༺ Is There No Talent Like This? ༻
There was about 30 minutes left until the start of the audition.
Our chatter, which began in the parking lot, continued as we returned to CEO Yeom Daesoo’s office.
As these were stories from the entertainment industry that I couldn’t easily encounter, I found them especially interesting.
“The ones who get selected in this audition will also receive initial training from us before we introduce them to the companies.”
“Do those companies pay for the training?”
“Yes. They contract us for both vocals and dance training.”
“If you can handle vocal and dance training internally while also working on songs, couldn’t you guys just produce them directly?”
Hyundong, smiling like he was dealing with a child ignorant of the dealings of the real world, asked back.
“Do you know how much it costs to raise a single idol group?”
Ah, I see.
I realized it immediately upon hearing that.
I remember seeing it on a broadcast.
They said it would cost upwards of 500 million won to produce one five-membered idol group.
“You need a lot of investment to produce a single idol, for us that’s just a pipe-dream.”
Hyundong explained while CEO Yeom was scratchiong his nose.
“Even if we managed somehow to debut a group, the operating costs can amount to hundreds of millions per month. To give you an idea, it takes around 1 billion won to release a debut album.“
“But people produce idols because they can earn that money back, right?”
“That’s right. If they hit it big once, they can recoup all the losses they had until then. But how likely is that to happen? It’s exactly basically gambling.”
“People think only of idols from big agencies, but there are cases where a group releases just one song and spends their entire contract period doing endless events, with nothing much to show for it. Then, legal disputes break out between the company and the idols, demanding the money they’ve earned. The company retorts, ‘Screw you, we’re still in the red.’ That’s the kind of crap they put up with.”
“But why does so much production cost go in? Isn’t it inflated in the middle like distribution?”
At that, Hyundong started folding his fingers, and listing.
Singing, dancing, acting, learning foreign languages, undergoing plastic surgeries, caring for aesthetics, covering food expenses, arranging accommodations, paying for song fees, recording, producing music videos, designing album jackets, selecting outfits, styling hair, applying makeup, creating choreography videos, hiring backup dancers, and so on and so forth.
He eventually ran out of fingers to count.
Not to mention the stress of managing youngsters at the age where they’re most rebellious.
This was even harder than managing the president.
I began reflecting on myself who had dreamt, even if only in my imagination, of producing a girl group.
No matter how good I am at discerning stars, it would be a hopeless endeavor without funds.
Girlvengers my ass. indeed, being a salaryman is the best.
May our chairmen and executives live long, healthy lives.
Daesoo also shared stories he heard or experienced while meeting with agency officials.
As they focused on idol training, naturally a lot of talks about idols came up, and I got to confirm things that had only been considered gossip before.
“I’m a producer, and let me tell you, there are so many trashy bastards in this industry. They bring trainees to entertain while drinking with their friends, ugh…”
“There are plenty of jerk trainees too. They get caught having sex in the dorms, getting pregnant, taking drugs…”
“There are some good kids too, but, well, it varies. There are plenty who already act all high and mighty, even though they’re just trainees.”
“Usually, we tell them to reveal any potential issues with their personal lives before they make it into the debut group. Things like being a school bully, hidden camera incidents, being involved with the adult entertainment industry – if those come out, they’re screwed. The company needs to know beforehand to prepare, but would these kids really be honest? They pretend there’s nothing, and once the debut promotion begins, all sorts of things start coming to the company’s email. ‘I was a girlfriend and we lived together’,’ I was a boyfriend and I have a video’, a ‘I was aclose friend and we went to a bar known for their after-care’, ugh…”
As I stuck out my tongue in astonishment, Hyundong drove the nail in with a true story he experienced.
“I had a student like that too. He debuted and broke up with his non-celebrity girlfriend, and the girl came to the company with a sex tape. She threatened to spread it on the internet.”
“Whoa… Is he famous?”
“He’s a rookie idol named Jtense.”
“I think I’ve heard of him… So what happened?”
“They said it was resolved nicely, but I saw him on TV recently and he was claiming to be a born-again virgin, even saying he hadn’t had his first kiss yet. That stupid bastard.”1A born-again virgin, is a person who, after having engaged in sexual intercourse, makes some type of commitment not to be sexually active again until marriage.
