The world of K-pop has evolved alongside its rich history, with fans and netizens gaining deeper background knowledge and information. The recent controversy surrounding the group Fifty Fifty reflects this changing landscape. In the past, the public often sided with artists in exclusive contract disputes, but times have changed. Fifty Fifty’s management dispute has generated a negative public opinion, leading to the creation of the term “The goose that lays the golden eggs cut open its own belly.”
The Origin of the Controversy:
The controversy began when Fifty Fifty’s agency, ATTRAKT, made allegations that external forces were attempting to exploit the group’s members. They claimed that there was an outsourced agency behind these attempts, specifically pointing to Warner Music Korea and a service company called The Givers. Legal action was taken, with The Givers’ representative, Ahn Sung Il, being accused of being the mastermind who was involved in the group’s planning and production of viral song ‘Cupid’.
Initial Public Opinion:
Initially, many netizens perceived the controversy as a power struggle and an attempted artist seizure. It was a challenging situation for a newly debuted group, and sympathy was expressed towards Fifty Fifty.
ATTRAKT’s CEO, Jeon Hong-jun, did not blame or hold the members responsible. Instead, he expressed concern for the emotional well-being of the group and hoped for their swift return to the agency.
Fifty Fifty’s Shift in Stance:
However, when Fifty Fifty decided to apply for a preliminary injunction to suspend the effectiveness of their exclusive contract with ATTRAKT, the nature of the controversy changed. Fifty Fifty’s legal representative highlighted “opaque accounting practices” and the management’s insistence on continuing activities despite the members’ poor health as the primary issues. They emphasized that the decision to seek legal action was made independently by all four members.
ATTRAKT Releases Audio Proof
On the 3rd of this month, ATTRAKT, the agency representing FIFTY FIFTY, released a 39-second audio recording, shedding light on the buyout proposal. In the recording, Attract’s CEO, Jeon Hong-jun, can be heard having a conversation with Yoon Mo, an executive from Warner Music Korea. According to Attract, external forces approached Warner Music Korea with a proposition to acquire and sell FIFTY FIFTY, prompting them to demand an explanation from Warner Music Korea.
During the conversation in the audio recording, Yoon Mo mentions that they had made a 20 billion won (approximately $15.3 million) buyout proposal to An Sung-il, the CEO of The Givers, in the past. Surprisingly, Jeon Hong-jun claims that he was unaware of this proposal. Yoon Mo explains that the buyout entails acquiring all the members, to which Jeon Hong-jun asks for clarification on the term “buyout.” Yoon Mo elucidates that it refers to acquiring all the members and proceeding with the group in that manner.
Change in Public Reaction:
In the K-pop landscape, where public knowledge is more extensive, netizens immediately began questioning the group’s claims. Fifty Fifty’s official statement only worsened the situation, as it came from a group that had debuted just seven months prior. Although their hit song “CUPID” had achieved 14 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, their debut album and subsequent music videos had not garnered significant success locally.
Furthermore, the delay in accounting for overseas charts and the lack of activities outside of music programs and advertisements led critics to question the validity of their claim for compensation. The fact that one member’s health issues had already caused a halt in activities since May further complicated matters. Mentioning accounting disputes in a situation where the group’s profitability was already questionable only fueled negative public sentiment.
Fifty Fifty’s decision to engage in a management dispute instead of focusing on their next album or career progression has resulted in a self-destructive cycle of negative public opinion. At a critical juncture where the group was about to release a representative song, they chose to prioritize the dispute with their agency, leading to a significant backlash. FIFTY FIFTY’s future remains uncertain as the group navigates through this turbulent period in their careers.