he does communicate publicly, it’s price listening very carefully to search out out what makes the wheels flip on the Ok-pop big he’s in control of, whose roster options stars like EXO, Women Era and Shinee.

Lee appeared as a keynote speaker at 2021 STARTUP:CON final week and shared some perception into SM’s imaginative and prescient for the way forward for Ok-pop.

He additionally introduced SM’s formidable purpose of eager to make Seoul, already the birthplace of Ok-Pop and Ok-culture, “the mecca of world tradition.”

The chief, who joined SM Leisure in 2005 as a part of the A&R workforce, argued in his speech that Ok-pop is “not only a style of music, however a style of content material”.

On the centre of SM’s content material technique is the SM Tradition Universe (SMCU), which, Lee defined, is a “future leisure universe that connects the world by way of tradition with none boundaries between actuality and digital actuality”.

SMCU is actually a character-led universe akin to cinematic universes like these created by comedian giants Marvel or D.C.

Explaining the idea round SMCU on the firm’s ‘SM Congress 2021’ again in June, Sung Su Lee mentioned that it “could be regarded as SM’s metaverse, inviting Ok-pop followers around the globe to understand our music and tales by way of varied platforms”.

He added in his speech final week that SMCU “is not going to solely embody our unique content material, but in addition [content] recreated by the followers”.

That is achieved particularly by way of the corporate’s ‘Pink Blood Challenge’, a fan engagement platform that helps what it calls ‘prosumers’ – SM followers who create their very own content material impressed by SM’s acts.


The origins of the SMCU, Sung Su Lee instructed the viewers final week, are rooted in SM founder and Government Producer Soo-Man Lee’s prediction of “the long run changing into a world of robots and celebrities, in addition to avatars”.

As such, mentioned Sung Su Lee, SM Leisure has “been making ready for the long run [i.e. virtual] content material period for many years”.

The corporate’s massive enlargement into the rising digital artist house, and its introduction of SMCU idea, arrived in October final 12 months with the launch of aespa – a ‘Metaverse Lady Group’ that includes 4 human members and 4 digital counterparts.

In line with Sung Su Lee, SMCU is a “huge digital world that begins with aespa’s storytelling”.

The identify “aespa” is a mix of ‘ae’ (initials for ‘avatar’ and ‘expertise’) and ‘side’, which, SM says, represents “the assembly of one other self and experiencing a brand new world”.

The group’s debut single Black Mamba, launched in November 2020, surpassed 21 million views inside its first 24 hours. And in Might this 12 months, SM launched Episode 1 of aespa’s big-budget cinematic comic-esque movie, additionally known as Black Mamba (see under).

Sung Su Lee defined that “the principle key phrase” of the corporate’s universe is ‘KWANGYA’, which he says “holds a symbolic which means because it encompasses each actual and digital worlds”.

“Ok-Pop followers name our relocated SM Headquarters in Seongsu-Dong and the Seoul Forest space KWANGYA,” he defined.

“It’s our purpose for ‘KWANGYA,’ an infinite digital universe, to develop because the idea of house that refers to our new location and turn into the landmark of SMCU.”



Sung Su Lee’s newest speech arrived a number of weeks after it was reported that 20% of SM Leisure is up on the market, together with over 18% of the shares owned by founder and govt producer Lee Soo Man.

Quoting ‘funding banking insiders’, Korean information web site AllKpop stories that it’s doubtless that both Kakao Leisure or CJ Leisure – the manufacturing firm behind Korean blockbuster film Parasite – will swoop for the stake within the music firm.

Citing sources once more, AllKpop stories additional that CJ is Lee Soo Man’s most well-liked alternative and is presently wanting just like the ‘strongest purchaser candidate’.

If CJ and SM, have been to enter enterprise collectively, it wouldn’t mark the primary time that SM has labored with a titan of the movie world.

Sung Su Lee famous in his speech that again in 2010, SM Leisure and Canadian movie maker James Cameron – who created field workplace smash Avatar – teamed as much as create 3D content material.

“Regardless of being a music-based tradition content material firm for over 20 years, SM has all the time understood the significance of incorporating the newest applied sciences of time akin to IT and AI into our content material and have been implementing such (applied sciences) for over 20 years.”

Sung Su Lee, SM Leisure

“It was very forward of time again then, however when producer James Cameron’s Avatar swept the world with its 3D content material, SM had already completed the associated R&D, which allowed us to ascertain a consortium with Samsung Electronics and [Cameron] to showcase Women’ Era’s 3D music video straight away,” defined Sung Su Lee final week.

He added: “Regardless of being a music-based tradition contents firm for over 20 years, SM has all the time understood the significance of incorporating the newest applied sciences of time akin to IT and AI into our contents and have been implementing such [technologies] for over 20 years.

“Now, in an period the place IT, AI and contents cross boundaries and happen in firms and varied contents, we, as a content material firm, wish to work with and help progressive, technology-based start-up firms.”


Elsewhere in his speech, Lee mentioned that the SMCU was created “by way of many years of accrued killer content material and IP enlargement” and, that it’s this “metaverse-styled future content material that SM strives for”.

For instance of IP enlargement, Lee launched the corporate’s ‘Remastering Challenge,’ which goals to spice up the standard of SM’s unique music movies in addition to re-mastering the corporate’s unique tracks, which he says “are SM’s treasured belongings and the historical past of Ok-Pop”.

“When viewing the construction of Ok-POP from the attitude of a world pattern known as Metaverse within the post-COVID period, Ok-POP could be seen as a brand new type of cultural IP content material never-before-seen in current genres of music.”

Sung Su Lee

Continued Lee: “When viewing the construction of Ok-Pop from the attitude of a world pattern known as metaverse within the post-COVID period, Ok-Pop could be seen as a brand new type of cultural IP content material never-before-seen in current genres of music.

“That is SMCU as based mostly off the worldview we’re creating, and we’ll attain the subsequent degree by creating an increasing universe of metaverse-styled IP content material that connects the varied and unbiased IPs of artists, music, music movies, performances, and so on. inside SMCU to at least one one other.”Music Enterprise Worldwide



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