Is Woollim Entertainment standing on the brink of a crisis or at the beginning of a new change? Although it’s natural for an entertainment company to have its own artists, the current situation with Woollim, where most of the representative artists have left, is undoubtedly a major turning point in any sense.
Woollim is a music entertainment company that has now entered its 20th year since establishment. Since it’s beginning in 2003, Woollim has gone through a series of events, including mergers and acquisitions with SM C&C, becoming a subsidiary through physical division, and returning to its own company through the final stake sale process.
Starting with singer Kim Dong Ryul, the first recruited artist and the start of Woollim, they have worked with various artists including Nell, Jisun, Kim Min Seok, JOO, and more. The representative artists that led Woollim were K-Pop idol groups INFINITE and Lovelyz. INFINITE is a boy group that Woollim first started producing amid the booming idol market and later solidified its position in the industry. Lovelyz, who debuted four years later, also succeeded in establishing a position in the girl group market.
Woollim, after tasting the potential success with INFINITE and Lovelyz, then produced Golden Child, Rocket Punch, DRIPPIN, slowly becoming a more prominent idol agency. Meanwhile, Kwon Eun Bi and Kim Chaewon, who appeared on Mnet’s Produce 48, debuted through IZ*ONE and further enhanced the image of Woollim.
However, a change was quietly approaching the agency. This started after INFINITE’s L did not renew his contract after his contract expiration in 2019. At that time, L expressed that he would maintain his position in the group regardless of the expiration of contract, and said that there would be no disbandment. But last year, Kim Sunggyu, Jang Dong Woo, and Lee Sung Yeol, and this year, Lee Sung Jong, left Woollim one after another, putting complete group promotions up in the air for the time being.
Lovelyz, who were considered Woollim’s representative groups, did not renew after contracts expired last November with the exception of member Baby Soul. Kim Chaewon, who had high expectations for joining a new girl group or solo activities after returning to Woollim from IZ*ONE, also disappeared from the Woollim lineup after rumors of her transferring to Source Music in August of last year.
Currently, the only artists lefts at Woollim are INFINITE’s Nam Woo Hyun, Lovelyz’s Lee Su Jeong (Baby Soul), Golden Child, Rocket Punch, DRIPPIN, and Kwon Eun Bi. Although the achievements of the singers currently under the label are continuing, the results are quite poor compared to the period when the representative groups of the agency were active.
The biggest problem Woollim is facing currently is that there is no artist to represent the agency and lead sales. Nam Woo Hyun, who already has a strong fandom, is keeping his loyalty to Woollim, while the other groups and artists are maintaining a strong position. It looks the company desperately needs a strong “one shot” at this point.
But there is a limit in rushing to launch a new group in the idol market. This is because in order to launch a new group, it requires not just talented people with star-like qualities, but also a lot of time, effort, money and contents. It’s also difficult to succeed in such a strong and competitive fourth generation idol market.
All in all, it looks like Woollim needs a clever strategy to get through this situation. It’s time to break away from the past success of INFINITE and Lovelyz and make a new change. In the fierce world of K-Pop, Woollim will need to think about what they can bring to the table in order to turn this crisis into an opportunity.