How Psy broke all the rules with Gangnam Style

Gangnam is apparently a swishy area of Seoul not unlike Beverly Hills, and is to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, what Beverly Hills is to Los Angeles.
It was relatively unknown to the world until a South Korean artist named Psy wrote a song about it, which turned into a huge Internet smash, with over two billion views on YouTube – the most watched video of all time on the Internet TV station.

Why wasn’t this Beyoncé, or Jay-Z, or, or Fergie, or some other big-name American or British artist?
Yes, Psy does seem like a strange choice, and he broke all the rules of the normal musical route to success: he wasn’t young (34 at the time the song became a hit two years ago); he isn’t pretty (by virtue of the fact that he isn’t stereotypically Western, and many South Koreans have tried to alter their Oriental features to become more Western, proving that such features are strived for); he doesn’t have rock-hard abs and a chiselled face; he has an average singing voice (though this is such a subjective thing to measure); he is not American (even though he studied in the US); the song is not in English, when most hits need to be; and the song was not about some Western icon or ideal (like the Empire State or California).

Of course, it was still the Western-dominated media machine that aided in his success: YouTube is American, and the fact that the US media picked up on his style fuelled the viral frenzy all the more. Then there was also the weird dance that Ellen and Britney tried to do, plus the fact that he managed to engage the most powerful form of marketing of all time: word-of-mouth. How were you first inspired to watch the video and push up those hits on YouTube? In my case, it was a music business student of mine who suggested that I watch it.
But here’s a little-known fact about Psy: this song was from his sixth album, and he had been active in the music industry for 13 years before this smash hit.
So, the one rule that he never broke was this one: hard work, and lots of perseverance will get you where you want to be. It’s a good life lesson for us all.

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About the author


Blogger Rob Rodell is a singer-songwriter, performing music artist, music business lecturer and singing teacher. Rodell was nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA) for his album A Cappella Christmas. Between 2009 and 2011 he was the head of music business education at the Soul Candi Institute of Music, which is linked to the Soul Candi record label. His hit House track Could This Be Love done in conjunction with DJ Shimza and Cuebur, received extensive airplay on both YFM and Metro FM, and was released through Soul Candi on various compilation albums, selling in excess of 10,000 copies and giving it ‘gold’ status as a single. Rodell completed his licentiate in singing through Rockschool and passed it with distinction, becoming the first person in the world to do the qualification. He is currently busy with his Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree.

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