* YouTube seen as main conduit for K-pop to U.S. audiences
* Psy plans to branch out into English lyrics to widen
* Genre still too small to generate major concert ticket
LOS ANGELES, Nov 30 (Reuters) - "Gangnam Style," the catchy
Korean song by rapper Psy, may have danced its way into the
American charts but the Korean pop industry isn't horsing around
when it comes to capitalizing on the singer's phenomenal U.S.
With "Gangnam Style" topping the current Billboard Digital
Songs chart and becoming the most-watched video on YouTube ever
with more than 800 million views, fellow Korean pop, or K-pop,
artists are positioning themselves for similar U.S.
Korea's pop music industry is thriving. Over the past two
years, a handful of K-pop acts including girl group 2NE1, boy
band Super Junior and nine-piece band Girls Generation have
embarked on mini-promotional tours around the United States to
build their audience.
"Psy has opened doors and is shining a spotlight on K-pop.
People are paying attention to what's being done there," Alina
Moffat, general manager at YG Entertainment group, which manages
Psy, told a recent entertainment industry conference in Los
Psy's vibrant music video, featuring his invisible
pony-riding dance, also featured K-pop artists Kim Hyun-a of
girl band 4Minute, and Deasung and Seungri of boy band Big Bang,
all of whom are attempting to crack the U.S. market.
"YouTube has really changed the awareness of K-pop. Both
American kids and second-generation Korean American kids are
discovering it," Kye Kyoungbon Koo, director of the Korea
Creative Content Agency, told a panel at a Billboard and
Hollywood Reporter conference in Los Angeles in October.
MARKETING THE NEXT BIG THING
For U.S. companies looking to invest, K-pop is being
marketed as the next big thing, boasting young, stylish and
influential artists who command devoted fan followings.
Moffat said car companies and mobile phone brands were among
those being courted at KCON, a convention held in October in
Irvine in Southern California that showcased K-pop artists.
"Kids are coming, they're engaged, they want to spend money
and sponsors saw that," Moffat said.
Whether Psy or other K-pop artists can command a global
following to rival Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber or Rihanna remains
to be seen, but John Shim, senior producer at MTV World,
believes it is the right genre to compete with pop music's
"K-pop admittedly is a very niche genre but I also think
it's the best equipped of Asian pop to cater to the U.S.
audience," Shim told Reuters.
Psy has helped to break down language barriers, keeping
"Gangnam Style" in its original Korean form instead of adapting
it to English when it became an international hit.
The singer told Reuters he was persuaded to keep it that way
by his manager Scooter Braun, the talent scout responsible for
Justin Bieber's success, who signed Psy to his record label.
"I thought, 'Should I translate this or not?' because (the
fans) have got to know what I'm talking about, and lyrics are a
huge part," Psy said.
CHATTING IN ENGLISH
But industry executives say at least one member of each
K-Pop group is usually taught to be fluent in conversational
"The investment in language is costly, but effective," said
Ted Kim, president of South Korean music television channel
Mnet. "It really matters that Psy can go on the Ellen DeGeneres
TV show and have a conversation."
Psy said he was proud his song succeeded in Korean, but he
now wants to branch out into English.
"'Gangnam Style' is not the sort of thing that's going to
happen twice. I've definitely got to make something in English
so I can communicate with my fans right now," the singer said.
In Korea, bands such as SM Entertainment's Super Junior and
Girls Generation have became branding powerhouses, scoring
endorsements ranging from cosmetics, fashion, video games,
electronics and beverages.
In the United States, companies such as Samsung have already
jumped on the K-pop train, sponsoring Korean boy band Big Bang's
But while the genre is gaining steam in the charts, it has
yet to spill into ticket sales for tours, according to Gary
Bongiovanni, editor in chief at Pollstar.com, which tracks
"Psy may be able to sell out arenas in Asia, but not yet
here. For the American audience, he has to prove that he's more
than a novelty act," Bongiovanni said.
"K-pop has to prove itself before large companies spend
money on it," he added.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and Eric Walsh)