K-pop seems like a world of glitz and glamour on the surface, but according to some former K-pop idols, the reality might be completely different.
There seems to be a big disparity between very successful idols and those that haven't reached the same level of popularity. Top artistes such as G-Dragon from Big Bang and Girls Generation's Yoona are estimated to have net worths of millions. In contrast, Cao Lu from FIESTAR revealed in a 2017 interview that at 31 years old and after five years in the industry, she was living off about USD$450 a month (~S$607.40).
Former K-pop idols have also shared in their Youtube channels about their salary as K-pop idols and the number is surprisingly low!
Keep reading to find out more!
It's common knowledge that K-pop idols go through years of harsh training while living in dormitories. But you might not know that most K-pop trainees have to pay back the costs of training! Certain K-pop companies have a "break-even" system in which all the money earned by its idols go towards paying back the money invested in them during their training period.
After their debut as idols, they will also have to bear the costs of their outfits, stylists, makeup, recording of their albums, production of music videos etc. This means that many idols don't earn an income until paying off their debt, which could take years.
In a video titled 'BTS on how much money a Kpop idol makes,' former K-pop idol Henry Prince Mak from JJCC reveals how much he made. His entertainment company kept 80% of the group's earnings while the idols received 20% which is then divided by the seven members. Their earnings would go into paying back their debt. He then elaborated that the debt kept piling up and was seemingly impossible to pay off. After making calculations, Prince Mak concluded that he had made about US$1 to $2 per day as he shared in an interview with Sunday Night.
YouTube star and former K-pop idol Grazy Grace uploaded her video 'This Is How Much I Made As a Kpop Artist In 3 Years' revealing that during her three years as a K-pop idol, she earned $0 from the music itself and less than US$500 (~S$674.88) in total for other activities. She shared that she and her fellow K-pop idol friends had to get part time jobs even after years in the industry in order to survive.
She stated that she was paid less than US$100 (~S$134.98) per episode for variety show appearances and less than US$70 (~S$94.48) for a radio show. After paying for hair, makeup and nails for these shows and appearances, not only was she not making money, but she was getting in increasingly greater debt! She also stated that the majority of idols are not informed about the breakdown of how much they are paid for their various activities.
This lack of transparency regarding salary is also emphasised by Mir from K-pop group MBLAQ who stated in a video titled 'How Much Did I Earn as an Idol? Honest Income Reveal'. He stated that the payment system was very complicated and he would only know how much he was paid once he checked his bank account every three months.
He shared that his salary was about US$12,400 (~S$16,737.15) for the first three months and $0 for the subsequent three months as the group's commission fees on variety shows went straight to their company. However, Mir earned about US$42,000 (~S$56,690.34) with the group's album 'Y'. While this seems like a large sum especially compared to Grace and Prince Mak, some might consider it lower than expected considering the popularity of the group and how long their working hours are.
All three emphasised that salary depends on many factors including the entertainment company and the contract signed.
What do you think about their stories? Did it surprise you?
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Text by: GirlStyle SG