Seo Taiji Swag
Seo Taiji also employed business practices that are staples of current Korean agencies that promote K-pop. Cho notes, “Seo is the first Korean musician to become a cultural product himself. He created literally everything in regard to his music activities ― from music, fashion to image-making.”
While many argue about the lack of control K-pop artists have over their careers, Seo Taiji advocated early in his career for artistic freedom: “The group caused a stir when they fought for musicians' rights in Korea, suing their production company for holding a contract with them without their consent and fighting against infringements of copyright on their songs” (sianface, “Seo Taiji History”). He later founded Seo Taiji Company in 2001, which produces and manages other Korean artists and groups, (including, at one point, Nell) and administers Seo Taiji’s own music. The Seo Taiji Company also manages the ETPFEST (Eerie Taiji People Fest), a rock festival that has featured international rock artists.
In addition to management, Seo Taiji also recognized the value in marketing. Special packaging for unique releases can be seen in the limited edition of Seo Taiji Record of the 8th. Javabeans describes the release: “A monster 7-disc CD set with an additional two DVDs containing every song from his seven-album discography, all his music videos, unreleased footage, live clips, etc. . . . What I find cool about these copies is the care being taken to make it a special item — each copy from 1 to 15,000 will come with its own number, and the first 15 have been reserved for people at Seo Taiji’s company.” In 2012, Seo Taiji Company announced the release of limited copies of “Seo Taiji Record of the 8th ” DVD, which contained the album Atomos: Part Moai, behind-the-scene footage, press conferences and performances (Uni).
In addition to special packaging, Seo used other marketing strategies directed specifically toward fans. In 2012, Seo Taiji released the Taiji Brick, “a series of small plastic action figures that emphasized on distinctive characteristics of the singer.” The 1,000 sets sold out in 40 seconds, and represent the third such set released by the artist (hannacha). The Seo Taiji Company partnered with Shinhan Credit Card and KTF to offer the “Seo-taiji Card”: “Seo-taiji’s very own album jacket image will be used for the design of the credit card. There will be additional perks for opening a ‘Seo-taiji Card’ which include 40 free MP3 downloads from the music portal site run by ‘KTF Music’ and discounts at his on-line music shop ‘ETP Shop’” (POPSEOUL!).
Sometimes, such marketing efforts were criticized: “Seo Taiji was criticized by some music critics as using the limited edition album as a gimmick to earn money from old fame rather than trying to help revitalise the Korean music industry” (sianface, “Seo Taiji History”). However, the practice remains alive and well in the Korean music industry.
Such enterprises reflect Seo Taiji’s autonomy in the music industry. Sianface writes, “Seo Taiji set up a company called YOYO Entertainment, which established a system of management that had never previously been used on a mass scale. The system was that bands in the agency would manage themselves rather than relying on external management, as is traditional in the music industry worldwide” (“Seo Taiji History”).