Singers’ managers are often highly broad in skills, but being shrouded behind is their job.
In dramas or movies, managers are often being overrated, as such, there is a general bad perception on those who are into this profession. That said, a manager is the person who planned activities for artists, and worked diligently for the growth of the company.
Prior to its flotation, Cube Entertainment’s Vice President Noh HyunTae is one of them. He started his profession in SM entertainment and is one of those elite managers that produced outstanding artists. He is the mastermind behind 20 general managers, who manages artists, broadcasts, media promotions and various activities, with the aim to achieve 27 billion Won sales revenue for Cube this year.
Cube Entertainment houses 4minute, BEAST, G.NA, Kim Kiri and more, while subsidiary Cube DC includes Rain, Roh JiHoon etc. In the last year, Cube’s total sales revenue was recorded at 22.9 billion Won. This are the results reaped by 60 employees and their endless effort. We have met up with Vice President Noh HyunTae in Cube Cafe.
# BEAST’s vocals are their strongest point
OSEN (‘O’) – In truth, Cube Entertainment has been mentioned as one of the bigger agencies for some time now, how would you evaluate Cube’s phase?
Noh HyunTae (‘N’) – I think Cube is now a frog that has its legs all grown out now, and is capable to make that jump. Our preparations to leap are almost coming to an end.
O – Being able to jump is good. So, in your opinion, why is it necessary for a flotation?
N – From the perceptive of the company, we will invest in singers and employees, the environment will be more systematized, and we are anticipating that. We believe that he scale of promotions will be greater, and there will be more inflow of skillful human capital into the company. In particular, we think that overseas operations as a good opportunity for us to expand even further. The existing structure poses to be a limitation. We believe that with the listing, it would be easier for us to invest in human capital where we can obtain great ideas and better opportunities.
O – In fact, Cube made extreme progress in 2011, which allows itself to be one of the bigger agencies in 2012.
N – That’s true. With the sudden growth now, we also experienced some growing pain too. We will try to jump even further after the flotation.
O – What is the most important project this year?
N – There is no one person that is not important. But if I have to choose, it would be BTOB. (laughs) BTOB needs much growth. BEAST and 4minute needs to maintain their top position. We are also in midst of preparations to launch a new rookie girl group soon.
O - Honestly, BTOB’s early grades aren’t that good.
N – We feel that it’s because they weren’t able to meet a good timing, that’s the reason why. The industry was saturated and there are many (groups with the) same concept. It’s not easy to differentiate themselves and to show their real talents, so it was really hard. Therefore, time is needed. Their last promotions, ‘Beep Beep’ has shown some direction. For sure, they will ace it if they were to make a comeback this summer!
O – Looking at it, BEAST was fast in settling their top spots. (laughs) It’s already their 6th year since debut, but yet they’re always popular. What is their secret?
N – There are many factors but the most important factor would be their vocals. Each member has different vocals. BEAST sings their parts individually, because they want to live up each of their unique vocals.
O – ‘No More’ and other similar ballad songs have done well.
N – That song was almost dumped. The manager-in-charge suddenly said it was a ‘stunning song’ and that was how things went. After listening to it, I felt it was good as well. Yong JunHyung left this song in the computer’s hard disk. The manager was the one who found it. I’ve then went forward to president to show him and that was how we gained approval.
O – Looking at the industry lately, BEAST is most likely the first boy group to be on top spots despite not coming from the Big 3.
N – That’s the essence, of course. BEAST members have always been amazing in their teamwork. There were many twists and turns even when they debut, which is why they treat their fans better.
# From an engineering student to a manager
O – You’ve graduated from a famous technology university, how did you become a manager?
N – I graduated as an IT engineer. That time, my sister’s senior in her school was an SM manager. I thought it was fun to enter into SM’s online business department, that was part of my major subject. I thought I would work as a person who sits in front of a computer, but they suddenly gave me a manager’s responsibility. I was tricked. (Laughs) I thought to myself to perhaps learn a little as a manager, but in the end, I became a manager continuously.
O – Didn’t you thought of just quitting?
N – When I was about to quit, a superior manager hyung suddenly passed away. That time, I was in charge of BoA and we have grown close, so it’s hard to just quit. Since young, I was an avid fan of music too. My father was a hotel reservation officer and always brought me to concerts. I’ve even taken a shot with Seo Taiji and the boys. (laughs)
O – When was the first time that you feel interesting as a manager?
