While the country is still arguing over how long the virtual beauty artist “Yu Yehee” will be popular, South Korea’s Metaverse girl group aespa has begun to sweep the year-end awards, and it deserves to be the hottest new girl group in the Korean market this year.
Different from general virtual idol groups, aespa focuses on the blending of virtual and real. Four real members from China, Japan and South Korea and four AI members based on 1:1 modeling of real members form the “eight-person female idol group”. , The songs, dances, and modeling since his debut are all very futuristic.
The women’s group was created by South Korea’s leading agency SM. Since its debut in November last year, there have been constant controversies related to it, and its popularity has remained high. In the recently released 2021 Apple Music South Korea annual chart, aespa’s “Next Level” and “Black Mamba” two songs on the chart, won the second and ninth results respectively, and won four at the 2021 MMA awards ceremony. Crown king. Even in Korea, where the idol industry is so developed, it is extremely rare for a newcomer who debuted for a year to achieve such good results.
So far, this may be the best practice result of “Metaverse idols” in the global market.
An analyst at Guotai Junan once compared: “If Metaverse is likened to a spaceship sailing to the future, then the virtual person is the first ticket.” There are not a few people at home and abroad trying to grab this ticket, and SM has already taken the lead. Relying on aespa to get on the clipper of Yuan Cosmos.
Decoding aespa and SM cultural universe
At the moment when the four and five generations of Korean women’s groups are fighting, the birth and explosion of aespa continues to break the traditional impression of fans and the market on women’s groups.
Aespa is the first female idol group launched by SM after Red Velvet in six years. It takes a long time to prepare and plan.However, as soon as he debuted, there was a round of negative controversy. Questions such as “breaking SM’s facial expression law” and “fuzzy staffing” have been constantly raised. The impression of groups on the public is very different.
Moreover, unlike the innocent, sexy, and girl crush styles commonly used by Korean girl groups, aespa’s genre, dance, and makeup are all focused on the “future sense of technology” that has rarely appeared before.
Below the straight shot video of the first album “Savage”, there is a popular repost: SM launched aespa to tell us that the era of idol singing and dancing has passed… In this fast era, uninterrupted visual stimulation and Auditory stimulation is the most important.
With its distinctive style and concept, aespa is like a pioneering experiment in SM exploring the form of future idols.
In order to complete this experiment, SM has built a worldview exclusively for this Metaverse girl group for aespa, and the continuous release of new works has always implemented the continuity of the narrative.
In the story of the two main songs “Black Mamba” and “Next Level” released by aespa, the 4 real members and their virtual characters (the real person’s name plus “ae” is the name of the AI member) are connected by “SYNK” , The virtual world in which ae is located is called FLAT, and the irregular and amorphous field at one end of FLAT is called KWANGYA (wilderness). One day, the villain Black Mamba wandering in KWANGYA intercepted the “SYNK” signal that the members communicated with ae. In order to find the signal and get a connection with ae, the aespa members decided to go to the wilderness to fight against Black Mamba.
“Savage”, launched in October, continues the story of the first two songs. A new avatar, nævis, appears as a contact and guide between the members and ae, assisting the members to travel through the virtual and real world. KWANGYA, this series of adventures unfolded.
The avatar nævis in the MV of “Savage”
SM has laid the groundwork for the world view of aespa in previous group operations. According to the analysis that UP’s main nine is a natural number, the circular channel connecting the virtual world and the real world in aespa’s “Savage” has appeared in Super M and EXO three tour VCRs. The term KWANGYA, where Black Mamba is located, also appeared in the NCT trailer.
It can also be seen that SM has been planning for a new type of idol group that breaks through the real and virtual boundaries for a long time, until the technology and public awareness are relatively mature, aespa finally came out at the end of last year, and it happened to usher in this year’s Metaverse.
According to SM’s financial report for the third quarter of this year, the eye-catching “turning around losses to profits” has nothing to do with the enthusiasm and rejuvenation of its subordinate groups, and the creation of the Metaverse concept.Consolidated financial sales in the first three quarters of this year reached 495.031 billion won, compared with 395.672 billion won in the same period last year; net profit in the first three quarters was 40.09 billion won, and net profit in the same period last year was 17.76 billion won.
Picture source @九是natural number video screenshot
With the support of the world view, SM’s greater ambition is to build a “SMCU (SM Cultural Universe)”, and in 2016, SM Chief Producer Li Xiuman proposed a CT (Culture Technology, Culture & Technology) operation strategy.
The CT strategy has evolved and developed and is roughly divided into three stages. The first is Culture Creation to create artists and content; the second is Culture Development that develops artists and content to the industrial stage; the third is Core resources and technology. The know-how is extended to Culture Expansion of other businesses. The technical application of AI members in aespa is the result of the third stage, and aespa is regarded as the starting point of SMCU by Li Xiuman.
