K-pop’s growth has reshaped the music business and given financial fuel to ambitious companies with global ambitions. In 2023, this trend was made evident by how many times Korean companies were involved in music’s biggest deals. In each of the last three years, HYBE has acquired or invested in a company to help it diversify beyond K-pop and its tentpole artist, BTS. In 2023, HYBE paid $300 million for hip-hop label and management firm, $114 million for the remaining 51.5% stake in Belift Labs, home of the K-pop boy band Enhypen, and an undisclosed amount for Latin music company Exile Music Group. After raising $822 million in a 2020 initial public offering, HYBE paid $1.05 billion for Ithaca Holdings in 2021 (which delivered country music company Big Machine Label Group) and $36 million for a majority stake in AI voice company Supertone in 2022. It also paid about $63 million for a minority stake in competitor YG Entertainment in 2021.
HYBE didn’t have the year’s largest deal, though. That honor topping Billboard’s ranking of the top 10 music business deals of 2023 went to Kakao, which paid about $1 billion for a 40% stake in SM Entertainment, home of such acts as Girls Generation, Super Junior and Red Velvet. HYBE also made the list for its purchase of a 14.8% stake in SM Entertainment, which shrank to 8.8% after the company sold a portion of its shares to Kakao and ended its dramatic effort to take control of SM Entertainment’s board of directors.
Other K-pop companies are investing, too — even if they were not transactions that made this list. In August, SM Entertainment and Kakao launched a joint venture in North America. And in November, former SM Entertainment CEO Semin Han launched a new U.S.-based K-pop company, TITAN CONTENT, which will employ “traditional K-pop training and artist development with Web3 and metaverse innovation,” the company said in a statement.
Here are the top 10 music business deals of 2023:
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