So, as a genre, KPop is completely lorded over by the studio systems. These studios spend years grooming bands for their debuts once they do debut, they become hit-making machines. This doesn’t mean that it’s completely impossible for non-idols to break through into the KPop world.
Most of the time these non-idol groups are discovered on audition shows. For the past two years, the band Busker Busker has owned the hearts and minds of Korea, even though they did not win the audition show on which they were discovered. Lee Hi is also owning KPop this summer . Now in Seoul you cannot walk down the street without seeing/hearing the adorable brother-sister duet Akdong Musician.
There is also a quickly growing indie scene in Korea as the younger generations become increasingly jaded towards the idol system. The most popular is undoubtedly 10cm, the go-to soundtrack for any café in Seoul. Other bands like Nell, 404, 9 and the Numbers, and 3rd Line Butterfly are also attempting to break the mold of what Korean music can be.
If hardcore underground rap is more your style, then fear not. Artists in Korea are exploring everything from more old-school rap (performed by MCs such as Noise MOB and Verbal Jint) , more 90s-era rap (from acts like Deepflow, Paloalto, and The Quiett), more intense spitters (like Huckleberry P, Beenzino, and Garion), and more modern acts (Swings, Simon D, and Dynamic Duo). The rapper fear of not selling out can hinder these artists, as Korean musicians rarely become celebrities without appearing on Korean television programs.
There you have it! Now you’re prepared to explore the wonderful land of Korean modern music from the Top 40 hits to the underground clubs of Hongdae!