In Li Xiuman’s vision, robots supported by big data will play an important role in the future entertainment market. In recent years, SM has also developed AI, AR, and VR technologies by means of acquisition and exploration. As early as 2013, Girls’ Generation had participated in holographic concerts. On top of this, SM also opened a special holographic concert venue. TVXQ, SHINee, and EXO have all participated in holographic musical performances. In addition, SM has also cooperated with SK, Intel, and JYP to explore multiple business models such as AI face and online concerts.
At a time when Korean idol groups are increasingly falling into the shackles of homogenization and the future of the Chinese idol industry is unclear, even if the name “Metaverse” is removed, SM has already taken a step forward in exploring the future of the integration of culture and technology.
Where is the local Metaverse idol?
The emergence of new technologies has created more and more new idols, and the definition of virtual idols in the market has gradually been subdivided:
- Virtual singer Luo Tianyi using sound library and vocal synthesis technology;
- Super-realistic digital humans such as AYAYI and Ling (Vhuman);
- Use technology to realize the standardized digital avatar of the digital twin (Avatar), such as SM’s aespa;
- There is also the use of facial motion capture technology to achieve the synchronization of the virtual image and the real person (person in the middle), such as the virtual girl group A-SOUL of Lehua Entertainment.
Returning to the development of local virtual idols, they have experienced the process of imitating overseas to localization, from the two-dimensional to pan-entertainment, and expanded various business models such as advertising, live broadcast, and e-commerce; Animation, game and other technology production companies are expanding to Internet companies, video platforms and traditional artist brokerage companies.
More and more capital and hot money are pouring in, but the Chinese market has not been able to usher in a Metaverse new star that can be accepted by the public like aespa.
In South Korea’s mature idol soil, the operators are able to use the popularity of real-life idols to drive the public to understand and explore the Metaverse concept behind them, and the virtual story line adds a unique and mysterious appeal to real-life idols. But in China, real idols are still trapped in the circle, and virtual idols are even more difficult to overcome “circle barriers.”
On the one hand, it is difficult to “enter the circle”. When the virtual girl group A-SOUL first entered station B, it was encountered by some V circle (the VTuber fan circle of the two-dimensional attribute) users resisting the live broadcast of members by means of barrages and screens. The main reason for worry is that Lehua Entertainment will bring internal entertainment’s rice circle gameplay to the V circle, destroying the atmosphere and cultural ecology.
A netizen summarizes the “really fragrant” process of A-SOUL (left)
On the other hand, “breaking the circle” is also difficult. After the debut of the virtual idol men’s team project “Infinite Kings” created by “Honor of Kings”, business resources such as big IP, brand endorsements, variety show appearances, etc. have been kept, but also because of the deep binding with the game, it is difficult for Infinite Kings to break through The gaming circle is moving towards independence.
Two-dimensional users are currently the core layer of virtual idol consumption, representing greater fit and stickiness; while the pan-entertainment layer means greater consumption power and a more commercialized model. The users of the entertainment industry coexist peacefully and merge into one, but the country has still not been able to find a suitable way.
It is precisely because it can only “enclose the land to spontaneously” and the ways of monetization are limited, a more complete business model has not run through. The current virtual idol is still based on live broadcast as the main profit model, occasionally accepting brand endorsements or attending offline events. However, according to Tou Leopard’s 2021 “China Virtual Idol User Insights”, users’ willingness to pay is still relatively low, and only 6.3% of the people are willing to spend more than 500 yuan for virtual idols.
According to the UBS report, the average initial investment cost of advanced virtual characters is 30 million yuan. For example, A-SOUL belongs to this category, and the later operation is also a large expense. The production cost of a single is about 200 yuan. Ten thousand yuan, the cost of an offline concert is about 20 million yuan.
Virtual idols are full of temptations, but also thorny. Japan and South Korea’s operating models and commercialization paths may provide some reference value for China.
South Korea’s aespa has practiced the development route of fusion of real idols and virtual images. Linking different media forms, expanding influence with an operating model suitable for the local entertainment ecology, and creating a sense of immersion and resonance with a coherent world view and story line are all operational methodology that is worthy of reference by domestic virtual idol players.
Japan also has a similar gameplay. Japan’s Jennis and ShowRoom launched two virtual idols, and the “people in the middle” behind them also made their debut. During the operation, they focused on the creation of multi-personality of real people. Based on this, explore the Internet era idols and There are many possibilities for fans to interact.
To create a future superstar in the digital world, both domestic and overseas markets have both doubts and expectations. Capital has overdrawn enthusiasm for the virtual world. However, how to solve the bottleneck of the commercialization of virtual idols and make the concept of Metaverse truly land requires more people to enter the game with rational thinking.
The domestic market is still waiting for the first person to really eat crabs.
Posted by:CoinYuppie，Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/how-to-popularize-virtual-people-in-the-metaverse-sm-has-turned-in-assignments-2/
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