FNC Music CEO Han Seung Ho is a singer-turned-producer. He started his music career with Jo Seung Mo in 90s and turned to a composer and producer after his singing activity discontinued. Having been a band member himself in school and having seen dance idol groups after a long time trainee for practice, he thought that a band could be possible to succeed too, just as the same as idol group if they practiced their instrument during trainee time. As a result, idol bands FTISLAND and CNBLUE have been born.
The difference between ‘Producer’ and ‘ CEO’ Han Sung Ho
While Lee Hongki (vocal of FTISLAND) has an appealing voice, Jung Yonghwa has modern feel and is good at singing groovy songs. Hence, while FTISLAND is focused on melodic music, CNBLUE is promoted as a trendy band.
In spite of recent trend of indie band wave in Korean music industry, the market for bands is not big enough. But CEO Han said,”There had been being a demand of band music since bands who performed in US army base in Korea and Shin Jung Hyun band but there was only a period of time back in the 90s.” Having confronted with the negative responses that band wouldn’t be successful, he just started with confidence with the thought that if he and his fellow staffs could be satisfied with music, people could be happy as well.
But being a producer of a band group was totally different from being a producer of a music album. He must be in charge of not only the music but also the group’s everyday routine and the promotion of the album. CEO Han said, “There was something in common between musician and album producer, that is, music. However as a musician, we got closer to each other. But after being a producer, we grew some distance,” as he explained that he used to be a friend to musicians but later becomes in position of leading them.
The “Shocking and Hurtful” CNBLUE’s controversial issue of plagiarism.“But now I can talk about it.”
After FTISLAND, CNBLUE made their major Korean debut in January 2010 and got into a controversial issue of plagiarism with their debut song, ‘I’m A Loner‘ which was claimed to be a copy of “Blue Bird”, a song by a Korean indie band, Ynot. Even though they have wiped off the allegation by winning the lawsuit, they were criticized due to their “band” identity by people asking, “Are you even a real band?”
” ‘A tall tree shall catch a lot of wind‘. That was the way I felt at that time. I thought that as a musician, we have something in common, that we understood each other, but there were extreme emotion and conflict between indie scene and major music industry. Besides, they were very stubborn in terms of music. It was such shock and hurtful to me. After being misunderstood, I became more careful and considerate. Even though I can’t listen to all the songs, I choose them carefully.”
Was that the price he had to pay to achieve a much greater success? Right after CNBLUE’s debut, they hit # 1 in each music program at once and became a big newcomer. Due to President Han’s firm rule that a band should debut after a lot of stage experience, they delayed their debut for one year and carried out indies stages in Japan instead. Since they had built up experiences by performing on live band stages in Japan, where band music is active, they sounded and looked experienced right from the beginning of their Korean debut. President Han plans to send more boy band trainees who will debut next year in order to build experiences on stages.
“In fact a girl group were supposed to make debut this year but their debut is postponed next year. However, FTISLAND has made remarkable achievement and CNBLUE has also made a major debut. It is the start of our important moments now so we pray hard for that.”
“As it already been 5 years after the establishment of FNC Music, it is time to build up our own colour, it is the time for turning point. As of next year, starting from January, new singers will make debut and followed by that at least 3 teams that will have debut too. Next year will be the time to expand our own colour which we have been building so far. We could release a family album and perform joint concert.”
“It is important for vocalist to have voice tone and talent, but for instrument player it’s important to have sincerity.”
CEO Han told all his artists, “Since we don’t have a big market for band music, we will be judged by prejudice and face criticism. But we will be praised highly if we continue to work.“
In regard to the fact that band gets recognized with the syndrome of ‘C’est Si Bon’, he stated that “There may be some contribution which FTISLAND and CNBLUE made somehow, maybe just 0.01%. As a result, many bands participated in Mnet’s ‘Super Star K3′ which accepted group’s application and ‘Top Band’ in KBS 2 aired as well.” While band application are increasing in audition programs, CEO Han regards “sincerity” highly among applicants who want to be trainees.
“While a vocalist should have inborn talent, an instrument player is different. Because we can’t notice the improvement of skill in a short period. If a player practises steadily and sincerely, there would be a sudden progress for him. For a vocalist I regard the voice tone and inborn talent highly but for an instrument player I think that the most important that a player should have are sincerity and seriousness.”
“Juniel who is expected to have debut soon has been prominent since her trainee period. She practised guitar so hard even though her finger got swollen, up to a point that she couldn’t move her fingers. She composes songs very well. Whenever I see her, I’m amazed by her.”
(reporter’s comment: High school student Juniel, is the winner of Niji Iro Supernova (Japan’s equivalent to SuperstarK), she will make her major debut in Japan through Warner Music Japan in November).
CEO Han got married after 7 years of dating, but he couldn’t dream of having a summer vacation. He regards his artists first before his private life saying that “Although it has been better nowadays than those days while me and my wife were dating, I think I should work more.” As to the question of releasing his own album, he answered “If it’s being brought up, I might consider it. However, I don’t have any plan so far.” His ultimate goal is to make FNC Music a really strong and colorful entertainment company.
“SM has been the pioneer in this field. And as many entertainment companies follow its path, I also learn its good side and then add my own color to my company, after all, it is my dream to establish a good company. I want to run a company, one that the company and its artists are essential for each other.”