Big Hit & Netmarble are reportedly teaming up for a new Tidal-esque music-streaming platform

Thanks to BTS, Big Hit Entertainment has been experiencing explosive growth, with many companies wanting to work with them mainly due to the power BTS currently hold seemingly guaranteeing results. However, Big Hit’s newest venture with one of their biggest shareholders is likely to raise eyebrows and questions as they reportedly want to embark on some kind of Tidal-esque venture with Netmarble, which would involve exclusive BTS releases made on the music-streaming platform.

Big Hit Entertainment, the mastermind behind global sensation BTS, and the nation’s No. 1 mobile game developer, Netmarble, have joined hands to launch a brand-new music-streaming platform, multiple sources said Tuesday. Even though the new platform may not be solely dedicated to BTS, sources say, the septet is highly likely to release some new songs exclusively for the platform. “The two firms have started development work as a venture project. The platform is targeting global users around the world,” a Big Hit investor told The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity. The new platform might also offer podcasting services, he added, but the details are still under discussion. “The two firms will continue to analyze the marketability of the new platform before its official launch. They would not rush.” Another industry source familiar with the matter also confirmed the plans. “Big Hit has been seeking to enter the music distribution business as part of its efforts to diversify revenue sources, which are now largely dependent on BTS,” according to the source, who did not wish to be identified. “Operating its own platform may help reduce some commission fees paid to distributor partners, but more importantly that would help Big Hit gauge its own brand power with the general public, not just BTS fans.”

Currently, Big Hit distributes BTS songs through separate partnerships with distributors. In South Korea, it has signed a deal with SK Telecom’s iRiver for local platforms like Kakao’s Melon and KT’s Genie, while globally it has partnered with companies like Sony Music-owned the Orchard and Soribada.

Despite multiple sources confirming the plan with The Korea Herald, Big Hit themselves are denying.

A Big Hit spokesperson, however, denied the platform development without further elaborating.

I mean yeah, presumably they wouldn’t want to randomly confirm it through a report even if it were true, as they’d like the fanfare of their own roll out.

The two companies involved are growing increasingly close and investors are reportedly monitoring the relationship closely.

Big Hit founder and chief producer Bang Si-hyuk and Netmarble CEO Bang Jun-hyuk are relatives who have closely supported each other since their early days. Last year, Netmarble became Big Hit’s second-largest shareholder with a 25.2 percent stake after Bang Si-hyuk, who holds 43.1 percent.

Speculation is rampant that the two firms are seeking greater synergy, especially by using lucrative BTS-related intellectual property. Their latest collaboration — BTS World, a BTS-themed simulation game — hit the market June 26 and became the most downloaded app in 51 countries that same day.

A lot of fans in the replies to the tweet of the exclusive report seem to see this move for what it is: an attempt to extract every last dime out of the BTS fandom. It’s ostensibly a Big Hit thing, but obviously none of this is possible without BTS, and the company is leveraging their fandom with hopes that they can cut out the middle man. It’s a play that could blow up in their face, but it definitely has promise depending on how willing BTS’s fandom is to come along for the ride.

Of course, the parallels to Tidal and the push back that occurred against that service seems to be at the root of the concern for most, and based on what we know so far, I’d have to say the issues people are bringing up definitely seem to be valid.

For BTS fans who don’t support this idea, I’d say the hope is that they don’t appear to be too far along into the process, so they may yet change directions. That said, this is quite clearly a move for Big Hit and not BTS, and they likely feel distribution is the future for the company as they look towards their future beyond one group, no matter how massive and impactful that group may be.


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