Humans truly are interesting beings.
That was the most amusing story I’d heard recently.
“This kid? Biho?”
“Yeah, right. His stage name is shit too.”
As I was searching for the student Hyundong mentioned on my phone, Yeom Daesoo checked the time and got up.
“It’s time. Let’s get started.”
We moved to the dance practice room that doubled as the audition site.
There were four main judges.
CEO Yeom Daesoo, Hyundong (Vocals and composition), Luju (Dance), and Choi Hoonmin (Vocals and guitar).
And there was me, side character and advisor (Visual Inspection).
Even though my nameplate was just made of paper, my three-letter name was clearly displayed on the table.
I had come casually like going on a picnic during a weekend of boredom, but this was turning out to be more serious than I thought.
I only started to feel the pressure after sitting down.
Now that I think about it, couldn’t someone’s life here be greatly impacted a single one of my words?
From what I saw earlier, there were hardly any promising participants.
So, as someone who lacks the ears to judge singing and the eyes to assess dance skills, I have no choice but to mostly fail them.
At a quick glance, each of the other judges had a scoring sheet organized by participants in front of them.
I only had their profile information.
While they never expected professional judgment from me in the first place, just in case, I laid some groundwork with Hyundong, who was sitting next to me.
“So, I just have to divide them into pass and fail based on my gut feeling?”
“But when I walked in earlier, there were hardly any who caught my eye.”
“Then just pick the good-looking or pretty ones.”
“What if their skills are completely awful?”
“It doesn’t matter. We can teach them to sing and dance. But we can’t teach them to have a good face. Appearance is the top priority in idol auditions.”
Then, at the far end, a guy named Choi Hoonmin nodded in my direction and repeated.
“That’s right. For idols, face is the most important. No need for singing or dancing. Video stars killed the radio stars.”
These people, why are they even holding auditions?
Might as well pick them based on their photos only.
Choi Hoonmin even gave me a thumbs-up and nodded at me again.
“Girl groups are the best.”
“The joy of life.”
Who among men wouldn’t like girl groups? But to consider them the joy of life?
This guy, I thought he was pretty cool as a renowned vocal trainer that active entertainers come to learn singing from, but suddenly I felt quite disillusioned at the moment.
“We will now begin the ‘Finding DREAM’ Audition! Participants 1 to 5, please enter. Participants 6 to 20, please wait outside!”
The door opened and finally, the first group entered.
Participant number one was the bitchy girl I saw in the alley earlier.
The one who said her eyes were swollen and she was freaking irritated.
“Hello. I’m Baek Hyunjin, the number one participant you’ll never forget! Woo-ung, woo-ung!”
She pressed her fingers into her cheeks, doing her best to act cute.
Having already seen her true colors, all I could feel was that it was pretentious.
I can’t just make conclusions about her character just because she cursed in front of her friends, but my mental image of her wasn’t great. That’s indisputable.
Yep. By my standards, you’re definitely a fail.
Not to mention, I can’t see anything emanating from her.
Participant number one started singing.
I didn’t get the impression that she was particularly good.
She was also dancing.
Well, her dancing skills are so-so.
Her face was pretty in a commonplace way. She might be seen as cute because she’s young though.
No emotion, no fun. If this were a TV audition, it would have been entirely edited out.
From my perspective as an ordinary person, it’s clear she should fail.
Looking at the scorecards of the other judges, including Hyundong, they unanimously marked her to advance to the second round.
It was a somewhat incomprehensible result, but as I watched the subsequent participants, I found myself nodding in agreement.
Without a word of a lie, I felt like I could do better than the next 20 or so participants who followed. They weren’t even visually impressive.
Seeing my expression, Hyundong stifled a laugh and whispered in my ear.
“It’s always like this in the first round of any audition…”
An hour later.
Now, I can tell just by the comments.
“Yes, thank you for your effort.”
“Can you dance as well?”
“Ye-es, thank you for your effort.”
“Could you turn your chin to the side a bit?”
Passed based on looks.
Although it’s called a singing audition, it was essentially a beauty contest.