N – When BoA was climbing onto her stairs to fame with ‘Number One’. BoA stood on stage to receive the MTV Asia Award in Singapore. I was a driver and a person who was in charge of everything, including working overnight, overseeing current issues, meetings. Although those were effort coming not only from me, but I felt proud that the stage turned out well. After that, Lee SooMan teacher-nim said that he had ‘met a real manager’. I still can’t forget that moment. Up till then, I was into the organization for 2~3 years. I view him as a director and someone who I work for. I thought of him as being a calm and distant person. But surprisingly, it was my first time knowing him as a warm person then.
O – When was it when you left SM Entertainment?
N – Around the end of 2005. Although I liked to stay in SM Entertainment, the marketing activities itself is really difficult. That’s when I left the company and start to work in advertisement company in Singapore.
O – But you have returned.
N – That’s true. (laughs) I think I’m addicted to this field. In 2009, I’ve joined Cube Entertainment.
O – You were highly influenced by SM’s direction and Cube Entertainment’s Hong SeungSong president was a representative from JYP Entertainment. That makes it a meeting between JYP and SM? (laughs)
N – President-nim is really a humane person. He’s a person who place strong focus on the importance of human capital. Employees and singers are all the same in his eyes. He’s a person who even received suggestions from employees. I think that’s by far the atmosphere in Cube Entertainment differs the most (from other companies). That’s how other agencies see us too.
O – 4minute and BEAST has been successful. Was it within your prediction?
N – It’s not that we predicted their success, but we just only work towards their success. It’s the same now too, but Cube now burns more midnight oil in the office. Everyone is a workaholic. When I was a bachelor, my normal off time would be 4 o’clock in the morning. On the next day, I would start work at 8AM to prepare documents for broadcast programs. But since I’m a newlywed now, I’ve restrained myself to work around 1AM. (laughs)
# Frustrates about the next 10 years of idol industry
O – What duties do you have to work such hardworking. (laughs) It must be hard to choose just one exact role of a manager’s responsibility.
N – Yes. Sometimes we’re like mothers, sometimes like fathers. We can be an Oppa or a Noona too. It’s like we have many roles in a family. We have to stand on their side during both triumphs and disasters. From the birth of artists to standing on stages, everything is your responsibility. We have to coordinate artists, staffs, composers, reporters, PDs and representatives from broadcast. (Noh HyunTae married Son JiWon PD who is in charge of KBS ‘Happy Together’) This is how I ‘raised my kids’, he continuously said.
O – Artists management is perhaps the hardest. (Laughs)
N - It’s really important to manage artists. We have to take in considerations of dorms, lessons, academic and even their personal lives.
O – Honestly, managers are often have the mindset that they’re big and scary people.
N – That’s the past. (Laughs) Managers now need to be creative. You can’t sell 100 million albums if you do nothing. The media industry is always changing everyday. The international response towards K-POP is changing at all times too. It’s our job to think of solutions for our next promotional activities.
O – What would be your biggest frustration?
N – Other senior agencies have brought up the KPOP wave. We have to think of the next step now. In order to stay relevant in the industry, we are always thinking of our 10-years strategy.
O – The idol industry has already become saturated. Looking at music charts alone, it felt like it has become mainstream..
N – Those are our concerns. Still, we look positively of singers in their 90s. If the music is good, it will be good to listen to it again. For now, although there are many idols now, when the situation calms down, those idols having great skills will have the spotlight.
O – What do you think is the motivation for that spotlight?
N - For me, I think colors of their music. We get a nostalgic feel when we listen to god, Fly to the Sky etc. We are watching closely on that.
O – Cube artists look like friendly people. They have the neighborhood Oppa or Dongsaeng vibe.
N – I think that’s the president-nim’s colors.
# If singers don’t get #1, we feel apologetic
O – How is the relationship between the company and its artists?
N – Come to think of it, our parents fight too, so it’s natural for us to fight too? Therefore, mediation is important. The members would always talk with the management. If without this bridge, small misunderstandings would become big too. Especially since president-nim wants everything to be open, even our accounting records are checked every three months. In truth, the company is responsible for their future, as they were with us even during schooling days. We feel that it’s our responsibility to be the key to open up their future.
Q – It doesn’t sound easy.
N – There were times that you’ll feel frustrated just playing the role of a shadow. We worked hard for artists and when things didn’t turn out well, we would feel disappointed and lonely too. (Laughs) But to think on the other hand, I’m a person who has difficulty in giving warm words to them. This is the dilemma of being a manager.
O – When was your first time feeling touched?
