HYBE, the publicly traded music giant behind superstars BTS, is in “diversification mode” to become less financially dependent on its flagship act.
Moves suggesting a broadening of HYBE’s strategy of late include expanding its gaming business and its $1 billion acquisition of Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.
HYBE also announced new high-priority artists in 2022, including NewJeans and Japanese boy band &TEAM.
The South Korean company even launched a global hearing in June »for a boy group that will lead the next generation of K-pop.”
Could a major breakthrough in artificial intelligence be next on the agenda?
Last February, HYBE invested $3.6 million in a Korea-based sound company called Supertone.
Now HYBE has reportedly increased its investment in the startup, acquiring it entirely for 45 billion South Korean won (about $31.75 million at current exchange rates).
This is according to a Korea-based news publication Pulse News, the online home of South Korea’s largest national business newspaper, Email Business Journal.
Pulse reports that HYBE’s initial investment allowed it to acquire a 18% stake in Supertone – and that HYBE has now acquired the remainder 82% interest in the business.
At press time, HYBE had not responded to MBW’s request for comment.
Founded in 2020, Supertone claims to be able to create “a hyper-realistic and expressive voice that [is not] differs from real humans.
The startup caught global media attention in January 2021 with its so-called Singing Voice Synthesis (SVS) technology.
You may recall that the company used this technology to “resurrect” the voice of South Korean folk superstar Kim Kwang-seok, with the AI-generated voice that later debuted on a TV show. Korean. Competition of the Century: AI vs Human (see above).
Speaking last year, Supertone COO Choi Hee-doo told CNN that the company’s tech learned 100 songs from 20 singers to hone its style, then learned 10 specific songs from Kim Kwang. -sok.
Choi Hee-doo also claimed at the time that Supertone’s technology was able to mimic the artist’s voice well enough to pass for the real thing.
He further explained that Supertone’s technology can also be used for content creation for living artists, and the hypothetical example he gave last year might just give insight into why HYBE would have acquired his company for millions of dollars.
“For example, BTS is very busy these days, and it would be a shame if they couldn’t participate in content due to lack of time,” Choi Hee-doo told CNN last year.
He added, “So if BTS uses our technology to create games or audiobooks or to dub animation, for example, they wouldn’t necessarily have to record. [that audio live] in person.”
When HYBE (then Big Hit Entertainment) originally invested in Supertone, we asked if it could soon create “hyper-realistic and expressive” clone voices for BTS members themselves, allowing HYBE to release BTS music. (or at least BTS content), even without the band actively contributing to the singing of this music?
This question is even more relevant today following the announcement this summer that BTS would be taking a break to pursue solo projects.
We did the purely speculative suggestion at the time that it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility in today’s entertainment industry, especially considering that music streaming giant Spotify recently acquired a startup that created a AI audio model based on Val Kilmer’s voice for Top Gun Maverick.
It should be noted here that HYBE’s “indirect artist involvement” – revenue-generating projects that use an artist’s brand/likeness, without the actual artist needing to be involved – has become the primary the company’s revenue driver in 2020 in the absence of live shows during the pandemic.
In fiscal 2021, a year in which HYBE’s revenue topped $1 billion in revenue for the first time, the company’s primary organic revenue driver was, once again, its “Indirect Artist” activity, representing more than 60% of the company’s income.
These “indirect artist” business activities generated KRW 733 billion ($640 million) last year – up 72.8% YoY (see below).
This “Artist Indirect-Involvement” activity has been HYBE’s main revenue driver in every quarter of 2021, including Q1 (until March 31), Q2 (three months to the end of June), Q3 (three months until the end of September) and Q4 (ends December 31).
It was surpassed only by the company’s artist Direct “Involvement” business line in Q1 2022.The music industry around the world