Of course, being experts, they would be able to tell just from a verse, but apart from that, they were really focusing on looks to an obsessive degree.
But considering the level, I thought it made sense to select based solely on looks. Even I could see there were too many participants who were unprepared.
I couldn’t see a single participant with an aura, even after nearly 50 had performed.
“Was that the last one just now?”
The first day of auditions, which started at noon, ended near 4 PM.
A flood of complaints ensued, from no one in particular.
“Wow, I thought there were so many talented singers in our country after watching K-Star One, but I just got reality-checked.”
“Yeom, is this one doomed?”
“Hehe, it’s just the first day, let’s wait and see.”
Out of the 218 participants today, I only found 5 talents.
Moreover, two of them weren’t even for singing. One was for entertainment, and the other for acting.
The other trainers, excluding the four judges, moved to the next room for private lessons. The remaining people started a strategy meeting, and proceeded to re-watch the recorded audition videos.
We had set the cut-off at 50 out of 218, but the number of passing individuals was significantly lower than that. Participants that all four of them passed were naturally going to the second round, and the others were to be decided through a meeting.
I thought we all had a similar eye for talent, but surprisingly, opinions varied.
“Skip, skip, okay, stop at 35.”
“35? I didn’t really like that one. Too many faults.”
“Hmm, I’m on the fence, but don’t you think they’d be better suited for hip-hop than being an idol?”
“Then let’s just leave them for now. HC said they’re looking for vocals like Babylogic.”
“What the heck, everyone and their mother is looking for Babylogic. I feel like I’ve heard their songs over 50 times today.”
“Hehe, they’re super hot right now. Totally cute.”
“So, 35 is in… Ah, how about this one? The boy at 109.”
Yeom, the director, personally operated the monitor screen and asked for opinions.
“Hmm, I thought this one was so-so.”
“Me too, not so great. Just mediocre.”
“What about you Luju?”
“In my opinion, just ordinary? They didn’t dance well.”
“Really? Hmm, I liked them…”
In my notes, it was a circled 18-year-old boy.
I remember him. He was the first one who got a pass from me.
He exuded both a blue and red aura at the same time, suggesting potential as an actor.
However, the opinions of the other three, excluding Yeom Daesoo, were negative.
He would be eliminated if things stayed this way. It was time for me to step up.
I cautiously raised my hand.
“For me, it’s a pass.”
Yeom, sharing the same thought, extended his arm and fist-bumped me, and I then continued.
“I think he might have a knack for acting.”
“Okay, acting is also a possibility…”
Yeom Daesoo he murmured to himself while writing this down next to the name of participant 109.
Seeing this, a question suddenly arose in my mind.
I could understand why Hyundown who brought me here would trust me, but why would Yeom Daesoo value my words so much?
I laughed awkwardly and teased him.
“But, don’t put too much faith in my words. They’re just based on feelings.”
He shook his head.
“No, I think your intuition is definitely good.”
He then took my A4-sized memo and compared the numbers I had checked with his own. It was like playing a game of bingo.
Of the five participants I had chosen, four overlapped with Yeom Daesoo’s choices.
I matched three with brother Choi Hoonmin, while Hyundong and dance instructor Luju matched with only two.
From this, I could understand.
The intuition of Yeom Daesoo as a producer was quite developed.
In some ways, one could say he was even more extraordinary than me.
“Shall we guarantee the five chosen by Brother Yoonho advance to the finals?”
It felt like I had become a cheat code.
I had confidence in my abilities, so now I could only hope for the best from the participants who passed.
“I’ll be back in a bit.”
Having been seated for nearly four hours, with only a single break in between, my body felt stiff.
I stepped outside for some fresh air and to buy some snacks.
The alley that had been bustling with participants was now quiet.
After purchasing a variety of snacks from a convenience store across the street, I sat down under a parasol and lit a cigarette.
As I lit it, my gaze drifted casually and caught a young woman hovering in front of the studio building.
Without realizing, I lifted my index finger and pointed in her direction.
It was an aura of violet, something I had never seen until now.
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- 1A born-again virgin, is a person who, after having engaged in sexual intercourse, makes some type of commitment not to be sexually active again until marriage.