N – When 4minute won their first #1 award with ‘Muzik’. It was Cube’s very first award. All the sleepless nights paid off, and I cried a lot. It’s difficult when artists weren’t able to get #1. Above all, we felt apologetic. It’s like we have become criminals.
O - What was your most memorable moment?
N – Erm. It was really difficult during 4minute’s Volume Up’. I’ve started to grow even more sensitive for 4minute among other Cube artists. Perhaps it’s because they were our first artists. Even if they don’t do well for a while, it felt really bad within. I remembered not being able to enter their waiting room, and had to leave instead.
# Cube singers are always kind, so…
O – From the point view of the artist, it’s easy to put all the blame onto the agency. There were many cases like this.
N – Fortunately, Cube artists are always kind. I’m not just simply saying about it, it is true that they are kind. We do have comments as well. Everytime when album promotions end, we hear what they want to do and try to do our best to give it a try. We may give them more schedules like, dramas, variety shows but at times, proposals like an album or project has to be rejected. It’s hard doing just based on the management’s capability. Although we hope that their wish would come true, but the final outcome is important too. Every time that happens, we feel sorry, of course.
O – Who talks the most though? (Laughs)
N – G.NA and Hyuna talks a lot. Among BEAST, it’s either Kikwang or JunHyung. (Laughs)
O – Singers are stars, right? When they have ranked higher in terms of popularity, I think there would be conflicts with the management. Were there any moments where it’s hard to ‘control’?
N – That doesn’t happen. It’s their career, and ultimately the company has to respect that too. There were times when they would argue with department chiefs or team leaders (normally in late 20s with 5~7 years of experience). (Laughs) But the members and staffs are all kind person. We resolve those arguments with good food when we’re abroad.
O – How’s the daily life of a manager?
N – We would make 1~200 telephone calls a day.
O – That’s ridiculous. As reporters, we make frequent phone calls to, but a comparison is impossible. Even if we’re busy, the most we would have is like 100 calls a day. (laughs)
N – That’s true. That’s why I don’t make phone calls when I’m at home. I’m the the type that would talk a lot of nonsense, so the conversation period is always long. (Laughs)
O – If you were to choose the busiest moment?
N – It was during BEAST’s ‘Beautiful Night’. We prepared for broadcast in Gwanghwamun for SBS ‘Inkigayo’ comeback stage. It was really hot and we suffered some technical problems. So, we could only start at 11pm. We worked the whole day and coordination was needed. It was my first time having sweat all over. But of course, fans’ safety comes first. It was really hot and we fear that they might faint. So we personally bought them PatBingSoo (shaved ice) and cleaning work too. We were really busy. When that episode was aired at a later date, I was thrilled.
O – BEAST has relatively more younger fans, so you do have to consider them at all times.
N – During concert, there would be more fans than the one in Gwanghwamun. We stopped half way on their first concert. They had performed two songs, but we felt that we have to step in. We stopped the concert to ask fans to calm down. I was really anxious.
O – Do you look after fans’ responses too?
N – I read each and every comment. Then we work hard to reflect their thoughts. In particular, we seemed to have gained praises for BEAST’s comeback this time round, and it felt good. (Laughs)
# Singers are after all, their colors.
O - Up till now, how many trainees are there in Cube Entertainment?
N – Average around 20 persons. We will be debuting a girl group this year. It may be next year if we decide to postpone slightly later.
O – Have you established your strategy?
N – I think its their vocals and their song. I see vocal uniqueness as the most important aspect to gain loves from the public.
O – Oh yes, how is Rain doing now? It was a hot issue when he joined Cube.
N – He’s like any other singers in any agency. He’s friendlier because of his friendship with President-nim. Rain is in negotiations on drama productions, including upcoming dramas are being discussed. So, he’s being really careful on this. We have also talked a lot about his future plans.
O – So Cube is eyeing to achieve a 4 billion Won profit.
N – If our projects turn out well, it will be highly possible. We are heading towards 4 billion Won. (Laughs) Overseas revenue comes 4~5 months after the performance, so we see good trends in the next half year. Therefore, the second half year will have higher sales. BEAST’s income too will be received in that period too. If you look internally, Cube is really burning their fire for 24 straight hours. There are many possible prospect, but we will show the results soon enough.
O – What is your most anticipated moment this year?
N – There are many big projects. Overseas responses are good in particular. 4minute are receiving love calls from Europe and China. G.NA is currently learning Mandarin. There are long-term concert proposals coming in too. BTOB has already start to gain quite exceptional amount of love calls from Japan. That’s because they were active in overseas promotions since debut.
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